Cardinal’s letter to priests on property sale

One of my greatest joys as your bishop is ordaining men as priests for our Archdiocese. This past Saturday seven men joined our ranks as they responded to God’s call to service in the presence of their families, friends and the community of the Church. As each of the concelebrating priests at the Cathedral laid hands on the newly ordained, the bond that we share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ was strengthened and affirmed.

The priests who were ordained last week spent years preparing for that day, as each one of us did in preparing for our own ordination. We know that the spiritual, academic, pastoral and human formation necessary to prepare for priesthood is a significant and serious undertaking. In the Archdiocese of Boston we are blessed that both St. John’s Seminary and Blessed John XXIII Seminary provide men from our Archdiocese and beyond with the training needed to be faithful servants of God’s people.

Following last week’s an-nouncement that the Archdiocese would sell much of our remaining Brighton property to Boston College, there have been many questions and much speculation concerning the status of St. John’s Seminary. Allow me to take this moment to be clear that the agreement with Boston College does not include the sale of the seminary. My commitment to St. John’s Seminary and its work of preparing men for the priesthood remains as strong as it has always been. St. John’s Seminary is an essential element in our planning for the future of this Archdiocese.

St. John’s is very well positioned to build on the successes of recent years, serving our Archdiocese and the wider Catholic community. The seminary enrollment has been increasing for several years and all indications are that the increase will continue this coming September. Earlier this year more than 100 men attended vocation discernment retreats here in the Archdiocese, the great majority participating in programs held at St. John’s and others attending programs at Blessed John.

In recent days it has been made known that Rev. John Farren, O.P., tendered his resignation as Rector at St. John’s Seminary effective, Tuesday, May 29, 2007. Father Farren resigned in advance of his scheduled departure date of June 30, 2007 because he disagreed with the Archdiocese’s decision to enter into a property sale agreement with Boston College. We do not believe that the sale of additional property from our Brighton campus will harm or hinder the essential work of St. John’s. The independence of the seminary, its ability to prepare candidates for the priesthood, and to be the source of the formation and training for lay ministries, will be preserved. Despite the difference of opinion concerning these matters, we are grateful to Father Farren for four years of faithful service to St. John’s Seminary and his dedication to preparing seminarians for priesthood. At my request, Rev. Stephen Salocks has agreed to serve as interim Rector until Rev. Arthur L. Kennedy takes office as Rector on July 1, 2007.

The buildings we have agreed to sell to Boston College include the Chancery, Creagh Library, the former priests residence adjacent to the Chancery, the Seminary Library, and Bishop Peterson Hall. The agreement does provide for the possible early move of the offices currently located in Peterson Hall to temporary quarters in St. Williams Hall, until we can relocate our administrative offices to the new pastoral center in Braintree. We anticipate that all departments will be relocated to Braintree by July 2008. This new location is being provided to the Archdiocese on preferred terms by one of our most generous benefactors, Tom Flatley. We are grateful to Tom for his love of the Church and for sharing his talents and resources to help us build for the future.

As the Archdiocese retains ownership of St. John’s Seminary, by way of a very favorable management agreement Boston College will maintain the building and exterior grounds and provide food service to the seminary. This agreement is of significant benefit to the seminary and assures high quality services for the long term. In addition, Boston College has committed to work exclusively with the seminary lay employees impacted by this agreement, to review possible employment opportunities.

The agreement with Boston College will also provide significant improvements for the Library, which is in need of capital investment to address deferred maintenance issues and upgrade the building’s systems and technology. Seminarians and seminary staff will have unrestricted access to the Library and St. John’s will retain ownership and control of the important and highly regarded seminary library collection.

The Archdiocese’s decision to enter into this property agreement has been widely and properly recognized as part of a strategic, long-term plan that will strengthen our local Church, both now and for the future. We must have a strong foundation, including our finances and operations, in order to provide the many good works that are essential to our mission, including priestly formation at St. John’s Seminary. The financial and administrative factors necessitating these decisions are well known, the response to them requires an understanding of the pastoral, educational and social obligations the Church in Boston must fulfill in the short and long term. However, the essential role of the Seminary, crucial as it is, must be seen in a broad framework, not judged in isolation from the rest of our pastoral ministry.

It is understandable that the manner in which you learned of the news of our agreements with Boston College was a source of concern for many. It was always our intent to inform the seminary community, clergy, and employees first. Unfortunately forces beyond our control placed this information in the public domain before we could proceed with our internal notifications. Please know that there was no intention to have you learn of our decisions from others, our goal and our intent is always to communicate with you directly.

As we prepare to celebrate the Archdiocese’s Bicentennial next year we seek to renew our local Church. The people of God are counting on us to help them go foward in faith, if we remain focused on Christ and work together to fulfill His mission we will succeed.