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Dorothy Day's spirituality highlighted at annual Vianney cookout


Priests enjoy a meal together at this year's annual St. John Vianney cookout at St. John's Seminary, Aug. 4. Pilot photo/Mark Labbe

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BRIGHTON -- Dressed in casual attire, Boston clergy gathered at St. John's Seminary in Brighton, Aug. 4, to see old friends, have good food, and listen to a keynote talk by Father Vin Daily at the annual St. John Vianney Cookout.

Started in 2005 and held yearly around Aug. 4, the Feast Day of St. John Vianney, the cookout provides priests and seminarians with an opportunity to relax and talk in a casual setting. Typically, it features a keynote talk by a fellow priest and a vespers service, followed by a cookout on the seminary lawn.

This year's keynote centered on the spirituality of Dorothy Day, a woman known for her social work and Catholic conversion who is being considered for sainthood, and was given by Father Vin Daily, pastor of St. Gregory Parish and St. Matthew Parish in Dorchester, and St. Angela Merici Parish in Mattapan, who had written his doctoral thesis on Day.

He began by describing Day's early life, highlighting her devotion to the Episcopal Church and her commitment to fixing social problems as a young adult, and touching upon her bohemian lifestyle, which he said eventually led Day into a period of despair.

"But then beautiful things started to happen in her life -- very, very simple and gradual," said Father Daily, noting that she began to be healed by her ever-increasing faith.

She converted to Catholicism shortly after, following an encounter with a local nun who helped educate her in the ways of the Catholic Church, and she became devout.

"She was really very much converted by the salt of the earth," said Father Daily.

This healing process is what Father Daily said gives her the potential to be "a great saint."

"Dorothy in many ways is a symbol of our Lord's love and mercy, but also the fact that the Lord can make all things new, even the most wounded human souls," he said.

Following Father Daily's keynote, Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley led the priests and seminarians in praying vespers, before they all gathered outside for the cookout.

Seminarian Kevin Leaver, who studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, said he enjoyed Father Daily's talk, and noted it gave him inspiration for his own doctoral thesis.

"I'm actually starting my license in Spiritual Theology, which is what he has his doctorate in, I'm starting that this Fall. So it was good to see how he took Dorothy Day, somebody that is very influential in the American Catholic Church, and pull it into a doctoral thesis. So, he started giving me some ideas," he said.

Father John Mulloy of St. Joseph Parish in Malden said he also enjoyed Father Daily's talk.

"It's a topic that's very interesting, because her canonization process is moving along," he said.

"I didn't realize that (Father Daily's) doctoral dissertation was written on Dorothy Day. He put a lot of blood sweat and tears into learning about her, so it was interesting to hear it from him about Dorothy Day, especially the part about her spirituality," he continued.

Father Daily has gone to the St. John Vianney cookout "every year," calling it a "nice annual event that I try never to miss, because, especially in the summertime, we don't see these people" often.

"The food is always very good, and you get to see guys you haven't seen" in a while, he said.

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