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Celebrating his final Mass as bishop of the Palm Beach diocese, Archbishop Seán O’Malley bid farewell to his Florida flock on July 20 at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola in Palm Beach Gardens.
"Life is full of surprises," Archbishop O'Malley told the 700 Catholics present for the farewell celebration. "In many ways, being bishop of Palm Beach was a good surprise and I have been very happy here, although it has only been a very short tenure." He said he was taken by surprise when he found out that he was being tapped to become the next archbishop of Boston after less than a year in the five-county Diocese of Palm Beach.
"Last December, when the newspapers were reporting that I was going to Boston, many people came to me questioning me about that -- and I said I had a better chance of being hit by lightning. Well, ... at a farewell celebration with the staff and priests, I was presented with a slightly used lightning rod," he laughed.
The task ahead of him will be an arduous one, Archbishop O’Malley stated. “As I leave you for still another diocese, I ask for your continued prayers,” he said. “The situation in Boston is a difficult one that only prayer will bring to a solution.”
He encouraged those in the diocese who have suffered and are still in need of healing because of the crisis in the Catholic Church to renew their commitment to follow Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd.
"Sometimes the task seems overwhelming and our resources are very limited," he said. "But in such moments we must recall that Jesus never promised us that nothing would go wrong. He promised that He would always be with us."
Archbishop O’Malley arrived in Massachusetts days later for the July 22 ordination of the new head of the Fall River diocese, Bishop George Coleman, as anticipation for his own installation is mounting among parishioners in the Archdiocese of Boston.
In an informal poll of weekday Mass-goers at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, The Pilot found that many Boston Catholics are looking forward to the July 30 installation so that Archbishop O’Malley can begin his work of “healing” the archdiocese.
"I'm glad that we have [Archbishop O'Malley] because I haven't been satisfied with what we've had in the past and it's a shame that the Church has to suffer because of what some priests have done," stated Dorothy Ahearn of Gate of Heaven Parish in South Boston. "I feel that those priests destroyed a lot of the Catholic religion for young people."
She went on to say that, considering Archbishop O’Malley’s previous experience, she believes he is qualified to “rebuild” the Church. “We need a good worker for God,” she stated.
Paula Giraldo of Our Lady of Assumption Parish in East Boston told The Pilot, “It’s wonderful that we have a new archbishop because I can see the mercy of God sending us a shepherd to lead his people.”
"Archbishop O'Malley brings a sense of hope to the diocese and the Good News of the love of God so that people can believe in the Church again," she said.
Like Giraldo, many see the reunification of the Church in Boston, which has been fractured by the clergy sexual abuse scandal, as one of the first steps that Archbishop O’Malley should take.
While she does not know much about the new archbishop, Maria Berardi of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Jamaica Plain, was sure of the task Archbishop O’Malley has ahead of him. “He needs to bring a lot of people back to the Church so that they can follow the Church again,” she said.
Others were more familiar with Archbishop O’Malley and his previous work of bringing reconciliation to the Fall River and Palm Beach dioceses, both broken by sexual abuse scandals. Dennis Keough, a parishioner from Attleborough, in the Fall River diocese, called Archbishop O’Malley’s appointment a “brilliant choice.” He emphasized the archbishop’s humility saying “all the pomp and circumstance are out of him.”
"I hope that he can put the problems of the Church during the past 20 years behind us so that we can all go on with our faith," Keough said, noting that the faithful have been divided due to the scandal. "I hope that he can unite us all"
Those who are planning the installation are also looking forward to the event. Since The Pilot's last report, the archdiocese has announced further details of the installation ceremony.
At a July 17 meeting with media representatives at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Father Christopher Coyne, spokesman for the archdiocese, said that in addition to those groups previously reported, Archbishop O’Malley has also invited priests from the Fall River diocese, a number of victim survivors and the deacons of the archdiocese to attend his installation. Father Coyne later said that the heads of religious orders from the archdiocese were also expected to be present.
The archdiocese announced July 20 that Cardinal Bernard Law, who had been invited as archbishop emeritus, had opted not to attend the installation Mass.
"Cardinal Law wanted the focus of the day to be on the installation of Archbishop O'Malley and not on himself," explained Father Coyne. "He realizes that he would be a distraction for some."
CNS materials contributed to the report