Half way there

Just back from St. Patrick’s and Solemn Vespers.

Now, I didn’t have the best view. The media were put on the side of the sanctuary, behind two sections of priests. So we mostly had to watch on TV screens, although we could see the tops of everyone’s heads in the sanctuary.

We did get a good look at Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s back when he climbed up to the pulpit to deliver his homily.

It was a good vantage point, actually, when he talked about his “brother priests.” “I am so awestruck,” he said, “to be the elder brother of a presbyterate known for its zeal and devotion. I thank you, brother priests, for continuing to be agents of the divine institution, and to you I pledge my life and love.”

After he said this, he stopped back, turned around and motioned to the rows of priests in front of us. He wanted to emphasize that he meant it — his life and love. Clearly, Dolan knows that priests have been battered in recent years and that the priests of New York, in particular, are suffering from low morale.

Having knocked on the doors of St. Patrick’s (9 times!) to start the service, Dolan talked about the need to open oneself to Jesus and the church. He cited some reasons that people close themselves off:

“There’s sin, fear, and sadness to keep us closed-up inside, evident in so many problems and worries: the scandal of clergy sexual abuse and caring for those hurt; the challenges of strengthening our parishes, schools, and charitable outreach; the threats to marriage, family, to the unborn baby and fragile human life at all stages; the need for vocations. The list is long. The list is haunting.”

He joked about having on his own chains, which made him weary of coming to the great pulpit of NY.

“Following the likes of Hughes, Hayes, Spellman, Cooke, O’Connor, and Egan! Sounds like McNamara’s band, and I’m not up to being part of it.”

But he decided to be brave — counting on some God-given confidence — and called on the Catholics of New York to do the same:

“And this evening, when you opened those bronze doors to my knock, and I beheld a church, an archdiocese, that has been opening the doors to Christ for 201 years, am I ever glad I listened to him and took the chain off.”

On to tomorrow’s Mass of Installation, when this midwestern prelate — who blows kisses to his congregants — takes canonical possession of NY and its 2-and-a-half million Catholics (give or take a few hundred thousand).

Details on the Big Installation

Just back from a press briefing in NYC on the upcoming installation of Archbishop Dolan on April 14 and 15.

Some tidbits:

  • Near the start of the Solemn Vespers prayer service at 7 p.m. on the 14th, Archbishop Dolan will literally knock on the great doors of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Various cardinals and archbishops and Bishop Dennis Sullivan, vicar general of the archdiocese, will be waiting just inside the doors. Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the papal ambassador to the U.S., will present Dolan to Cardinal Egan, who will thenĀ  “welcome” his successor on behalf of the people of New York.
  • Officials are trying to figure out how to make the knock audible to the almost 2,500 people inside.
  • Dolan’s second-grade teacher, Sister Mary Bosco Daly, will be coming in from Ireland to give a short reading at the prayer service. She is 90.
  • Most dignitaries — religious and civil — are expected for the Mass of Installation on the 15th, not for Vespers the evening before.
  • Intercession prayers will be made in several languages, including Akan, Korean, Portuguese, German and Mandarin.
  • For each event, each parish in the archdiocese will be given two tickets for laypeople.
  • Sambi, the apostolic nuncio, will play a big role throughout.
  • There will be great ecumenical and interreligious participation — but no Jews. Passover will not conclude until April 15. But…on Monday the 20th, Dolan will take part in a Holocaust memorial service at Central Synagogue in NYC.
  • But you can expect Episcopalians, Lutherans, and plenty of Orthodox bishops, not to mention Muslims, Buddhists and others.
  • The opening process for the Mass on the 15 promises to be LONG and colorful.
  • Dolan is expected to use two historical croziers (the bishop’s staff), one that belonged to Archbishop Michael Corrigan (the boss from 1885 to 1902) and one that belonged to Cardinal Patrick Hayes (the boss from 1919 to 1938). Officials are looking for a pectoral cross with historical meaning.
  • The Mass, since it will be during the Easter season, will be the same Mass celebrated around the world that day. No tinkering.
  • Dolan will wear white vestments for the season.
  • At the Mass, the Irish tenor Ronan Tynan will sing Ave Maria and Panis Angelicus (and he’ll knock them out of the park, so to speak).
  • Dolan’s mother, siblings, nieces and nephews, and buddies will be in the front rows, and there will be plenty of Milwaukeeans around.
  • Among invitees to the Mass: mayors across the archdiocese; the governor, both U.S. senators, congresspeople, and others.
  • On the day he was named, Dolan said that he invited the president during a phone call of congratulations. But it does not appear that Obama is coming.
  • Dolan will become archbishop at the Mass when the chancellor of the archdiocese — former Rockland Vicar Monsignor William Belford — notarizes a letter from the pope.
  • Dolan will celebrate Mass at the cathdral on Sunday, April 19, the first Sunday after he takes over the show.
  • Joe Zwilling, longtime spokesman for the archdiocese, said that Dolan will “hit the ground running” with a packed schedule for his first few weeks in NY. We’ll know soon what he’ll be doing.
  • Cardinal Egan, Zwilling said, wants to stay in the background throughout.
  • Dolan will hold a press conference on the morning of the 15th. Yeah, he likes to talk.
  • Dolan will be in Rome on June 29 to get his new pallium, a wool vestment given to metropolitan archbishops, who oversee neighboring dioceses in a region.
  • That’s enough for now….