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Regina Cleri like 'a family' for residents, staff

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WEST END -- Regina Cleri provides the 56 priests in residence with more than a community. It provides a family walking together on a journey, staff and residents of the home said.

After Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley blessed the cornerstone of the residence for senior priests of the Archdiocese of Boston on June 5, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the home in 1964 by Cardinal Richard J. Cushing, residents and staff shared their thoughts with The Pilot about the people who do not merely serve or staff the home, but reach out and support one another like family.

Msgr. James Tierney, 89, served as director of the home for retired priests from 1990 until his retirement in 2009. He now lives at Regina Cleri.

He spoke about a relationship he had with Msgr. Edward Flaherty, the prior director when Msgr. Tierney arrived.

"He was a wonderful, wonderful man. He was sick the last two years of his life, and when I came he was still living and was a big help to me," Msgr. Tierney said.

He said he enjoyed his service to the priests at the home so much that he worked as long as he could.

"I worked until I was 84. I couldn't see any reason to retire," Msgr. Tierney said.

He said that when it came time to retire, he had full confidence in the facility and staff of Regina Cleri.

"We get the best of care, and I cannot speak highly enough about the whole staff. They are dedicated. They are very helpful. They can't do enough for us," Msgr. Tierney said.

He said he feels a special connection with his fellow priests, who come fully vested for Mass daily in the main chapel decorated with stained glass windows chosen by Cardinal Cushing and a mural of Jesus Christ instituting the Eucharist at the Last Supper.

Msgr. Tierney said that ministering to one another keeps the priests in good spirits, even through trying health conditions.

"I think I can sum it up in one word that everybody doesn't appreciate that's not a priest, and that word is 'brother.' We are brother priests, and if things aren't going just right, if you have a few extra pains one particular day, you don't have to look very far where you can find and see someone who is much worse off and complaining less than you are," Msgr. Tierney said.

Sister Disciples of the Divine Master Sister Angela Chavez and Sister Magdalene Ikeda said they feel fortunate to be able to work at Regina Cleri and help care for the priests there.

"I would say we are blessed to be here," Sister Angela said.

"Yes, it is we who are blessed," chimed in Sister Magdalene with a smile.

"Our ministry is very unique. We are for the priests, and taking care of the priests, but not only manually but spiritually," Sister Angela said.

Sister Magdalene said she also feels a sense of universal family and unity, because of the closeness of Pope Francis to the people of the Church particularly the sick and the elderly.

"We can very closely imitate what he is doing. I feel so much united," she said.

Long-time staff member Teresa L. McCallion said, "It's a family here -- me, the staff, the priests, and the nuns, we all feel we're a family."

She said Cardinal Cushing told her that a particular statue of Mary should never leave the house permanently. That statue he designed with help from the first director Msgr. Edward Hartigan as a gift for the family that is Regina Cleri. It depicts Mary as the Queen of the Clergy holding her infant son.

"He said that to me several times, Cardinal Cushing, because she is representative of this house and the priests in the house. She is the Queen of the Clergy," she said.

In front of the house, stands a statue of St. John Vianney, the universal patron of priests -- known in life for humility in his vocation to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.

McCallion said it is inspiring to watch the men follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, the High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

"Of all of the priests I have met, and all who have gone back up to heaven, you just can't explain how wonderful it has been to be with them, because they have so much, they have given so much, and they continue to give it," she said.

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