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Cushing -- Boston's cardinal and the 'world's cardinal'


Cardinal Richard Cushing Pilot file photo

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The centennial of the naming of William Henry O'Connell to the College of Cardinals on Nov. 11, 1911 provides The Pilot a chance to recall and celebrate that historic event. Brief biographies will appear in this series about Boston's cardinals, native sons, or seminary alumni who received the "Red Hat" in the course of their lives.

On Aug. 24, 1895, Mary (Dahill) Cushing, the wife of Patrick Cushing, gave birth to Richard James Cushing, the third of their five children, in South Boston. Patrick and Mary Cushing were Irish immigrants, he from the village of Glanworth, in County Cork, and she from Tooraneena, a village in County Waterford. Their marriage took place on Oct. 13, 1890 in Gate of Heaven Parish and was witnessed by Father Patrick M. O'Connor. Patrick was employed by the Boston Elevated Railway and Mary was listed as a domestic in the marriage register.

Young Richard attended Perry Public Grammar School, graduating in 1909. He then enrolled in South Boston High School, but his truancy caused him to drop out of school during his freshman year. He then enrolled in Boston College High School and graduated in 1913 with honors in Greek and Latin.

The separation of Boston College High School from Boston College took place in 1913, with the high school remaining in Boston's South End while the college moved to Chestnut Hill. Upon graduating from high school, Richard entered Boston College. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1915 but shortly thereafter he was given a medical discharge. Upon finishing his sophomore year at Boston College, he entered St. John's Seminary in September 1915 to begin his studies for the priesthood.

Richard James Cushing was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Boston on May 26, 1921 in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross by William Henry Cardinal O'Connell, Archbishop of Boston. Among his assignments, he served briefly as parochial vicar at St. Patrick Church in Roxbury. He also served as parochial vicar at St. Benedict Church in Somerville and, when auxiliary bishop, as pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Newton.

Barely a year after ordination, Father Cushing approached Cardinal O'Connell with a request to become a missionary. Cardinal O'Connell's reply was to name him assistant director of the archdiocesan office of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. He served in that position from 1922 to 1929 when he was appointed the director, a position he retained even after his nomination as auxiliary bishop.

The year 1939 was a year of immense change for Father Cushing. On May 14, 1939 he was named a domestic prelate with the title of Right Reverend Monsignor. Less than a month later, Msgr. Cushing was appointed Titular Bishop of Mela and Auxiliary Bishop of Boston. He received episcopal ordination on June 29, 1939 in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross from the hands of Cardinal O'Connell who was assisted by Bishop John Bertram Peterson of Manchester and the Most Reverend Thomas Addis Emmet, SJ, Titular Bishop of Tuscamia and Vicar Apostolic of Jamaica.

Bishop Cushing chose Ut cognoscant Te (That they may know Thee) from Jesus' discourse at the Last Supper as recorded in the Gospel of St. John (John 17:3) as his episcopal motto. As priest, bishop, and cardinal, he constantly strove to enable others to know God, spreading the Gospel at home and abroad.

Upon the death of Cardinal O'Connell in April 1944, Bishop Cushing was elected administrator of the Archdiocese of Boston, sede vacante. On Sept. 25, 1944, Pope Pius XII promoted Bishop Cushing to the Metropolitan See of Boston. He was installed as Archbishop of Boston on Nov. 8, 1944 and received the pallium on April 7, 1946. On June 11, 1954, Pope Pius XII bestowed a further honor on Archbishop Cushing, naming him an Assistant at the Pontifical Throne.

Blessed Pope John XXIII created him a cardinal priest in the consistory of Dec. 15, 1958. Cardinal Cushing received the red hat and was assigned the title of the Church of Santa Susanna on Dec. 18, 1958 and took possession of Santa Susanna on Dec. 20, 1958.

He served as papal legate to national Eucharistic congresses in Peru (1960) and Bolivia (1961) and for the consecration of the Cathedral of the Diocese of Galway in March 1965.

Cardinal Cushing attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council. He was a key figure in the drafting and passage of the conciliar Declaration Nostra Aetate, the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, especially section four on relations with the Jews. He was committed to ecumenism and supported the renewal in the Church as enunciated in the documents of the Council.

During the years of his service as Archbishop of Boston, he authored several works. Among them were ''Sing to the Lord;'' a collection of approved Catholic hymns and prayers (1946); ''That they may know Thee:'' selected writings on vocations (1956); ''Eternal Thoughts from Christ the Teacher'' (1961); and three biographical tomes: ''Pope Pius XII'' (1959); ''St. Martin de Porres'' (1962); and ''Blessed Mother Seton'' (1963).

Cardinal Cushing's well-known love for the missions was evidenced by his founding of the Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle in 1958. It is an international organization of diocesan priests who volunteer for a minimum of five years of service in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru.

During his episcopate, he was the principal ordaining bishop of at least nineteen bishops. Among them were nine missionary bishops including Archbishop George Hamilton Pearce, SM, and Bishop William John McNaughton, MM. He was also principal co-ordaining bishop of at least five bishops.

Among the many priests he ordained, at least six were raised to the episcopacy including Archbishop Pearce and Bishops John Boles, Francis X. Irwin, John McCormack, and John Dooher.

Cardinal Cushing was a personal friend of the Kennedy family. He witnessed the marriage of John. F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier in 1953. He attended President Kennedy's inauguration in 1961 and delivered the invocation. In November 1963, he had the sad duty of celebrating the funeral Mass for President Kennedy at Washington's St. Matthew Cathedral.

Cardinal Cushing's resignation as Archbishop of Boston was accepted on Sept. 8, 1970. He died of cancer in Boston on Nov. 2, 1970 and is buried in the Portiuncula Chapel at St. Coletta School for Exceptional Children in Hanover.

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