Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Grace to Be a Priest

I was just perusing a wonderful new book by our own Father Romanus Cessario, OP, published by Cluny Media, which I highly recommend for your spiritual reading. The publisher describes The Grace to Be a Priest as "the fruit of one Dominican’s service as a priest of Jesus Christ...Father Cessario explains how the vocation to the priesthood comes to a man as both gift and mystery. God chooses priests to serve as both instruments of his will and spiritual fathers for his people. Drawing on the riches of the Dominican tradition as well as the general principles of Catholic theology, Father Cessario richly illuminates the nature of the priesthood with insights that will instruct priests, seminarians, and laypeople alike."

Monday, January 29, 2018

Presentation of Honors at Annual Benefactors' Mass and Banquet

Here is the script for the presentation of honors at our Benefactors' Mass and Banquet at which the Saint John the Evangelist Medal was presented to Deacon Jim and Vivian Leo and the Bishop John J. Williams Medal was presented to Dan Kennedy.

I am delighted to welcome you to this night as we honor our most generous Benefactors and all who have done so much to support this holy house by their generous financial and spiritual support. This is our fifth annual Benefactors’ Banquet, and we have come so far since the beginning of this program and creation of our Leadership Circle.

Your gifts of nearly half a million dollars in this past year have made the formation of one hundred and thirty two seminarians possible. I am deeply greatly to each and every one of you, whose sacrifices have made possible this holy work, as I am grateful to God for Sandy Barry, our Director of Annual Giving, Dick Bass, our Data Manager, Craig Gibson, Bonnie Rogers and all the members of our Development Committee.

But as important as your monetary support is, we depend even more on your generous prayers. Without prayer we are just an educational institution. As noble as education is, it is but one of the four pillars of our life here at Saint John’s, as we seek to form men to be the best pastors, the best spiritual leaders, and the best human beings: effective disciples of the Gospel of Joy so needed as we form the Roman Catholic Church in New England for the twenty-first century.

So welcome! I promise no long speeches, just this brief and heart-felt expression of gratitude, which now takes concrete form in the presentation of two Medals to individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the support of this holy work: the Saint John the Evangelist Medal given in recognition of an individual or family's contributions to the spiritual support of the Seminary and the Archbishop John J. Williams Medal given in recognition of contributions to the temporal life of the Seminary.

We have several prior recipients to these honors present this evening:

Jim & Pattie Brett (‘15), Dr Crotty (‘16), Craig & Nancy Gibson (‘16), and Ann LaRosee (‘17). We are grateful to them and to each one of you for your continuing support of Saint John’s Seminary.

In honor of these last four years’ of recipients, plus our new ones tonight, we’d also like to now unveil two brand-new plaques which will henceforth hang in the halls of SJS to remind everyone daily of the blessings we receive from our benefactors. Bishop Libasci, would please bless them for us?

We give you thanks, O Lord,
for these good men and women
who through their generosity
have blessed this holy house.
 Send your blessing upon this plaque (+) which will stand as a memorial to their goodness and the kindness of all who support this holy work. We ask this through Christ our Lord.


This year we have three worthy recipients who will be added to these plaques as well.

Our first award recipients are Deacon Jim and Vivian Leo, whom I ask to come forward now to receive the Saint John the Evangelist Medals.
Since my first golf tournament, you two have been an omnipresent source of support to this holy house. Indeed, your whole lives have been those of service to the the Church and the City of Boston. Forty-two years of living the Sacrament of Marriage, sixteen years of diaconal service, and endless dishes of pasta served to seminarians (sometimes eighteen at a time!) are what mark this selfless couple’s life. Few can say they have done as much for this Seminary.

Their wise counsel, their dedication to the golf tournament (I think half the silent auction items have come through them) and their generosity to Saint John’s is almost as good as their golf scores!

And so, with profound gratitude, I am honored to ask Bishop Libasci to present each of you with the Saint John the Evangelist medal in recognition of the extraordinary generosity by which you have supported the work of this holy house.

Deacon Jim, Vivian, would you like to say a few words?

Vivian Leo
Bishop Libasci, Monsignor Moroney, and Fr. Chris, I want to thank you for this recognition. Above all I want to give thanks to God for calling these men to the priesthood, so that we may receive Him in the Eucharist. I’m the quiet one in the family, so I’m sure my husband Jim will have more to say. So I just want to say thank you again for this recognition.

Deacon Jim Leo
Bishop Libasci, Monsignor Moroney, Seminary Staff, and invited guests: Thank God this is a bye week, no football; my guess is that I might be standing here by myself!

In all seriousness, Vivian and I would like to thank the entire staff, priestly and lay, here at Saint John’s Seminary. In our receiving the Saint John the Evangelist Medal, we are humbled and delighted in accepting this award. It was Fr. Chris who had asked me if I could give a little time to some of the Seminary activities; for me, most notable the golf tournament, which is right up my alley!

