‘Cardinal, can we have a picture?’

A lot of Yonkers living rooms will soon be sporting new pictures of Cardinal Egan.

He was at St. John the Baptist Church last night to celebrate Mass and have a reception for folks from all 20 Yonkers parishes. During the reception, Egan just worked the jam-packed room, shaking hands, getting introduced to mothers and grandmothers, and posing for picture after picture with entire Yonkers families.

Cardinal Egan has his share of critics, but he certainly seems most at ease when visiting parishes, talking about the importance of parish life and greeting people who can’t wait to meet the cardinal/archbishop of New York.

“I think it’s very important that we get together and have a cookie and a chance to chat,” he said at the reception.

Last night was Egan’s sixth visit to one of the archdiocese’s vicariates — or regions — to celebrate the upcoming 200th birthday of the archdiocese. He has 13 more planned through April. At each stop, he has dinner with priests and deacons before Mass and a reception (with finger sandwiches, pastries, fruit and other goodies provided by the archdiocese).

“We celebrate the oneness of our faith here in Yonkers,” Monsignor Hugh Corrigan, vicar of Yonkers, said at the start of Mass.

During his homily, Egan talked about reviewing a series of prayer books that belonged to Cardinal Francis Spellman and were given to him by Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pope Pius XII). He talked about the various prayer cards and notations that Spellman left in the books, saying they were part of the long history of the archdiocese.

Egan also spent a lot of time praising the clergy and religious of New York. “There would be no Archdiocese of New York had it not been for the religious,” he said. “The religious created our schools, our hospitals and so much else.”

The cardinal was in a laudatory mood, citing several figures — including Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, Pierre Toussaint and Dorothy Day –who he believes should be sainted at some point.

Egan did not mention the growing speculation about when Pope Benedict XVI might accept his retirement papers. His focus was on the archdiocese and its parishes — “We are a Eucharistic people,” he said again and again — not on the archbishop.

In fact, toward the end of Mass, he joked “We’ll do it again in 100 years, and we’ll do it the same way.”

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.