Lawn Party brings record support for Blessed John XXIII Seminary

WESTON -- More than 350 supporters of Blessed John XXIII National Seminary joined Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley Sept. 17 at the school’s 27th Annual Lawn Party.

“As Blessed John XXIII begins its 45th year of preparing men for the priesthood, the archdiocese is observing its Bicentennial Year. We thank God for the many blessings bestowed upon the Church in Boston throughout its history, including the four priests ordained from Blessed John last May for service in our archdiocese,” the cardinal said in his remarks. More than 20 priest alumni were in attendance.

The cardinal said he was grateful for the welcome he received from Father Peter J. Uglietto, rector of the seminary, which is for men who begin their studies for the priesthood after the age of 30.

Cardinal O’Malley also expressed his appreciation for the remarks made by Msgr. Cornelius M. McRae, who served as the rector of Blessed John from 1986 to 1995 and for the presence of Father Arthur L. Kennedy, the rector of St. John’s Seminary in Brighton.

The cardinal made a special point of congratulating the chairs of the 2008 Lawn Party Committee, Joanie and Doug Kinsley, and the other members of the committee for organization the school’s most successful lawn party to date.

Drawing on a historical theme, Msgr. McRae said Cardinal Richard J. Cushing -- the seminary’s founding bishop and the one who bought the land from the Paine Family -- would have great pride in the school he dedicated in 1963.

“Before it was owned by the Paine Family, this land was owned by John Adams. That brings us back a good 200 years,” Msgr. McRae said.

One of the supporters, Jack Shaughnessey, who along with John McNiece sponsors the McNiece/ Shaughnessy Challenge for Excellence in Seminary Education, said the seminary is one of a dozen Catholic charities he supports. “All of them do good work, but because of the profound and important contribution these men make to the Church, which is so badly needed, Blessed John’s is my favorite, by far.”

Shaughnessey said he and McNeice have raised more than $5 million for the school because it is important to provide a way for men with late vocations to contribute their lives to the Church. “When these holy men are ordained, they bring real life experiences and can take on responsibilities right away.”

Another supporter and a member of the lawn party committee, former Red Sox general manager James G. “Lou” Gorman, told The Pilot that he and his wife Mary Lou missed this year’s party because of a speaking engagement, but the couple has attended the lawn party for the last 10 years.

“Vocations are so important to the Church. We need more priests to serve the Church and teach the people the message of Christ,” said Gorman, who as a young man played organized baseball with Bishop Daniel P. Reilly, the Bishop Emeritus of Worcester. “Blessed John’s does a wonderful job.”

Father Uglietto, who was the master of ceremonies for the evening’s program, told the audience that it was a lawn party tradition to have two of the seminarians share their experiences. This year’s speakers were Rendell R. Torres, a musician and former professor of architectural acoustics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., and Franklin D. Camp, a former professional writer.

Torres, who played the cello at the school’s opening Mass, said he is amazed by the educational experience at Blessed John XXIII. “The classes are like seminars in spirituality -- and if any of my professors are listening: I am referring to your class.”

“Sixty-five seminarians have 65 stories,” he said. The current student body includes a lawyer, an FBI agent and a fork-lift driver, along with widowers, fathers and grandfathers. “We are a one-stop shopping seminary.”

In his remarks, Camp said for many seminarians, it is the example of a great priest that inspires their vocation. For Camp that priest was one he met in Paris 18 years ago.

He said he was living as a writer in the city and he was desperate to find a priest one evening during a French holiday and all the churches and rectories were closed.

Finally, he found one with the lights on and he rang the bell, he said. When he told his story to the woman who answered, she told him that the pastor was having dinner with very senior government officials and left instructions that he not be disturbed.

“But, I will disturb him for you,” she told him.

Looking in, Camp could see the woman speak to the pastor and when he stood up he told his guests, “Gentleman, I have to excuse myself for 10 minutes, maybe more. There is a young woman in the Marie Curie Hospital who needs the last rites.”

“That woman,” Camp said, “was my wife.”

The priest stayed with the couple and at one point told Camp how much the people of Paris appreciated the young American writers who came to their city, he said.

Camp said to the priest, “Oh Father, so much more we admire a good priest.”