Lawn party celebrates 25 years of support for Blessed John Seminary

WESTON -- For 25 years supporters of Blessed John XXIII National Seminary have had the opportunity to enjoy an evening of fine dining and lively music with the seminarians who are directly impacted by their contributions. The 25th annual lawn party, held on Sept. 20, celebrated that tradition and the work generous benefactors have made possible.

“Here at the start of each academic year, the seminary community opens its doors to introduce the new seminarians,” said Father Peter J. Uglietto, rector of Blessed John Seminary. “Since the lawn party began in 1982, more than half of all the classes of seminarians have been introduced to their supporters under the tent of the lawn party. What a wonderful tradition.”

Father Uglietto addressed the group gathered under the large white tent, which traditionally decorated in fall colors had been adorned instead with round blue, white and silver paper lanterns in honor of the jubilee celebration.

Blessed John Seminary is a unique national seminary that is dedicated to preparing men -- at least 30 years old­-- who have already contributed to their community through a secular career and are now responding to a call to priesthood.

The annual lawn party brings together people who support priestly vocations and those people who have helped the seminary to thrive. The staff at Blessed John could not run the seminary without the support and prayers of so many, Father Uglietto said.

This year two donors have offered a matching grant and agreed to give $75,000 if the seminary raises $25,000, he said.

The seminary was also the beneficiary of a $1 million grant from the Peter Lynch Foundation last year. The grant was used to update classroom facilities, he added.

“Classrooms that only had a blackboard last year have the latest technology now -- SMART Boards, whiteboards, DVD and VHS projectors and LCD video projectors for PowerPoint presentations,” Father Uglietto said.

Sue Beatty and her husband, Jack, were co-chairs of the jubilee lawn party. Sue Beatty addressed the crowd, extending their “heartfelt thanks” to all that made it possible.

“Jack and I are very excited about celebrating the 25th anniversary of the lawn party because we truly believe in the mission of the seminary,” she said. “The proceeds from this lawn party help tremendously with the cost of educating seminarians who go on to carry out their service to the Church.”

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley spoke to the challenge of running a seminary, adding that the cost alone is a challenge.

Cardinal O’Malley, accompanied by Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino of Havana, said he was glad to have the opportunity to show off the Boston seminaries to the Cuban cardinal. Blessed John has done great work in Boston, he added.

“We have been served so well, not only Boston but dioceses throughout the country who have sent men here, second career vocations, and have prepared themselves so well to be zealous priests in our Church,” he said.

Former rector Msgr. Dennis F. Sheehan said that when he became rector 25 years ago, the seminary, founded in 1964, was a “jewel” but also faced financial difficulties.

Msgr. Sheehan was given a mandate from the archdiocese to improve the seminary’s financial situation, get accreditation and increase enrollment. To accomplish those tasks, he sought help from lay Catholics, and the place began to “come alive,” he said.

Those Catholics brought their energy, talent and gifts to the seminary and helped to organize the first-ever lawn party. Many of those same supporters later joined the seminary’s board of trustees, he added.

Msgr. Sheehan invited everyone at the lawn party to step up and actively support the seminary as others have done.

“You, like the people behind you, will make an enormous amount of difference,” he said. “When the Catholic laity step forward and accept responsibility for places like this, they come alive and flourish -- so I’ll see you at the 50th.”

Seminarian Robert Lupo from the Diocese of Portland, Maine thanked the benefactors on behalf of all the seminarians. Lupo, a convert to Catholicism, grew up in northern Maine and for much of his life did not see a need for God. His conversion came through the witness of just one man who challenged him to change his life, Lupo said.

Through that experience and others that followed, Lupo found that God was calling him to be a priest, he said, adding that he is thankful for Blessed John.

“This community of these men that I have the pleasure of studying with continually amaze me. We come from all walks of life. We’re doctors, lawyers, teachers, salesmen, veterinarians, and we all left those lives in an effort to try to answer God’s call,” he said. “I know with them I am forever grateful that there is a place like Blessed John.”