Fifty years working with students in Cambridge

Fifty years is a long time. Fifty years ago, I was about to enter third grade in Rockville, Maryland. (I’m 58 now.) Newly-elected Pope John XXIII suddenly announced in late January 1959 that he was convoking an ecumenical council, Vatican II, to begin in the early Sixties. Senator John Kennedy of Massachusetts was gearing up for his successful run for president the following year. And on Follen Street in Cambridge, a block north of Cambridge Common and a couple of blocks away from Harvard Law School, the first Mass was celebrated at Elmbrook Student Center on Sept. 15, 1959.

Elmbrook is a corporate apostolate of Opus Dei, the Catholic prelature dedicated to fostering the search for holiness through daily work and the Christian’s ordinary duties. When I was an undergrad decades ago, the Harvard Crimson published an article about Elmbrook entitled “Holiness North of the Common.” While the title may have been intended ironically, at least the quest for holiness in ordinary secular life at Elmbrook is completely sincere. Since its founding, countless Boston-area college and graduate students have frequented Elmbrook for study, prayer and friendship. I should know, as I lived there from 1970 until 1973, and again from 1987 to the present--a quarter of a century (and half of Elmbrook’s existence)--so I’m hardly a disinterested observer.

Much has happened in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Catholic Church, and the United States since those last days of the Fifties: the turbulent Sixties, the assassination of President Kennedy, Vatican II, Harvard student strikes, M.I.T. hacks, 9/11, and several wars and economic downturns. Throughout all that time, in a quiet but effective way, Elmbrook Student Center has been offering students an atmosphere conducive to cultivating both professionalism and the faith. We continue to have a weekly meditation for college men (a spiritual conference preached by our chaplain), circles or practical classes in Christian life, and student get-togethers with professors and area professionals.

College and grad school can be a challenging and difficult time in the lives of students, perhaps more so at places like Harvard and M.I.T., and other Boston-area colleges and universities. An oasis like Elmbrook for refreshing heart and soul has been a boon for many. I know it has been for me.

Matt McDonald, an area journalist who studied at Harvard in the early 90s, has this recollection: “When a fellow student in the house where I lived challenged me on how Catholic doctrine can be reconciled with the Bible -- something I knew very little about -- residents at Elmbrook provided me with just the right book as well as tips from their own studies and experiences. The exchange opened for me a world of theology and Scripture that helped me understand my faith better and present it to others. I don’t think I ever would have lost my faith (at least I pray that’s true!), but I never would have been able to nurture it as well without the help of my friends at Elmbrook. While I never joined Opus Dei, I admire it, thanks to my experiences at Elmbrook. I cherish the friendships I made at Elmbrook, the things I learned there, and the help I received there to grow in the Roman Catholic faith.”

Among the motives for thanksgiving occasioned by this anniversary, one thinks of the saintly Fr. Sal Ferigle, who lived there the last twenty-five years of his life, from 1972 until 1997. He provided priceless spiritual guidance to untold souls throughout the area. People went from Elmbrook to start or support Opus Dei in countries like the Philippines, Australia, Canada, and Kenya. Well-known philosophers like Michael Pakaluk were Elmbrook regulars when they were students. Just last week, The New York Times reported on a major film based on episodes from the life of St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, and said that the adviser for the film is Fr. John Wauck, who happened to live at Elmbrook while he was a Harvard undergraduate.

There’s a Facebook group for Elmbrook alumni and friends. Dr. Carl Schmitt, a medieval historian who was the first director at Elmbrook in 1959, and again in the 1970s, will visit these days to talk about the early days of the center. On Sunday, Sept. 13, there will be a reunion cookout in Elmbrook’s backyard at 1 p.m.

While the first center of Opus Dei in the country, Woodlawn in Chicago, dates back to 1949, Elmbrook is the oldest center continuously in operation in the United States. The Prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarria, recently wrote John Almandoz, the director, to encourage us to prepare with many acts of thanksgiving, “because the Lord has wanted to call upon you to achieve wondrous things.” Please pray for us and our work here. The need is proportionate to the challenge we face.

Dwight G. Duncan is a professor at Southern New England School of Law. He holds degrees in both civil and canon law.

Nation
Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Nation
Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

World
Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Local
Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Local
Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Local
Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Local
Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Local
Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

Local
From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

Nation
N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

Nation
U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Nation
Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

World
Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

World
Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

World
In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Nation
Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Nation
Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

World
Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

World
Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

World
Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

World
Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

World
Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

World
Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Nation
Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Nation
Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

World
Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Nation
Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Nation
Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Nation
Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...

Nation
Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Nation
Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Nation
Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

World
Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

World
Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

World
Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Nation
Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

World
Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Nation
Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

World
Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

World
What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

World
Catholic workers say U.S. aid cuts to Palestinians could be disastrous

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The U.S. budgetary cuts to humanitarian aid institutions helping Palestinians could lead to long-term disastrous consequences, said ...