But as Bill Belichick would say, there is no “I” in team. So, I would like to say thank you to the golf committee here at Saint John’s in allowing me to express my ideas, and their acceptance of them. It is something that Vivian always talks about with me that makes us strive for the students of this Seminary, because without our priests, and these students that will one day become priests, we have no Christ! No Eucharist!

As we all know, the Eucharist is the source and summit of our lives. Our lives would be incomplete without it. So we say thank you for the opportunity to help and to “serve” here at Saint John’s.

As Fr. Chris always tells the youngsters in our parish at Saint John’s in Winthrop, God has given us many talents. Vivian and I are thankful we can express our “talents” here at Saint John’s.

In closing I would like to say that God always speaks to us in whispers - not in thunders! We need to be attentive to those whispers. Thank You & God Bless.

Our second award recipient is Dan Kennedy. Would you please come forward, Dan?
Dan, tonight, you are the recipient of the Seminary’s Archbishop John J. Williams Medal, in recognition of your extraordinary contributions to the support of this holy house.

Dan, if Alice were speaking to us from heaven, she would want us to know what a good father you have been to Katie and Patti, Anne Marie and Jack; and Father Dan would want me to extol your dedication to preserving the memory of his Priesthood over these past ten years through your dedication to Saint John’s Seminary: the hours you spend interceding for us before the Blessed Sacrament at St. Joseph's in Needham (I hear you’re the only one they can always call on for the 2am shift) by the publication of 247 Days on our behalf, your tireless promotion of vocations through the Father Dan Kennedy Chapter of our dearest friends, the Knights of Columbus and your constant efforts to remind young men to listen for the voice of God in their hearts.

You are an extraordinary man of determination and perduring faith, whose love for the Church, your family and this Seminary is apparent to everyone who meets you.

And so, with profound gratitude, I am honored to ask Bishop Libasci to present you with the Saint John the Evangelist medal in recognition of your extraordinary contributions to the support of this holy house.

Dan, would you like to say a few words?

Dan Kennedy
Thank you Bishop Libasci and Msgr Moroney for bestowing this prestigious medal on a member of our family. 

It is particularly meaningful to receive this recognition on the 10th Anniversary weekend of my son, Fr Dan, entrance into Eternal Life. He was indefatigable in his determination to promote vocations to the priesthood and he would be pleased that SJS is once again at full capacity. 

It is also fitting that, in attendance this evening, are parishioners from the the three most significant parishes critical to his formation; St Joseph’s in Needham where he received his First Holy Communion and where he said his First Mass of Thanksgiving; St Mary of the Nativity on Scituate where he served as a Deacon and St John the Evangelist in Winthrop where he served his entire 247 Days of priesthood. 

Thank you again for this honor and please join me in thanking the Blessed Mother for continuing to protect SJS. Hail Mary….

Homily for the Benefactors' Mass

Here is my homily for the Benefactors' Mass last evening.  Bishop Peter Libasci, Bishop of Manchester, was the celebrant for our Mass.  Pictures of this wonderful event, along with the honors bestowed, will appear shortly on this blog.
Each year we welcome bus loads of fifth graders to visit this Holy House. And each year I introduce myself as the pastor of this Church and begin by asking them what do we do here? Some answer that we are a school where nobody goes home while others look around and see the resemblance to Hogwarth’s. But the most prescient young men always say the same thing: This is where they make priests.
And, of course, they are right. This is where God makes priests; where he forms them into the image of Jesus his son, forges their heart in the crucible of sacrifice and infuses them with the power to love others as the one on the Cross first loved them.

But Moses tells us even more than the fifth grader about where they first came from in his prescient words recounted in the Book of Deuteronomy:

“A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you from among your own kin;”

'…and God will put his own words into the prophet’s mouth; he will tell you all that God commands him.’

And that is what God still does today. He sends us, in the image of his Son....not an angel or a Saint, but a man like us, one of your kin.

One of the most amazing moments in the life of this holy house each year is when at 3pm I enter this chapel to find 22 new men with theirs parents and siblings and friends. The men are universally petrified, and reasonably mortified as their mothers compete to gush over them, each saying to the other, you know my son....

While the fathers look puzzled and the brothers and sisters invent endless ways to tease this guy who thinks that God has been whispering his name. ‘Cause they know him. They know that just like Bishop or me or any of the priests present tonight, he arrives here just as imperfect as any one of you, with few of the skills he will need to answer the call he has heard God whispering to him.

But he trusts in the God whose chooses the weak and makes them strong in Christ. He chooses God’s wisdom over his own foolishness, God’s love over his own selfishness and God’s way over his own wandering path.

It’s not that he’s a saint. But he’s willing to try to become one. Try with his whole heart and mind and soul, placing everything he has and is on that altar to join his life, his sacrifices, with the perfect sacrifice of the Cross.

For he knows that a Priest is defined by what he offers. From time immemorial the priest has done one thing for a living: he offers sacrifice. And “what” he offers is the oblation The oblation might be Cain’s grain or Abel’s fat sheep. It might be the Bread and Wine of Melchisedech or even the first-born son of Abraham.

But all these oblations are a mere shadow, a prefiguring of the perfect sacrifice in which the Christ offers the sacrifice of himself: in which the Great High Priest is and the Victim, the giver and the gift, offers the Paschal sacrifice of himself upon the altar of the Cross.

That’s why the priest forgoes fame or fortune, family or possessions, why he leaves all behind. To follow the Lord to the Cross, where he opens his arms in total self-giving.

That’s why Father Neururer, a timid priest from a small Austrian farm Baptized that baby. It was forbidden in Dachau, where he was first sent, but even more so in Buchenwald, where he was explicitly forbidden to administer any of the sacraments. But the child had been born in the camp and needed to be baptized before she died and he was a priest. So he baptized her, and was sent to the punishment block, where they hung him by barbed wire, upside down, until he died at the age of 49. Pope John Paul II beautified him twenty years ago
That’s why Father Ganni refused to close his Church in Mosul, despite threats from Islamic extremists. He was just seven years ordained when they stopped his car after Mass and asked him why he did not respond to their threats. He looked the gunmen in the eye and asked them "How can I close the house of God?” So they shot him and tried to burn his body.

That’s why Father Byles refused to get into the lifeboat. He was leading the people from steerage up onto the decks of the Titanic after it hit the iceberg, when, as a survivor later wrote, ‘One sailor,warned the priest of his danger and begged him to board a boat. Father Byles refused [to] leave while even one was left.” Wrote another woman: ”After I got in the boat, which was the last one to leave, and we were slowly going further away from the ship, I could hear distinctly the voice of the priest and the responses to his prayers. Then they became fainter and fainter, until I could only hear the strains of 'Nearer My God, to Thee' and the screams of the people left behind.”

That’s why the priest who first inspired you, probably a lot like Father Kennedy, who died just ten years ago, gets up to pray for the dying man at 2:30 in the morning and why he takes the assignment no one else wants, because that’s what the Church needs him to do. It’s why he gives away his last dollar and last coat to the one who shivers. It’s why he loves them so much that he continues to patiently speak the truth, even while they scream in his face. It’s why he forgoes the world for the Cross. It’s why when others look forward to retirement at the beach, his only ambition is to give his final breath in service to the Lord whom he has promised to love unto death.

And it’s why this holy house, which you support by your love and prayers and generous gifts.....it’s why this house exists.

And it is why we seek to offer the sacrifices of our lives to God through the hands of the priest and why by his hands God transforms bread and wine into the Body and Blood of his Son, the food for our journey to the Cross: every breath offered, every drop poured out. Not for gain or ambition, but for love: pure love, total love, divine love: this is the stuff of Priesthood and the reason for this holy house.

The Eagles Make Us Proud!

Saint John’s Eagles returned home yesterday, winning two out of three games in the USML Seminary Invitational!  The Eagles’ only loss was to the winners of the tournament, the seminarians from Saint Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach.  The third game saw a 25-23 victory of the Eagles over the seminarians of Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida.  Some predicted this victory of Boston over Philadelphia presaged the Superbowl next weekend!

A wonderful time was had by all and each of our seminarians played with their whole heart and soul, concluding the week with a celebratory banquet, which included a commemoration of the birthday of our own Peter Schirripa.

Congratulations to our great team!

Gabriel Hanley
Joseph Kim
Bobby LeBlanc
Derek Mobilio
Joe Moynahan
Peter Schirripa
Dan Simard
Francis Trewin
Diego Valdez
Matt Valles

Coaching Staff
Alex Boucher
Brother Francis McCarty, O.S.B
Steven Restrepo
Nicholas Stano
Peter Schirripa

Monsignor John McLaughlin, Chaplain
Monsignor James Moroney, Rector

Friday, January 26, 2018

SJS Eagles Have Landed!

The SJS Eagles have landed in Chicago for the University of Saint Mary of the Lake invitational Seminary Basketball Tournament.  Opening ceremonies are at 6:00pm eastern standard time (EST) and the game between the Saint John's Eagles and Saint Vincent DePaul Seminary is at 7:20pm eastern standard time.  Click here to go to the tournament home page for a complete schedule and live stream of tonight's game!

The team just finished a hearty Italian lunch after celebrating Mass with Monsignor McLaughlin and me at MaryTown, the National Shrine dedicated to Saint Maxililian Kolbe.  More news here and on our twitter feed as it happens!

Friday, January 19, 2018

SJS Marches for Life

First, the 5am Holy Hour in the Crypt of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception: Deacon Michael Rora, presider and Deacon Matt Gill, Homilist.

Then, some of the priests, deacons and seminarians at the Boston Mass celebrated by Cardinal O'Malley with Bishop Deeley at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart before the March!

The March begins!