- A massive tornado ravaged parts of Oklahoma on May 20. (Photo: Wikipedia)
I was 20 years old when I first drove across Oklahoma: a kid from Boston gawking out across the prairies and farmland that stretched as far as the eye could see. There is a beauty to the great state of Oklahoma that makes it easy to see why so many residents live both close to the earth and close to God. In fact it seems it would be impossible to be close to one and not the other! Everywhere we cast our gaze, even in Boston, a genuine look at creation lifts one outside of oneself. In fact, just yesterday morning in the park I met a woman with her dog who exclaimed of the beauty of the morning and how wonderful God is to create and offer us such beauty. I agreed.
Continue reading Oklahoma
It has been thirty three years since I first traveled from Boston to south of the equator. I was a seminarian at the time and went to Peru to spend the three months of summer with the priests of the Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle. I was assigned to Andahuaylas in the Sierra region, very high in the Andes Mountains. I learned very quickly that it was winter on that side of the equator, and further that at 10,000 feet above sea level the nights were cold and the sunshine wonderfully warming. The experience changed my life, and ever since that first immersion I have been returning to South America.
Continue reading Back over the Equator
It is upon us and promises to bring us the usual end-of-year celebrations of First Communions, graduations and weddings. Today, after two years of preparation, sixteen children from our Religious Education Program will, for the first time, receive the Body and Blood of Christ. This is a momentous time in the lives of these children. With God’s grace, the guidance of their parents and their ongoing participation in a Parish faith community, the realization of Who they are receiving and their relationship with Him will continue to develop and deepen. Let us join together in prayer for these children and their families as they continue their walk on the journey of faith.
Continue reading The month of May
One of the questions I was not alone in asking in these past days is, “Where is God in all of this?” The answers became evident very soon after the bombings occurred on Marathon Monday. It is as if evil could not get the upper hand in Boston on April 15. Goodness and Grace would prevail.
Continue reading How will they know?
The flag-lined sidewalk on Boylston Street in the wake of twin explosions at the marathon finish line. (Photo by Aaron Tang/Wikipedia)
How many times over the years might you have walked along this street of our great city or others like it and almost always felt safe? Whether an ordinary work day, a holiday, parade or some special event—the Copley Square area of Boston has most often been considered a safe place—until last Monday afternoon when, in an unexpected and unwelcome moment, those bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Continue reading On Boylston Street
The sounding of the bells at Saint Peter’s Church awakened me very early every Sunday morning. Our old house was across the street from this beautiful parish church on Bowdoin Street in Dorchester. The first Mass was at 6:30 a.m., and all through the morning, both in the upper and lower levels of this huge church, Sunday Masses were celebrated each hour. The Masses were all fully attended.
No doubt life at all of the parish churches in Charlestown was the same back then. And of course, the population of Charlestown in the 1950’s was 50,000 people and today it is 16,000. The changes at all levels are dramatic as we all know so very well.
Today we have five weekend Masses, one on Saturday and four on Sunday with our music ministers serving at each of these. Though we have an active and vibrant parish, our main church is only close to its seating capacity of 700 on rare occasions such as Christmas and Easter. Otherwise the average Mass attendance is:
- · 4:00 PM – 113
- · 8:00 AM - 59
- · 10:00 AM – 195
- · 12:30 (Spanish in Chapel) – 36
- · 6:00 PM – 71
Customarily, I celebrate four of the weekend Masses. But there are times when I am unable to do so because of weddings and other pastoral duties. Currently, we have the good fortune of finding priests who can fill in when necessary. But this assistance is temporary at best, and finding others to assist us will not always be possible.
The Parish Pastoral Council and I have had some good discussions about these dynamics and other pertinent considerations. We all agreed that the time has come to revise the Mass schedule. We believe it is essential to offer you an opportunity to let us know your thoughts about the best way to go about this. And so we will be soliciting your ideas in the weeks ahead.
I know that altering the Mass schedule means adjusting routines. Like all changes, it will take some time to adapt. But it seems that for the overall benefit of the Parish, the time has come for us to move in this direction. So let’s work together to arrive at a new schedule that is the most agreeable to our parish community.
There are a couple of points for you to keep in mind as we look at developing a new Mass schedule:
1. Summer time is a good time to try an experiment
2. Attendance (high or low) is just one of the variables to consider in making a decision
3. In the future, likely there will never be more than one priest in Charlestown
4. Every decision has cost implications
In the weeks ahead, please give the Mass schedule change some thought. Discuss ideas among yourselves and especially with members of the Parish Pastoral Council.
For me as a parish priest, the high point of every week is celebrating the Sunday Eucharist. To do so in a beautiful well-maintained crowded church with well-prepared ministers and excellent musicians and singers is for the highest benefit of all.
Joining together, as we have done in times past, to develop an appropriate plan, will continue to foster and strengthen our relationships as we seek to best fulfill our Mission as a Parish:
“Because our lives are nourished by the Eucharist, we strive to build a vibrant Parish that develops and strengthens our faith and worship.”
