Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut
Wednesday, September 20, 2017


I want to make this last recording about the papal visit. Having arrived home this morning, I am at work. We just finished a priests’ council meeting in which I shared with our priests some of the events from last week from my perspective. Last night, of course, in Philadelphia, we concluded with a beautiful Mass, and again today in the airport in Philadelphia, how many people would come up to me when they saw my collar and tell me what a wonderful experience it was. The people in Philadelphia did a great job in hosting the Holy Father and all of us.

AOHpapalpilgrimage0915 52 webMembers of the archdiocesan pilgrimage to Philadelphia exit a bus in Bloomfield on Sept. 27. See photo gallery at

So now I think the important thing is to be up to the challenges that he’s raised for us: That as a Catholic people, we really renew ourselves as missionary disciples of the Lord; that we get out there and practice the spiritual works of mercy, acts of charity. That we reach out to the many people who are looking for something in life, looking for a way forward in their life. We, of course, believe that comes from faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, from participation in the life of the church, worship, the sacraments, and above all, prayer. The Holy Father concluded by asking for all of our prayers for him, and as we think of the great responsibility that he has, not only as it relates to our country but to the whole world and over a billion Catholics, we know how much we do need to pray for him. And so I encourage everyone to do so. And I also want to thank all those who had a hand in organizing our pilgrims from the Archdiocese. They did a lot of fine work for which we are all very grateful, I am sure.

Listen to Archbishop Blair here:

pilgrimage pope 6469Archbishop Leonard Blair holds  the door to St Andrew the Apostle Church open as Archdiocese of Hartford pilgrims make their way into the church for daily Mass on Saturday as part of the papal visit pilgrimage. See full gallery of pilgrimage photos at

I am just about to watch on television the Pope’s address at Independence Hall on Religious Liberty. My reason for being in the hotel and not at the actual site is that I spent the day with our pilgrims from Hartford at St. Andrew’s Parish, about a half-hour trip from here by the Metro. We had a wonderful day together as far as two fine talks by Father Juan Diego [Brunetta], a Dominican priest, on the theme of Mercy and I celebrated Mass with our pilgrim group and had lunch and a group picture before returning here. But that meant it’s not possible for me to join the other bishops to go to Independence Hall, but I am happy to watch it with so many of you on the television. 

Really, the theme of Mercy that Father Juan Diego developed at the parish for our people is very important because it is at the heart of what the Holy Father is focusing on for the Jubilee of Mercy that begins in December. It is very much tied to the theme of the family as well, which is the focus of this particular meeting in Philadelphia.

So far, everything is going well and our pilgrims seemed very happy and pleased. Tonight is the Festival for the Family, which includes a lot of great, well-known American entertainers and it’s just a festive occasion with the Holy Father being present. See full gallery at

Hear Archbishop Blair describe the day here:

pilgrimage pope 6214All the local TV outlets showed up at St Thomas Seminary on Sept. 25 to chronicle the start of the Archdiocese of Hartford's pilgrimage to the papal visit in Philadelphia. See full gallery at

Like many others, I have spent a good part of today glued to the television watching the Holy Father’s continuing visit in New York, beginning with the United Nations this morning and then the schoolchildren this afternoon. Here in Philadelphia, we’re all waiting for his arrival, and you can see all the preparations as the city is being closed down to traffic and the people who are in the streets are mainly pilgrims who’ve come to be with the Holy Father and for the World Meeting of Families.

Our official pilgrimage group from the Archdiocese of Hartford is on the way already and my biggest challenge is to try to figure how to get to them tomorrow through all the transportation hurdles and security. Early tomorrow, I’ll be getting on a transit line from here out to the outskirts of the city and hopefully that will work okay. There are some limitations to this service, but if I get out there, I’ll only be 10 minutes away from the parish where our group will be having their retreat and the Mass that I am to celebrate for them. Then in the evening, hopefully, I can come back with them on the bus to the Festival of Families and from there I can manage to rejoin the bishops and get back to the hotel.

When I went to buy my SEPTA transit line token this morning I was told that at my age I can ride for free, so there you have it. The kind lady at the booth did ask me for proof, which I was very happy that she asked. I had to prove I was over 65; that’s very consoling.

Hear Archbishop Blair describe the day here:

pilgrimage pope 6603Pope Francis attends the Festival of Families, part of the week-long World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. More than 250 members of parishes in the Archdiocese of Hartford also were there for the celebration. See full gallery at

 Having arrived in Philadelphia and checked into the hotel, I took a walk, a short walk, over to the big Convention Center for the World Meeting of Families, which is being centered there and which includes a huge exhibition hall. This is a great international event and the family guide book for the meeting is printed not only in English but in Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian and Vietnamese, as well. The World Meeting began last Tuesday and there are really very good speakers, international speakers, in various languages and the themes include things like, “Living as the Image of God: Created for Joy and Love,” “The Light of the Family in a Dark World,” “The School of the Heart: Parents as Primary Catechists,” “A House Divided: Christ as Unifier of a Blended Family,” “Loving the Elderly.” These are just some of the examples that I can give of the kinds of talks that are being given all this week on the theme of Marriage and Family Life.

