(Jan. 7) I visited with senior priests living at the Regina Cleri residence in Bostonís West End. This was our annual Christmas visit... Before the dinner, the priests concelebrated the Mass with me. It was moving to see the pews filled with my brother priests vested and participating with me. Pilot photo/Neil W. McCabe
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This past Thursday (Jan. 8), the Catholic Church lost one of its greatest priests and intellectual giants. Father Richard John Neuhaus was a theologian who strove for holiness, and who brought the truth of the Gospel to the arena of public life. With Catholics everywhere, I am profoundly grateful for the brilliant work that Father Neuhaus achieved for the intellectual life of the Church.
As a convert from the Lutheran faith to Catholicism, he continued to maintain healthy ties with Evangelical Christianity, a relationship that enabled him to become a leading voice for the Church in the area of ecumenical dialogue. As we prepare to say ďgoodbyeĒ to one of Godís holy and faithful priests, we pray that the Lord will look with kindness on this holy servant.
New consecrated virgin
Saturday, I was glad to confer consecration upon a new consecrated virgin, Joan McCann, at the chapel of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. We currently have 14 consecrated virgins in the archdiocese and there are more than 150 in the United States.
This ancient practice allows women to follow their special calling of complete consecration to God in the state of virginity, and to serve Godís people, the Church.
As the Church grew, and the number of religious orders expanded and third order groups were established, the practice died out because of the number of other options available.
Today, we are seeing the practice is now being revived, since it was formally restored in 1970. It is a great gift to us.
These women remain in the world living amongst us and yet, they are not of this world because of their special devotion to Christ. One of the gifts they bring to us is that these women make special time in their lives for the entire community.
125th anniversary of St. Michaelís
Sunday morning, we celebrated a Mass in honor of the 125th anniversary of St. Michaelís Parish in Lowell. It is a large and vibrant parish.
Many priests and deacons were there, as well as many of the Dominican sisters who for many years taught and administered the parishís school.
Monday (Jan. 12), I made my annual visit to MCI-Framingham, the oldest active womenís prison in the country. Although the buildings are very old, the programs and services there are quite up-to-date.
I was very impressed with the wonderful training programs available. There is even a program through which the women can earn a bachelorís degree from Boston University, which was started by Dr. John Silber many years ago. During my visit, I met one of the students in the program who will be graduating with her degree soon.
There are also training programs that make it possible for the women to enter a number of occupations, including the fields of cosmetology and food service. All the trainees receive a certificate upon completion of the program.
The women training to work in the food service industry prepared a lovely luncheon for us.
We had Mass at the prisonís old chapel, which has a beautiful stained glass window depicting ďThe Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon,Ē by St. Francis.
Afterwards, I met with the women living in solitary confinement, and then with women on work release and those preparing to be released.
Together, we had a nice dialogue and shared a prayer.
It was a wonderful day. The prison guards and officials are always so accommodating, especially Superintendent Lynn Bissonnette and Deputy Superintendent Joseph Murphy.