Remembering Father Timothy Murphy

The summer of 1996 I was planning to move from Ohio back to Massachusetts. I had finished up at Franciscan University of Steubenville and had a job that allowed me to work remotely from anywhere I had an internet connection. My friend, Randy, who was from Phoenix, had got a job as a youth minister in Salem, Mass., and so we agreed to get an apartment together. However, he then was offered by his new boss, the pastor, Fr. Timothy Murphy, to come live in the spacious, mostly empty rectory to save money. Randy was concerned about our agreement, but the pastor extended the invitation to me as well, letting me rent a room and receive board for monthly rent.

That was how I met Fr. Murphy, who would become a friend, a mentor, and a father-figure to me over the next two decades. Fr. Murphy retired from active ministry a few years ago and has now died after a short illness.

In 1996, Fr. Murphy was the newly arrived pastor at Immaculate Conception Parish in Salem, the second oldest parish in Massachusetts after the cathedral-parish in Boston and the oldest church dedicated to Mary in New England. Fr. Murphy was always proud of the history of the parish, including the fact that he was the second pastor named Timothy Murphy, his eponymous predecessor having lived in the 19th century.

Father Murphy had previously been pastor of St. Angela’s Parish in Mattapan since 1979, an inner-city parish with a very large Haitian immigrant population that had grown there as the neighborhood transitioned from mainly Jewish and Irish families who were moving out to the suburbs. Notably, Fr. Murphy was the first of his seminary class to be named a pastor (back in the days when not every parish priest became a pastor and if so after decades of ministry) and he learned of his assignment on the day Pope St. John Paul II celebrated Mass on Boston Common, October 1, 1979. He served St. Angela’s until 1995 when he took a sabbatical year in Rome before going to Salem.

That year in Rome was special to Fr. Murphy and he talked about it often in the following years and he stayed in touch with the other priests from around the United States who were in the same program year. It also prompted him to do more pilgrimages and international travel.

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Losing My Old Parish, But Can Something Be Saved?

From the “You should have listened to me before” file: The Archdiocese of Boston parish collaborative that includes my former parish in Salem where Melanie and I were married is in deep financial trouble, so now they’re going to turn one parish into a Polish shrine to St. John Paul II and merge my old parish and another one.

Three years ago, Salem was one of the first collaboratives under the Disciples in Mission pastoral plan and had Salem’s four parishes included. They quickly determined that four was too many and St. Anne’s was split off, leaving Immaculate Conception (my old parish), St. James, and St. John the Baptist, which was previously a Polish national parish. The pastor of the collaborative was unable to get the finances of the collaborative under control and ended up resigning last year.

Now the temporary administrator and the parish leaders have come up with this new plan to turn St. John the Baptist into a Polish shrine dedicated to St. John Paul II and merge Immaculate Conception and St. James into one parish while keeping the two churches open, which will let them sell off redundant property.
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Thousands Against Marijuana, What About Evangelization?

When Cardinal Seán came out against Question 4 on the Massachusetts ballot, which proposes legalizing marijuana, I thought it was interesting he would choose to do so, but I agree with him that legalization is bad. Then he rallied the state’s other bishops and starting producing all kinds of videos that have been plastered on the Archdiocese’s Facebook page and I began to wonder at the amount of time spent on this.

Now I read that the Archdiocese is spending $850,000 on this campaign, and I begin to wonder why this is where we choose to spend our efforts. Even as the rumors have started to ramp up about yet another round of layoffs, buyouts, and/or early retirements in the Central Ministries (round eight or ten or whatever of the past 8 years) and as more and more of the collaboratives that are a central feature of the Disciples in Mission pastoral plan that’s supposed to re-evangelize fallen away Catholics encounter financial difficulties, why spend scarce dollars on this?

It’s not like this was a special gift for the purpose. Terry Donilon is quoted in the article that the funds come from “a discretionary, unrestricted central ministry fund.” Presumably one that could be used for evangelization?

“It reflects the fact that the Archdiocese holds the matter among its highest priorities,” Archdiocese spokesman Terrence Donilon said of the donation. “It’s a recognition that, if passed, the law would have significantly detrimental impacts on our parishes, our ministries.”

And where in the list of priorities does evangelization fall? Let’s be honest, will pot smoking have that much of an effect on parishes? More than the continued loss of people from the pews who have become disillusioned and lack any real relationship with Jesus Christ in discipleship?