My biggest challenge at this point is trying to figure out how to get to our Archdiocesan pilgrim group at the parish that they are going to be at outside of the downtown area, because the transportation is so restricted. With Father Lerner, my secretary, back in Hartford, I am trying to devise a way to make this happen, and I am sure that I will.

For now, I believe many of the events are being covered by EWTN television network for people to watch and that would be very helpful to many people, I’m sure.

Hear Archbishop Blair describe the day here:

I am just sitting on our Amtrak Acela train, I and about 80 other bishops. We are on our way now to Philadelphia. This morning at the hotel, after I celebrated Mass and had breakfast, we watched the Holy Father’s address to Congress. I found that very interesting. I think it was well received and rightly so. To my mind, he picked up many of the great social teaching themes that have been part of modern pontificates, but as always, he does it in such an engaging way, inviting people to enter into a kind of dialogue with him and with our faith. But he also, I thought very beautifully, brought in figures from American history to kind of illustrate or exemplify the points he was trying to make.

So, the trip continues to be well received, and we should be in Philadelphia in about an hour and 15 minutes,[when] I will proceed to Loews Hotel, where the bishops are staying.

One of the difficulties, though, is going to be transportation for me to join our group when the time comes. I am told that traffic is going to be a big problem and closures, but we will just have to figure that out when we get there and hope that I can arrange that properly.

Hear Archbishop Blair describe the day here:

junipera sera mullenThis afternoon, on a very beautiful fall afternoon and evening, we celebrated Mass with Pope Francis on the grounds of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at The Catholic University of America. The Mass was in Spanish with about 25,000 people participating, and it was a Mass for the canonization of Father Junipero Serra, a great missionary and founder of many of the California missions.

At this Mass, it was very spirited, music and readings and prayers in many, many languages reflecting the diversity of the church in the United States. Our Holy Father gave a very fine homily in which he talked about the need we have to bring the mercy and love of God to the world in which we live today. And talked about Father Serra as someone whose motto was “Always forward, never back”; that he was determined to always move forward in his work no matter what the obstacles or challenges that presented themselves. And that we too, need to have this tender mercy of God for everyone in today’s world.

So it was a wonderful experience as all these things are with the Holy Father; the people were so enthusiastic and I think we really had a beautiful celebration together.

Tonight the bishops are back at their hotel. We had dinner together with some of the people from the Conference of Bishops who are helping us, and tomorrow it’s off to Philadelphia on the afternoon train.

Hear Archbishop Blair's reflections below:

blair francis 2Freeze-frame photo from CNS video

This morning, I had a truly beautiful experience being with all the bishops of the United States at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C., for the pope’s meeting with us and for his words.

It was interesting because he spoke in Italian, and although we had headphones, they proved to be very awkward. There were gaps where we couldn’t hear, so I wasn’t able to follow the pope’s talk as clearly as I would have liked, but later I found the English text was published. That really gave the full beauty of what the Holy Father had to say to us. And I say that it was truly beautiful, it was very edifying and very encouraging to me as a bishop. He repeated some of the themes that he has spoken of in his previous public teaching about the Joy of the Gospel, but particularly the encouragement he gave to us to be joyful and be true pastors of our people, and above all, not to be afraid. He said in the face of today’s challenges that there is a certain boldness we have to have without fear, but always out of love for people and out of love for even those who are not in agreement with us, or even those who do not share our beliefs. So all in all, I thought it was a wonderful experience and a very edifying one.

As chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, I am part of the Administrative Committee of the Bishop’s Conference and so I was one of those presented to the pope personally. And I told him that I was chair of that committee and he gave me some encouragement how important that work of evangelization and catechesis is in the church today.

After having a very smooth and good flight from Hartford to Washington Reagan, I am now at the hotel where the bishops are staying in Arlington, Virginia, not far from Reagan Airport. I have to say how nice it was at the airport back in Hartford and on the airplane ... how many people came up to me when they saw my collar and commented very happily on the pope being here in the United States. It’s really very heartwarming, and the people assured me of their prayers and their happiness at seeing the pope.

So here we are now, the bishops in our hotel. We watched the pope's arrival on the television, and this evening we have dinner here together at the hotel for those who would like. Tomorrow morning is a very busy day, on Wednesday. At 8:30 in the morning we start our security sweep of buses and us bishops on the part of the Secret Service. After that, we'll go to St. Matthew Cathedral to be with the pope for a midday prayer and a meeting with him. And then, after lunch at the John Paul II Shrine, we go to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception for the canonization Mass for Father Junipero Serra.

So I’m happy, too, to see on the television how warmly and happily the pope has been received upon his arrival in our country, and I look forward to giving further the reports as we move alone.

Hear the archbishop in his own words: