Cardinal O'Malley greets guests following the Holy Hour to begin the St. John's Seminary Priest Alumni Dinner April 8. Pilot photo/courtesy St. John's Seminary
BRIGHTON -- Priests from around New England gathered at St. John's Seminary, April 8, for the annual Priest Alumni Dinner and to reconnect with former classmates.
The event began with a Holy Hour celebrated by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, after which the alumni were then given time to look at old class photographs and reconnect before the celebration dinner began in the seminary refectory.
Deacon Patrick Fiorillo, who will be ordained to the priesthood in May, offered a brief welcome as they took their seats.
"While it may not be apparent to the average layman in the pews, you all know how important of a role St. John's Seminary plays in the carrying out of the mission of the Church in New England and beyond. And so we thank you for being here, and we thank you for staying connected," he said.
"The Church, and indeed the seminary, has been through a lot in recent year, but thanks to your ongoing support, and your prayers, I'm proud to be able to say that St. John's is thriving, and I look forward to soon being counted among you as fellow alumni of St. John's Seminary," Deacon Fiorillo continued.
Bishop Arthur Kennedy also addressed the gathering, highlighting the history of the seminary.
"Twenty-three presidents have come and gone. Eleven popes have been elected and died. Seven new dioceses have been erected in New England, and six archbishops have been installed at Holy Cross Cathedral since this endeavor first began. But through it all, Christ continues to form men after his own heart, in this holy house -- men like you," said Bishop Kennedy.
Sandy Barry, director of Annual Giving at the seminary, told The Pilot around 80 alumni priests attended the event, noting that the graduation years of the alumni ranged from 1949 to 2015.
Current seminarians were also present, although many had been assigned tasks for the evening, such as serving the food or helping with parking.
Other guests at the dinner included Raymond Flynn, former mayor of Boston and U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, and Daniel J. Kennedy Sr., father of the late Father Daniel J. Kennedy and author of "247 Days: Father Dan Kennedy, A Proud and Happy Priest," a new book commemorating his son's life.
Free copies of Kennedy's book were given to attendees. The book was released in February, almost exactly eight years after Father Kennedy's sudden and unexpected death.
Father Bill Lohan, pastor of St. Monica Parish in Methuen, spoke to attendees near the end of the dinner about his personal relationship with Father Kennedy, and noted his hopes that "247 Days" will inspire young men to join the priesthood.
"It's our prayer that as we talk about this book and disseminate it, (we) make sure that the boys and the young men are reading it, (so) that they too will be an instrument of God's call, and that many men will come to this seminary because they have read it," he said.
Speaking to The Pilot following the event, Father Gerald Souza, a member of the class of 2013, said he enjoyed hearing other priest's stories and greeting both familiar and unfamiliar faces.
"It's very good to be back to a place that was home for me," he said.