Or, if we wanted to use the money for an important political issue, how about we save it up for the next time doctor-prescribed suicide is inevitably pushed by its proponents. The Archdiocese spent millions in 2012 to defeat a very poorly worded ballot question. Will we have millions when the death-pushers come back more organized with a slicker message?

This may been a good time for the Cardinal to oppose marijuana. But the resources spent on it are misplaced priorities.

You Can’t Just Declare Yourself Catholic

Imagine I’m nose tackle for the New England Patriots. One day, Coach Belichick calls me in his office and tells me I’m being cut from the team. Well, I don’t want to be cut from the team so I go down the street to a high school stadium and declare that I am still part of the New England Patriots, that being a Patriot is bigger than the NFL team owned by Bob Kraft, that I will bring in other players and coaches, hold games and sell tickets, and that the games will be valid NFL games leading to the Super Bowl. Right about the same time I’m being served the lawsuit from Kraft and the NFL, the men in white coats would be carting me off to the loony bin.

Meanwhile, reporter Bella English and the Boston Globe1 continues to feed the delusions of the people in Scituate who believe that they are still a valid parish despite rejecting the authority of the Catholic Church.

Here’s how Maryellen Rogers describes it: “We are an ecumenical Catholic church, we are still valid practicing Catholics, part of the universal Catholic Church, not the Roman Catholic Church. So if you join our church community, you would see a welcoming Catholic experience but you would not be supporting the Roman Catholic Church or the Archdiocese of Boston.”

Jon Rogers says that the new church wants to draw from other towns south of Boston, not just Scituate. “This is the seeds of a brand new church, a simple structure, the way Christ would have it,” he says. “It will just be a spiritual home where people can be comfortable without being awestruck or overwhelmed by a hierarchical system. It will be run by the people and for the people.”

Both stress that the church remains Catholic. “We are valid, practicing Catholics,” she says.

I’m sorry, but it’s just not so. I hate to tell them that this doesn’t make them Catholic. All they’ve done is re-invent Protestantism because this is exactly how the Protestant Reformation began. They saw themselves as recovering the true Church while throwing off the hierarchy yet retaining the sacraments and other trappings at first. How long until they even give up those trappings, even if they survive at all?

  1. English, who is semi-retired from the Globe now, has been championing the Scituate protesters ever since they began. Something tells me she has an axe to grind.

From Irish Convict to Boston Catholic Newspaperman

John O’Reilly was an Irishman born in 1844 who join the British Army, but was then transported as a convict to Australia, until he later escaped and made his way to America, eventually coming to Boston and becoming of America’s then-largest newspaper which is now the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston, The Pilot. It’s a fascinating story that comes from the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Perth, Australia.

The Heart of St. Padre Pio in Boston

Update: They did make it there!

Thousands of people in the Boston area, some even flying in from other parts of the country, are venerating the heart of Padre Pio this week. It is the first time a major relic of St. Pio has traveled outside of Rome and it is here in Boston at the request of Cardinal Seán, a fellow Capuchin, for the saint’s feast day in the Year of Mercy.

The Boston Globe covers the initial veneration in Lowell and it’s funny to read the outsider’s perspective. We, Catholics, are a peculiar bunch and I can see why others think it’s weird. But human beings are weird and quirky, especially when it comes to those we love who are no longer with us.

You have to see George Martell’s photos of the visit on the Archdiocese’s Flickr page. You can see the full range of experiences and emotions that were present.

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Melanie and the kids are going to the Pastoral Center in Braintree this morning for veneration. They’re bringing a picture of Padre Pio that came to us mysteriously. Several years ago, Melanie took the kids to daily Mass on Sophia’s feast day and as they come out after, a young man approached them with the picture and said that it was for them. Melanie had never seen him before and didn’t recognize him from the parish at all. The picture has been in the girls’ bedroom since then. They hope to touch the picture to the heart of Padre Pio today and make it a third-class relic.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to go. I hope to swing by the Pastoral Center on my way home this afternoon, but my guess is that after the noon Mass until the end at 5pm the place will be crazy with people.

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New Bishops for Boston

Pope Francis today appointed two new auxiliary bishops for Boston, priests I have worked closely with in my years with the Archdiocese. Bishop-elect Robert Reed will be most well known as he is the director of CatholicTV, which is seen in many dioceses across the country. He is also head of the Catholic media secretariat for the archdiocese, which includes the newspaper and bulletins and radio. (It once include new media, but no longer.) I’ve known Fr. Reed for many years, though, as he was assigned to St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Norwood, when I was attending Mass there in the early 90s, and is a friend of my brother. In fact, he’s my nephew’s godfather.

