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NORWOOD -- Redemptoris Mater Seminary's Seventh Annual Gala Dinner honored Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, and Father Kevin J. O'Leary, rector of Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross, during an event that brought together priests, seminarians, and parishioners from local Boston parishes, June 2.
The annual dinner, held at Four Points by Sheraton in Norwood, also celebrated the 10th anniversary of the seminary's founding.
Established on Sept. 11, 2005, Redemptoris Mater Seminary, an archdiocesan missionary seminary, prepares priests for the new evangelization. Vocations pursued at the seminary, which is in Chestnut Hill, arise from the Neocatechumenal Way, an international itinerary of faith formation within the Catholic Church.
"We are happy to be celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the founding of our Seminary on this Jubilee Year of Mercy," wrote seminary rector Father Antonio Medeiros in the program for the gala dinner.
"Although much has changed in the past 10 years, the need for holy priests in the Church remains as urgent today as it was then. May the Lord continue to bless his Church for many years to come with priests formed in this seminary whose hearts and minds are aflame with the love of God and the pastoral charity of Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd," he continued.
Currently, there are 24 seminarians from 10 different countries receiving formation at the seminary. Four priests formed at the seminary have been ordained.
The gala dinner began with a prayer by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley before Father Medeiros offered words of thanks to supporters of the seminary, as well as Archbishop Chaput and Father O'Leary.
"I am especially indebted to our distinguished honorees for accepting this recognition from our seminarians... This evening we are honored to celebrate God's transformative grace in your lives that enabled you to respond so generously to a life of faithful service to the Church and joyful commitment to the Gospel," he said.
Guest of honor Archbishop Chaput offered the evening's keynote talk, which centered on the concepts of mercy, truth, and justice. He said these concepts are all connected.
"Mercy makes no sense without a context of justice. Justice makes no sense without a context of truth. And truth demands an ability to think clearly and judge rightly between good and evil," he said.
"We live in a tangle of debts that we owe to others, and that others owe to us, a web of mutual hurts that pure justice can never undo. When we see justice untempered by mercy, no matter how well intentioned we are, we risk crushing others or being crushed ourselves by the punishment we deserve. On its own, the human race can never achieve true justice, or show mercy truly effectively," he continued.
The archbishop said mercy requires action, and that action is what sets it apart from pity.
"A state governor might pity prisoners on death row, and he might genuinely feel their suffering. But, if he does nothing to spare their lives, he is not merciful," he said.
"Mercy leads us to imitate the God of Israel so far as it falls within our power. Only when the governor commutes death sentences to life sentences in prison can we rightly call him merciful. When he does that, he has married compassion and feelings into practical action," Archbishop Chaput continued.
Mercy has no place for cowardice or inaction, he said, noting that "true mercy can therefore be rightly fierce."
"A merciful person is quick to use what power she has to destroy evil, and this is exactly how God acts through the scriptures," said the archbishop.
Father O'Leary, the evening's other honoree, was presented with the seminary's Evangelization Award in "recognition of his witness to the Gospel, and of his personal contribution to the New Evangelization of the Church," Father Medeiros said.
Father Medeiros praised Father O'Leary's extensive efforts to not only restore and revitalize the physical structure of the cathedral, but also to reach out to the people of the surrounding neighborhood.
"When Father O'Leary learned that more and more people around the (Cathedral of the Holy Cross) spoke Spanish and couldn't speak English, he spent a summer in Spain studying the language so as to better communicate with his parishioners and respond to their needs," he said.
"When he heard that there was a group of people who did not set foot in the church, but would listen to the Gospel on the streets, he went out to meet them, preach the Gospel to them, and heard their confessions in the park," Father Medeiros continued before he and Cardinal O'Malley presented Father O'Leary with the award.
Father O'Leary said he was "very honored" by the award, and thanked those who helped him in his ministry.
"The evangelization effort was not just me, I was just a part of it, and was glad to be a part of it because it really did transform the lives of so many people. So, I am accepting the award, but I accept it in their name as well," he said.
The gala dinner ended with music, performed and sung by seminarians at Redemptoris Mater Seminary.
Paolo Strudtgoff, a seminarian at Redemptoris Mater, spoke to The Pilot after playing guitar and singing with his fellow seminarians during the musical performance.
He said he enjoyed Archbishop Chaput's keynote talk, particularly his thoughts on the relationship between truth and mercy.
"If you don't know what is wrong and what is actually right, what is sin and what is not sin, you cannot have mercy," he said.
"We all have to know what is wrong and what is right, and then we can speak about mercy," he continued.
Gabriel Hanley, another seminarian, said he agreed with the archbishop's view that mercy requires action.
"What I really loved is he said mercy in itself can be like a force, it can be fierce, but at the same time it's always about caring for that person... It's not about crushing a person with doctrine," he said.