A priest points to a class picture on display at the fourth annual gathering for St. John’s Seminary alumni Nov. 7. Pilot photo/ Neil W. McCabe
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Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley joined more than 140 priest graduates of Brighton’s St. John’s Seminary and 65 seminarians for the school’s fourth annual Alumni Dinner and holy hour Nov. 7.
“It’s always a joy for us as priests and bishops to come together for prayer and fellowship,” said the cardinal, who presided over the holy hour and greeted each of the priests as they left the chapel.
“In the New Testament the Apostles are called ‘the Twelve,’ and the deacons ‘the Seven,’ showing them as a team, a college,” he said in his homily at the holy hour. “When Jesus sends the disciples out to evangelize, he sends them two by two. Jesus is teaching us that we cannot proclaim the Good News on our own.”
The cardinal said it is important for priests to have the sense of teamwork and brotherhood. “We are called to proclaim the Gospel together, Jesus says, ‘If two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, I am in your midst.’”
Recognizing St. John’s role as a regional seminary, the cardinal said, “I am so grateful to Father Arthur Kennedy, the rector of St. John’s Seminary, for his outstanding work with the faculty in forming future priests for service in the Archdiocese of Boston and beyond. So many of these priests have returned to St. John’s from all over New England to share their happy memories and to encourage one another in our common mission of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
“The cardinal puts a high priority on this event, where he can welcome back men who have graduated through these doors,” said Father Christopher K. O’Connor, St. John’s vice-rector.
“Outside on the seminary wall is written the phrase: ‘How lovely is your dwelling place,’ and how lovely is it to have our alumni mixing with our seminarians here in this place, which is the home of so many vocations,” he said.
In addition to the priests, all 65 seminarians in residence at the school attended the dinner. Each performed a task, such as serving food or directing traffic outside in the parking lot, Father O’Connor said. “It was all hands on deck!”
Having the seminarians work at the dinner promotes interaction with priests they may not have met and is part of the tradition of the dinner, which started just four years ago, he said.
“We emphasize how important it is for the seminarians to meet the priests they will be working with one day,” Father O’Connor said. “One day, they will be back here as alumni enjoying the hospitality and friendship they provided the priests tonight.”
In his remarks at the dinner, Father Kennedy welcomed the priests and seminarians.
“If you added up the years of service in this room, it would add up into the thousands,” he said.
Father Kennedy said the seminary, which celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2009, will host a lecture on Catholic and Islamic relations and a strings concert as the highlights of the anniversary, which will be open to those outside the seminary community. “The seminary is home to those who serve the Church and the Lord.”
To reach out to the greater community, the seminary will inaugurate a new magazine, which will feature events and individuals at the school, he said.
Father Thirbuse F. Millot, class of 1975, a priest from St. Ann Parish in Southborough, a parish of the Worcester Diocese, said the evening made him nostalgic.
“Sitting again in the St. John’s refectory opened up a floodgate of memories,” he said. “It brought me back to the meals shared, the friendships made.”
Father Millot said it was special to be able to come together with the other priests for a time of prayer and fellowship.
The night is a chance for the priests to get a measure of the seminarians coming up, said Father Oscar J. Pratt, the pastor of St. Katherine Drexel Parish, located in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood, and a former archdiocesan director of vocations.
For the priests, it is comforting to get a measure of the seminarians, and know that there is another generation of priests coming up to carry on the work of the Church, said Father Pratt.
“Priestly life in Boston is in need of spiritual renewal,” said Father Thomas Boulton, the temporary administration of Dorchester’s Holy Family Parish. “A night like this at the seminary is sure to foster that renewal.”