I’ve also worked with Bishop-elect Mark O’Connell, not in his role s judicial vicar for the archdiocese, but when he was a co-host on our radio program The Good Catholic Life. Fr. Mark was always fun to work with because he’s a very funny guy and was so laid back. One of the funniest moments on the show was when his best friend, Fr. Paul Soper, outed him on air as a World of Warcraft player whose character was an anthropomorphic panda.

During the press conference this morning, Bishop-elect Reed said he’s talked with Cardinal Seán about retaining some role in CatholicTV after his ordination in addition to his duties as an auxiliary bishop, so I’ll be interested if a new priest is assigned there as director or if the day-to-day responsibilities shift to the general manager.

It’s very interesting that with Bishop Christopher Coyne in Vermont, Bishop Robert Barron in Los Angeles, and now Bishop-elect Reed in Boston, we have more and more bishops who are experts in communications and media being elevated to the episcopacy in the US.

And this busy day for bishops in Boston isn’t over because there’s an episcopal ordination at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross this afternoon for Archbishop Paul Russell. He has been appointed by Pope Francis to apostolic nuncio to Turkey and Turkmenistan.

“May We Burn Forever”

The last of the church occupations in the Archdiocese of Boston is over after 12 years. The occupiers of the former St. Frances Cabrini church in Scituate have vacated the premises after a final desecration of the once-sacred space, having been given the court order to leave by midnight Monday night.

Following the denial of their final, final, “no really this time it’s final” appeal, the occupiers led by the Rogers family left the building. The Rogers were the ringleaders behind the occupation and they repeatedly denied over the years that one of their motivations as abutting property owners was the prospect of seeing the multimillion-dollar acreage next door sold off and developed, despoiling their views.1

Rogers addressed the crowd at the sending-off party yesterday with a phrase that should send a shiver down everyone’s spines: “This is not a death, but the birth of a new church and a new way of thinking… We are the bright light our world needs, and I pray that we burn forever.” (emphasis added) I think the demonic irony was unintended.

That was followed by the announcement that they would form a new “Catholic community” church led by a man who has left the priesthood and married. and because Satan really, really wants us to know he’s behind all this, they will be meeting at the Freemason’s lodge in town.
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The Church wins by making a new group of Protestants

After a dozen years, the Archdiocese of Boston has finally prevailed in the courts over a group of sit-in protesters who refused to vacate the former church of a suppressed parish, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Scituate. I blogged about this sit-in from the beginning, and it was clear early on that this wasn’t just about parishioners who didn’t want to lose their parish. If that were so, this would have ended like the other dozen or so sit-in protests that have faded over the years. No, this was about certain abutting interests in Scituate who didn’t want to see 30 acres of waterfront real estate go on the market and disrupt their neighborhood. And it was about an archdiocese so worried at looking like the bad guys at first that they dealt with kid gloves.

Sure, some church officials will see this as a win, having waited out the protesters until every last conceivable (and inconceivable) appeal was exhausted and every previous promise to vacate the premises broken. (In fact, I’ll believe they’re done when they leave on their new promised date of May 29.)

But what have we, as a Church, won besides the right to sell some land for a tidy profit? It looks like we’ve won some new Protestants.

Rogers said that after leaving the church, his group would gather in a new location and attempt to reach out to former Catholics who have drifted away from the church since the clergy sex abuse scandal surfaced in 2002.

Not exactly what we’re supposed to be about.

God’s Mercy Runs to Meet Us

Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston has issued a new Pastoral Letter on Divine Mercy called “God’s Mercy Runs to Meet Us.” The title recalls the parable of the Prodigal Son and how the father looked for his son’s return and when saw him a long way off, ran to meet him. The parable is on the one hand about a son who sins and repents, but it’s also about how the son who stayed home needs to learn mercy from his father.

Just as the father goes out to embrace the prodigal son and bring him home, he also searches for the elder son to teach him to be merciful. The father loves and forgives both sons and wants them to live in peace and harmony. The father rejoices over the conversion of the younger son and hopes for the conversion of the older, hard-working, responsible son who finds it so difficult to pardon his brother. The father explains to his elder son that he has always been with him and that all that he has remains his inheritance, but that his brother was lost and his return is worth rejoicing. The father is unconcerned about his property and his honor. He is concerned only about his sons.

He then adds other elements, including 7 ways for Catholics in the archdiocese to live mercy in the Jubilee year.

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