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Priests, bishops gather to celebrate cardinal’s jubilee

By Jim Lockwood
Posted: 10/2/2009

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Bishop Robert Hennesey presents Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley with a silver crosier, a jubilee gift of the priests and bishops of Boston. The cardinal joined the priests and nearly 20 bishops for a special Mass with priests Sept. 24 at St. Theresa of Avila Parish in West Roxbury. Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy

WEST ROXBURY -- Many of Boston’s priests, as well as nearly 20 bishops from around the region joined Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley at St. Theresa of Avila Church in West Roxbury Sept. 24 for a special Mass with priests to celebrate the silver jubilee of the cardinal’s episcopal ordination.

Father Robert McCreary, OFM Cap., one of Cardinal O’Malley’s seminary professors, served as the homilist.

Father McCreary, in his homily, linked the day’s Gospel of the Good Shepherd to the work Cardinal O’Malley has done in the archdiocese over the last six years.

“The good shepherd takes on the vast difficulties for love of the sheep. It is not secret that Cardinal Seán has entered into most difficult challenges,” Father McCreary said. “All his life, Seán has sought to serve Christ as a shepherd who willingly does most difficult things -- as his helping prisoners and their collapsed painting business when he was a seminarian, but his going deliberately to be a brother to immigrants in Washington, D.C., by learning languages that allow him to reach people in their culture, as the Portuguese community in Fall River, by facing honestly the heavy cross of priests who harmed children, by the excruciating task of configuring parishes, by visiting willingly the seminaries in the Caribbean, by dealing with staggering financial challenges, by being available for the service of the American Church and Holy See, often in areas of priestly life and religious life and the special needs of immigrant people and the poor.”

Following Communion, the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Boston, Metropolitan Methodius, addressed the congregation, praising Cardinal O’Malley’s cooperation in the ecumenical dialogue.

“Today we praise God and thank him for the ministry of a man that has honored his priesthood with a life of prayer, devotion, and service. I join you as an Orthodox clergyman that deeply honors and respects your hierarch,” Metropolitan Methodius said.

“I thank God that he has blessed me with his friendship, his mentoring, and his guidance -- for being a true brother in Christ. The Lord told us ‘so let your light shine before you so they may see your good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven.’ Cardinal Sean has given us all, over the past six years, countless opportunities and reasons to thank God for his ministry, for he is a man of true and deep humility who loves especially his priests.”

Following the metropolitan’s remarks, Central Region Bishop Robert Hennessey presented the cardinal with a surprise gift on behalf of the bishops and priests of the archdiocese -- a crozier handcrafted of sterling silver. The crozier, or pastoral staff, features symbols significant to the cardinal, including a figure of the Good Shepherd, St. Francis of Assisi, representations of the four evangelists, the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the cardinal’s coat of arms.

In presenting the gift, Bishop Hennessey hinted at Cardinal O’Malley’s vow of poverty as a Capuchin Franciscan.

“Oftentimes, on occasions like Christmas or birthdays or anniversaries, you hear the saying, ‘What can we get him because he has everything?’” said Bishop Hennessey. “We had a more difficult task this time because the question was ‘What can we get for him? He owns absolutely nothing.’”

“When I saw (Bishop Hennessey) walking out with a crosier, I thought it was a coup d’etat,” Cardinal O’Malley joked in his remarks.

Cardinal O’Malley also expressed his gratitude to Msgr. Helmick, pastor of St. Theresa’s and host of Thursday’s Mass and subsequent reception, the St. Theresa’s parish community, and the cardinal’s staff. He also said he was pleased to have Metropolitan Methodius in attendance.

The Cardinal closed with remarks focusing on the ‘‘Year for Priests.’’

“The priesthood is the greatest gift in my life and the greatest gift in the life of the Church,” Cardinal O’Malley said. “We ask the Lord to help all of us during this “Year for Priests” to deepen our spiritual lives, our commitment and love of the Lord and his people so we will be able to invite others to be a part of this wonderful presbyterate the Lord has called us to be a part of. Today, my heart is filled with gratitude and affection for all of you.”

The day of fraternity concluded with a light lunch in the parish hall.

Priests who concelebrated were touched by the occasion.

“I think that milestones such as the cardinal’s jubilee helps all of us as priests to recognize the joy of our being called to the priesthood and leadership in the Church,” said Father Robert Connors, pastor of St. Francis and St. Marguerite D’Youville Parishes in Dracut. “I’m always so happy to see such an age span of priests that gathered together -- young and old. We love to get together, not only in prayer but socially to just catch up and be able to support one another.”

Father Chip Hines, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Wrentham, complimented those who were involved in the liturgy.

“Liturgy well done is always beautiful and I thought it was very well done,” Father Hines said. “The altar servers did a great job. They were unflappable in a pressure situation.”

“The cardinal seemed genuinely moved by everything, especially by the gift, which was a work of art, really,” Father Hines added.