Planning underway for archdiocesan bicentennial

BOSTON — Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley hopes that the bicentennial of the Archdiocese of Boston in 2008 will bring renewal to the Catholic community as the faithful celebrate the archdiocese’s history, according to Father Robert Connors, chair of the committee planning the celebration.

Despite the difficulties faced in the archdiocese in recent years, there is great hope in moving forward, he added.

“We are a Church of hope. We are a Church of the future,” he said. “Sometimes in these difficult times we fail to remember all the incredible work that’s going on in the archdiocese, day in and day out.”

The bicentennial is an excellent time to remember the wonderful history of the archdiocese, welcome Catholics back to the Church, renew the priesthood and recognize all the clergy and lay people who work tirelessly to spread the good news, said Connors.

The celebration, under the theme “Journeying Together in Christ,” will begin on the first Sunday of Advent on Dec. 2, 2007 and will end on the Feast of Christ the King, Nov. 23, 2008. Planned key celebrations include an opening and closing Mass, a series of symposia sponsored by the area’s Catholic colleges, a youth gathering and regional community days that will involve all members of the Catholic family.

Four archdioceses — Boston, Louisville, New York and Philadelphia — all formed from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the first diocese in the United States, almost 200 years ago, will celebrate their bicentennials in 2008.

“Every diocese in the country started to develop in April 1808,” Father Connors said. “It’s a very, very significant event in the history of the Church in America.”

A diverse, 25-member committee of clergy, religious and lay people was formed in 2004 to begin planning Boston’s bicentennial celebration. Father Connors, head of the Office of Ministerial Personnel, was asked to chair the committee, and although he is returning to parish ministry next month he will continue to head the committee.

While the full committee has been meeting approximately every other month, subcommittees planning particular events have been meeting more frequently.

Parishes will also participate in individual and archdiocesan-wide events. The committee, with the help of the Office for Worship and the Office of Spiritual Development, hopes to coordinate three nights of prayer at every parish during the first week of Advent in 2007 when the celebration begins.

“We’re hoping every parish in some way or another will get involved,” he said.

In addition to the four key celebrations, the various agencies in the archdiocese are developing plans to incorporate the bicentennial anniversary into their 2008 activities. For example, Boston Catholic Television plans to create an hour-long documentary on the history of the archdiocese; special materials will be made available to schools and religious education programs; and the Office for Ethnic Apostolates is working on a traveling exhibit that will feature videos, pictures and stories compiled from the 25 ethnic apostolates of the archdiocese.

Cardinal O’Malley also hopes to use the occasion of the bicentennial celebration to reinvigorate the spiritual life of the archdiocese and its parishes by implementing a program of evangelization such as the Renew program.