On Monday, March 25 the Archdiocese of Boston completed the sale of this beautiful and historic corner of our Parish and town. The property included the church, school, annex buildings and parking lot. Separated from the sale are the rectory and the small parking lot behind that building. The property was sold to Suffolk Company, Inc. for $1.4 million. The buyer is Michael Rauseo, President of the Company.
In addition to the sale price, the Suffolk Company is installing two bathrooms in the top floor of the Parish Center on 46 Winthrop Street. That work is currently underway and will be a great addition to our facilities.
Mr. Rauseo plans to develop the Saint Catherine’s property and believes the uses will be well received in Charlestown. No specifics on the development plans are known.
The monies from the sale of the property revert to our Parish once all of our obligations are paid for. These include:
? ($243,124) The loan plus interest we had taken from the Archdiocese for the completion of Saint Catherine of Siena Chapel and for paying real estate taxes to the City of Boston
- · ($45,263) deferred payments of insurance bills on the property.
- · ($32,485) costs of removal of sacred stain glass windows (now in storage)
- · ($70.04) final water and sewer bill
- · ($1,200) removal of sacred items to storage
- · ($56,000) commission to broker
- · ($6,384) deed for property
- · ($150) certificates and recordings of sale
The remaining funds ($1,015,323.96) are in the Parish account at the Archdiocese and that account pays 1.5% interest. The Parish Finance Council is reviewing all of our needs and working to recommend a plan to address required capital expenses and establish a reserve fund for the security of the Parish going forward. More details on this will follow in the months ahead.
The completion of this sale closes a major chapter in the storied history of our Parish. For me in some ways, it represents a certain sadness to see that spectacular church building pass into a development phase for a new future. And yet, we have all known and accepted this reality for some years.
On February 10, 2008, I celebrated the last Mass at Saint Catherine’s with hundreds of you there. From that day to this, we have continued to grow as a parish. Saint Mary Parish and Saint Catherine of Siena Parish are no more. But we bring the best of our story with us—a story that continually evolves as God persistently works to make “something new.”
Now in my ninth year in Charlestown, it is my great privilege to have served as pastor of both Parishes and today as pastor of this wonderful community of faith.
Everything about Easter speaks to us of the NEW. New life is the fruit of the Resurrection of Jesus; new hope and new freedom also flow from this day. In fact, because of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, everything is changed! The entire human journey now has a new dimension, lifting up the value of every life and giving new meaning to everyday life. Because of this day, our destiny is exalted, and the very nature of our God as the God of Love takes on a rich new and ever-evolving meaning. For how could authentic love ever be temporary, conditional or limited?
When I was a child in Dorchester my dear mother used to plan to get all of the five of us new clothes for Easter—you may have the same childhood memory! Everyone was proud of new shoes and jackets, hats and dresses. We sought to make a statement about the very specialness of this day, unlike any other before or since; death has been conquered and God’s plan for humankind has been laid bare; we are to live with God forever and know a fullness of joy unimaginable. As a child I am certain I heard this, yet understood none of it. In fact as a cradle Catholic, I’m not sure I ever really thought a lot about the Resurrection—it just was there, a part of the way I believed and thought about life and life after death.
This changed one day when I was a missionary priest in Guayaquil, Ecuador living my first Holy Week and Easter. It was Wednesday of Holy Week when they came to see me—some folks from a very impoverished area. There was a woman gravely ill and they wished me to come to anoint her. I had already learned when the people came with this request, inevitably the person was close to death. I gathered my things and set off on foot to Cerro de las Cabras (Hill of the Goats—so named because it was so steep that only the goats could climb the hill—and later the very poor with no other place to live).
I learned some of the woman’s story as we walked along. The ill woman, Maria, and her adult daughter who had severe mental limitations, had come to the city from the country to get treatment for her cancer. Once the doctors realized her case was terminal and there was nothing they could do, she was discharged from the hospital. With nowhere to go and too sick and weak to get back to her poor village, she found her way to Cerro de las Cabras. There the people had taken her in and done their best to care for her.
When I arrived, I saw Maria lying in pain on some folded-up cardboard on the dirt floor of the caña house. She was mostly incoherent. After spending a while with the folks and anointing Maria, I returned home. Maria died on Good Friday at 3:00 in the afternoon. Very early on Easter Sunday morning I returned to the Cerro to celebrate her funeral liturgy. I chose to read the Gospel of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead (Jn11:21-27) and as I was reading the question Jesus asked Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live … Do you believe this?,” the entire community of this desperately poor people gathered outside in the early morning light spontaneously proclaimed in loud voices, “Si, lo creemos” (Yes, we believe this!).
That moment happened 24 years ago this Easter Sunday morning, yet I continue to remember it vividly. It remains a gift for me—a gift to grasp something of the hope our loving God has given to all people, regardless of their circumstances, and I know for certain, especially to the most poor.
As we gather on this splendid Easter to celebrate the great feast of Life in the Resurrected Christ, you and I are far away from the Cerro de las Cabras. Yet our faith can be the same and we too can proclaim, Yes Lord, we believe you are the resurrection and the life—in you we have our hope!