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Catholic University of America Gala Dinner. I never thought that I would live long enough to visit Las Vegas. I was surprised when it was announced that Catholic University would be having their annual fundraising dinner there. As a cardinal, a member of the board of directors and an alumnus of the university, I felt it important that I participate in this event that raises 1 million dollars for student scholarships at that fine institution.
Las Vegas is certainly an unusual place, being an oasis of hotels and casinos in the middle of a desert. Father Brian [Bachand] and I arrived in Las Vegas at 11 p.m. on Thursday, and the airport was packed with people. It is also full of slot machines. I thought we had landed in the casino! Of course, people were very curious to see two priests getting off the plane.
I have always publicly opposed casino gambling, not that gambling is of itself sinful, but the great harm that can come from the addiction to gambling is a terrible evil. The economy that casinos generate is unhealthy, and often has a detrimental effect on public morality.
Prior to the benefit dinner, we had a beautiful Mass with a wonderful choir at the Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer, which is right on the strip. The strip of hotels in Las Vegas is sort of an adult Disneyland. From the parking lot, you see the pyramid and the sphinx -- that is not in Egypt, that is in Las Vegas. When you walk down that street, you leave the pyramid behind and quickly come upon the Statue of Liberty. Then, you leave the Statue of Liberty and you are at the Eiffel Tower. Then, towards the end of the strip, you arrive at St. Mark’s Square, and you are in the middle of Venice with gondolas and all. It is quite a fantasyland.
The dinner and Mass for Catholic University were a great success. The Mass was well-attended by people who had come to the dinner as well as the local Catholic community. Many Catholics in Las Vegas are originally from the Philippines. There were some students at the dinner, and I spoke with them about the importance of Catholic education in their life. Some of them sang and performed for the guests. Many of the cardinals were there, the nuncio spoke and at the end of the meal I addressed the people to invite them to Boston next year -- the 2008 cardinal’s dinner for Catholic University will be in Boston. Since it is our bicentennial year, it is a fitting time to host this event and to have all the cardinals visit our city. We have no strip or casinos in Boston, but I guess we will put our guests on the Duck boats ... lol.
Visiting the Little Sisters
of the Poor
On Tuesday I visited the Little Sisters of the Poor in Somerville for the profession of the associates. It was the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker and the Little Sisters have a great devotion to St. Joseph. It was an opportunity to offer Mass there for the residents, the sisters and their collaborators.
Members of the Association of Jeanne Jugan, the lay association of the Little Sisters, made their promises at the Mass. Two new members joined the 12 current members and renewed their promises to serve Christ with joy and love in the elderly, by following the example of humility and confidence left by Jeanne Jugan, the foundress of the order.
The Little Sisters have been with us in Boston for 137 years, always quietly serving a mission of hospitality to the elderly poor.
We also had a nice lunch [with] everyone afterward. I want to thank the sisters for the wonderful work that they do. Many people are acquainted with them because they go to the parishes and the stores to beg for help for the elderly. We hope that they will continue to be blessed with vocations. I was happy to see some high school students who are volunteering there and it’s such a beautiful ministry, an important ministry.
Also in this week’s blog:
> Attending a celebration for the 50th anniversary of Resurrection Parish in Hingham
> Visiting The Newman School in the Back Bay section of Boston
> Attending a meeting to discuss the violence in the inner city
> Launching the annual appeal