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Pastoral Center memorial honors Flatley

By Neil W. McCabe
Posted: 10/24/2008

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Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley reads a prayer of blessing for the plaque in the archdiocese’s Pastoral Center memorializing Thomas J. Flatley. The memorial is a recognition of Flatley’s gift of the Pastoral Center to the archdiocese as well as his other acts of generosity towards the Church. Pilot photo/ Neil W. McCabe


The family of Thomas Flatley gathered at the Pastoral Center Oct. 19 for the dedication of a plaque memorializing the late-businessman and philanthropist, a recognition of his gift of the Pastoral Center to the archdiocese and his many other acts of generosity to the Church.

“You are coming here on the weekend when it is very quiet. But, Monday through Friday it is bustling with activity with hundreds of people working here and coming here. Every day, we have a Mass at noon and there is adoration with the sisters--and all of this is possible because of the faith, goodness and generosity of Tom Flatley,” said Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, in his homily at the memorial Mass for Flatley he celebrated in the center’s Bethany Chapel before the dedication.

The cardinal said the chapel, named for the town where Jesus visited his friends, Mary, Margaret and Lazarus, is decorated with stained glass windows and a painting of Our Lady from closed parishes. The dove-shaped tabernacle suspended over the altar, where the Blessed Sacrament is kept, is a return to the tradition of the early Church. “There really is a beautiful atmosphere of prayer and devotion here.”

Following the Mass, the cardinal unveiled the framed plaque and a black and white portrait of Flatley. The heading of the plaque reads: “Thomas J. Flatley (1931-2008) Beloved husband, loving father, devoted grandfather, loyal son of Ireland, patriot and veteran of the United States of America.”

Below the heading is an excerpt from the homily the cardinal delivered at Flatley’s funeral Mass May 21 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, which ends with the line: “Tom will live forever; he is no stranger to the Lord.”

At the dedication, the cardinal told the Flatley Family, “It has been so encouraging in the few months we have been here, to the people coming to the center and seeing it for the first time, and to see the enthusiasm and hope it engenders in our priest and our people.”

The cardinal said he is often in the Pastoral Center late for meetings and he is struck by the other activities, such as classes and parish groups coming together in the building all at the same time, he said. “It has been such a great blessing for all of us.”

To speak on behalf of the staff at the center, the cardinal introduced Susan L. Abbott, the director of Religious Education and a long time employee of the archdiocese.

“This Pastoral Center is a wonderful story of extraordinary vision, generosity, trust, and faith,” Abbott said.

“I tell people how much I love the archdiocese’s new space and what a great difference it makes for us to be here,” she said. “We function in a new way, better serving the parishes and people of the archdiocese. The openness of the space has fostered a new collaborative spirit.”

“This is my first time here,” said Flatley’s daughter Mary Margaret Darling. “I have driven by a number of times, but I haven’t been in.”

For members of the family watching the progress of the building’s renovation and preparation to be the home of the archdiocese’s central administration and other ministries, the mounting of the large cross in the front of the building was a very important milestone, she said.

“We were all waiting for the cross to be put up. Driving by and seeing it lit up is really special,” she said.

Darling said the dedication of the building to her father was important for her mother, as well.

“It is really special for her to know it is finished because it was the last project he did,” she said.

“It would have been nice for him to be here to see it. I am sure he is looking down from above,” she said. “This is exactly what he would have wanted.”

Standing with his sister, Daniel T. Flatley nodded his head and said, “He’s here.”

Flatley said he used to drive his father to the building, which meant so much to him because it was his last big gift to the archdiocese, to monitor the construction. “Even though he couldn’t get out of the car, he would talk to Paul Morin and others about the project and about is ‘this’ done or so forth.”

Before the Mass, Flatley said he gave a tour of the chapel to one of his own sons.

“From my perspective, this is a great place for everyone across the archdiocese, not just the South Shore, it should not be exclusive,” he said. “I hope and pray that what happens is that this archdiocese, as it moves forward, does so with transparency and accountability in mind and that we do everything with the light of day in mind.”

After the dedication, the cardinal hosted a reception at the center for the family and their guests.