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QUINCY -- Nearly 700 people from throughout the archdiocese gathered at the Boston Marriott Quincy hotel for the ninth annual Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary Gala Dinner.
This year's gala honored Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States and Dr. Lucy Bayer-Zwirello, Chief of Maternal Fetal Medicine at St. Elizabeth's Medical Center at Steward Medical Group. Noted guests included Nicolle Noguera vice-consul of Colombia, Alberto Vasallo, president and CEO of El Mundo, Boston, Massachusetts native Bishop Donald Pelletier, retired bishop of Madagascar as well as several priests from the Archdiocese of Boston.
The evening began with Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley addressing the audience.
"First of all, I want to just thank all of you for being here tonight," Cardinal O'Malley began. "Your presence and your support of the Redemptoris Mater Seminary is so important -- it's crucial."
"Today, we celebrate in the Church the feast of Corpus Christi. In many of our parishes we have processions and other beautiful Masses to celebrate the gift of the Blessed Sacrament. But the Blessed Sacrament is made available only through our priests. We are a eucharistic people, and our priests are so important, therefore I am so grateful to all of you who are here tonight who support our seminaries and pray for vocations, and encourage our young men to consider a call," he continued.
Before the dinner service, Father Roderick Crispo, OFM, spiritual director of the Redemptoris Mater Seminary, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday, was recognized in a video tribute of his life. Immediately following the video several seminarians led the crowd in the singing of "Happy Birthday" as Father Crispo blew out candles on a birthday cake. A native of New York, Father Crispo was ordained in 1955, and has led a rich and varied life of service to the Church, serving as director of the Franciscan Retreat Center in Andover.
Beginning his keynote address, Archbishop Pierre extended a warm welcome from Pope Francis. "As the apostolic nuncio, the Holy Father's personal representative in the United States ... I wish to assure you of his spiritual closeness," he said.
The nuncio spoke of the need to evangelize society. Citing a quote from the Latin American Bishops used in Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium," he said, "We cannot passively and calmly wait in our church buildings. We need to move from a pastoral ministry of mere conservation to a decidedly missionary pastoral ministry."
"I know that those of you who are part of the (Neocatechumenal) Way, or are benefactors who support the mission, have already adopted this missionary attitude, which we hope to inculcate in our future priests and really in the whole Church," Archbishop Pierre added.
The bishop continued speaking of the need to form priests with missionary zeal.
"Boston has a rich Catholic history and tradition," he said, but added that "at the same time, it is missionary territory ripe for the new evangelization of the many who have fallen away and for the many new immigrants who are arriving. It is mission territory that longs for deep healing for those who have been alienated, disenfranchised or deeply wounded by members of the Church."
The bishop underscored that "only Christ can provide the true remedy."
He then cited Pope Francis' May 5 address on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Neocatechumenal Way in Rome, when the Holy Father said that "only a Church that is free from power and money, free from triumphalism and clericalism bears witness in a credible way that Christ frees mankind. And those who, through his love, learn to renounce passing things embrace this great treasure: freedom."
"The Redemptoris Mater Seminary is a place where seminarians learn to renounce the things of this world and to discover and embrace the beauty of freedom, a freedom which they place, as shepherds of the flock, at the service of those at the physical and existential peripheries," he said.
Archbishop Pierre concluded praising the generosity of those attending the gala to support the seminary.
"Your gifts, your sacrifices and prayers help make all this possible," he said.
Following the nuncio's remarks, Dr. Lucy Bayer-Zwirello was presented with the seminary's Evangelization Award by Father Antonio Medeiros, rector of the Redemptoris Mater Seminary. The Evangelization Award "publicly recognizes the faithful witness of the Gospel of Life," Father Medeiros explained.
"Doctor Lucy has helped countless women," Father Medeiros said.
"I'm going to try really hard not to cry," said Bayer-Zwirello as she accepted the award. "But I want to share this award. I want to share this award with anyone who has worked in the field of maternal care."
"The honor really goes to every mother, future mother, past mother, and almost mother here today," she said.
"What does it mean to be an obstetrician in this world that is in such confusion and is so confusing?" she asked the crowd, noting that in the "Me-generation what is inconvenient can just be discarded."
She spoke of the importance of being a support for all expectant mothers, particularly those plagued by drug addiction.
"We love each of our patients. We really do," she said emphatically. "We care for our patients and wish each of them to succeed."
Bayer-Zwirello, who has delivered more than 7,500 babies in her 37-year career stressed that "every single one of those babies has been an honor and a pleasure."
The evening concluded with a musical selection from the Redemptoris Mater seminarians, who sang a cross section of folk, modern and traditional songs in a multitude of languages, representing the many cultures of the men studying in the seminary.
Speaking to The Pilot following the event, Father Medeiros said he was "impressed by the remarks of both honorees on the theme of the evening, namely young people, faith and vocational discernment."
He expressed appreciation for Archbishop Pierre's "simple, direct, and profound remarks echoed the Holy Father's love and enthusiasm for young people and then Dr. Lucy Bayer-Zwirello delivered poignant remarks about her rich experience witnessing the Gospel of Life in the context of prenatal and natal care, where she has helped countless women face the challenges and the joys of maternity, including delivering thousands of babies."
He also praised the "tremendous response" of those who came out to support the seminary at this year's gala.
"I am truly grateful for their generosity, for their friendship and for their love of our seminary," he said.