BOSTON — Most Boston Catholics were wearing their nightcaps when Pope Benedict XVI placed the red biretta on Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley’s head March 24. The consistory in St. Peter’s Square took place at 4 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.
However, many followed the news coverage of the cardinal’s elevation and said they believe Cardinal O’Malley is a holy and humble man who has done his best to heal a wounded archdiocese.
“The time that he’s been here, he’s had a very difficult job to mend hearts and heal wounds, but in light of that I think he has done an excellent job,” said Rich Salvaggio from St. Patrick Parish in Natick.
Salvaggio said he believes that both God and the Holy Father have trusted Cardinal O’Malley with a wounded diocese because he brings a message of hope and confidence. The cardinal is a man who perseveres in the midst of persecution, a shepherd who leads by example, he added.
During Mass at the Men’s Conference on March 4, Cardinal O’Malley led the men of the archdiocese in prayer and in the faith, he said.
“I feel very grateful to God that he’s a cardinal now,” Salvaggio added. “Throughout the day he’s been in my thoughts and prayers.”
Tom Kane, from St. Mary Parish in Quincy, said he is also pleased with the elevation.
“I think it’s well-deserved,” he said. “We’re a big archdiocese, so I think we should have a cardinal.”
Kane added that Cardinal O’Malley has done the best job that he could in his years here.
“From what he’s been given, he’s done a good job,” he said.
“He’s been up against an awful lot. Has he made mistakes? I’m sure he has, but I’m sure he’ll learn from them,” he continued. “Even though he’s a cardinal, he’s human.”
Maureen Nyken, from St. Bartholomew Parish in Needham, said that she originally had mixed feelings about Cardinal O’Malley’s service in Boston. She was saddened by the church closings, which have affected so many Catholics, she said.
Recently she has taken a second look at the work he has done and found that Cardinal O’Malley is a humble and holy man, she added.
“I’m trying to be more active in my life with the Church,” she said, adding that Lent is the perfect time to reflect.
Nyken said that she thinks the cardinal’s elevation is wonderful and hopes that it will encourage the Catholics in Boston who have faced difficult times.
“Hopefully it will be something positive for us,” she said.
Peggy McManus, who usually attends Mass at St. Francis Chapel in Boston, said Catholics in the archdiocese need to support the cardinal.
“We have to give him a chance,” she said.
Cardinal O’Malley had good reasons for closing parishes. The archdiocese has a lack of priests and other religious as well as fewer people attending Mass regularly, she added.
The cardinal is a great, down-to-earth man who has helped the ailing archdiocese. He is also a humble man who did not organize an archdiocesan trip to the consistory in Rome. Cardinal O’Malley is celebrating his elevation with thanksgiving Masses in three local parishes rather than at the cathedral, she said.
“I loved it that he didn’t throw a big party in Rome, and when he comes back, he’s going to celebrate Mass in each of the regions so that everyone can get involved,” she said.
Joan Callahan, who also goes to St. Francis Parish, said she believes that Cardinal O’Malley’s elevation will not change much in the archdiocese, in part because he was elevated for what he has already done.
“I felt that the pope was elevating him for the work that he had to do in the archdiocese,” she said. “I don’t think things are going to change. His elevation may confer some status to him in the political sense.”
Cardinal O’Malley is different than his predecessor, Cardinal Bernard F. Law, in that he exudes humility, but both followed directives from the Vatican, she added.
“I think he’s rather conservative,” she said.
Callahan said she differs with the cardinal on some issues and that she is sorry to see Catholic Charities drop out of adoption services because Massachusetts law requires them to allow same-sex couples to adopt.
Sylvia Mary Yuet M. Ooi, from St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Brookline, disagreed and said that Cardinal O’Malley has the courage to stand up against political leaders and protect the most vulnerable in society. He has taken a stand for families in confirming that a Catholic organization cannot provide adoptions to same-sex couples, she said.
“He has a lot of courage. It takes courage to stand for what is right,” she said.
Cardinal O’Malley has served in a difficult situation but has risen above it. Because of that he has earned Pope Benedict’s trust, she said.
“The Holy Father trusts him, trusts his leadership,” she added.
God called upon St. Francis to raise a fallen Church, and now He is calling on a Franciscan to raise a fallen archdiocese, she said.