HARTFORD – On a day when Archbishop Henry J. Mansell might have reflected on his own accomplishments, he instead used the occasion of a Mass celebrating his 50 years as a priest to thank the many Catholic agencies, priests, leaders and faithful followers for all they do in the Archdiocese of Hartford, especially in the wake of the mass shootings in Newtown, where 28 people died.
More than 3,000 people crowded into the Cathedral of St. Joseph Dec. 19 – including 1,900 students from 55 archdiocesan schools – to join hundreds more priests and deacons assisting in the Mass, held on the anniversary of Archbishop Mansell’s ordination in 1962. About 600 students viewed the liturgy from the lower cathedral, via closed-circuit TV provided by the Office of Radio and Television. (ORTV broadcast the entire liturgy on Dec. 20.)
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Archbishop Mansell was the principal celebrant. Principal concelebrants were Archbishop Emeritus Daniel A. Cronin; Bishop Paul Chomnycky of the Eparchy of Stamford; Bishop Michael R. Cote of Norwich; Bishop Emeritus Ernest B. Boland of Multan, Pakistan, of the Order of Preachers; Bishop Emeritus Basil H. Losten of Stamford; Auxiliary Bishop Robert C. Evans of Providence; Auxiliary Bishop Christie A. Macaluso of Hartford; Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Francis X. Roque of the Archdiocese for the Military Services of the United States of America; and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Peter A. Rosazza of Hartford.
Designated concelebrants included two other priests celebrating golden jubilees: Father Lawrence R. Bock, vicar for the Hartford Vicariate, who was ordained with Archbishop Mansell in Rome; and Msgr. James G. Coleman, vicar for the Waterbury Vicariate. Other designated concelebrants were Msgr. John P. Conte, vicar for the New Haven Vicariate; Msgr. John J. McCarthy, chancellor of the archdiocese and rector of the Cathedral of St. Joseph; and Msgr. Gerard G. Schmitz, vicar for priests.
Father Francis T. Kerwan, 96, pastor of Holy Family Parish, Enfield, was an honored guest. He is the longest-serving living priest in the archdiocese, ordained in 1943.
The Cathedral Choir joined their voices with members of East Catholic High School, Northwest Catholic High School and St. Paul Catholic High School.
Deacon Robert Pallotti set the tone of the liturgy when he read the Gospel from John 15:9-17, in which Jesus says, "A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends." Archbishop Mansell enlarged on this by bringing to his hearers’ attention the heroic deeds of six adult leaders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown who sacrificed their lives to save the lives of the children in their care during the Dec. 14 massacre that claimed the lives of 20 children.
"We’re called to give of ourselves, like the teachers in Newtown who gave of themselves," he said in his homily.
Archbishop Mansell called the shootings a "horrendous, heinous act" that is not in our power to understand. He said that as soon as he learned of the shootings, he called the Bridgeport Diocese to offer any help they needed, and he empowered Catholic Charities and the Office of Catholic Schools to do all they could for affected families.
He reminded the 1,900 students, "We have to say no to bullying. We have to take care of people who are having difficulty. We have to be partners with them."
In a lighter vein, Archbishop Mansell engaged the students by asking their favorite Christmas carols, remarking on each of the traditional carols they mentioned. When one student mentioned "Jingle Bell Rock," he chuckled, "That’s good, we learn every minute."
Before the Mass, Christopher M. Dadlez, president and CEO of St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, said, "Archbishop Mansell has been an absolutely incredible, engaged, committed leader of the Catholic Church here in the archdiocese. He’s been an exceptional and impeccable chairman of the board of St. Francis, and we are just so personally grateful for all he has done for all of the diocese and the citizens of Hartford.... If it wasn’t for his leadership and inspiration in allowing us to do that type of work for the parishioners and for all the people, we wouldn’t be able to have this kind of enterprise here."
"He’s been an absolute blessing," said Theresa Krankowski, director of St. Gerard’s Center for Life, a pregnancy resource center. "Without his support, I really don’t think our ministry would be what it is, so I’m just beyond grateful for him and God’s calling of him for such great service."
Chris Paglia, co-director with her husband, Donald, of the archdiocesan Family Life Office, said, "He’s been tremendously supportive. He couldn’t be more affirming and acknowledging in just really providing for us to do the work that we do ... with engaged couples, with married people, with the divorced and separated and the bereaved, and Hispanic family ministry."
"It was a beautiful liturgy," Mr. Paglia agreed. "It was just tremendous to remind us of what a blessing the archbishop has been and is to our archdiocese."
Lois Nesci, CEO of Catholic Charities, said, "The archbishop definitely has supported the mission of Catholic Charities not only in words but in actions, as well, stepping up to the plate, supporting us with his time and his resources and being available for anything that we need at any time."
Rose Alma Senatore, now director of charities with Catholic Charities, said that the archbishop has helped greatly to alleviate the housing needs of the poor. "Altogether, now we are going to have 48 units [at Cathedral Green in Hartford and St. Francis Xavier in Waterbury] for individuals and families who are at risk of homelessness or are experiencing homelessness," she said.
Cindy Basil Howard, executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Catholic Schools, said, "He gives of his heart. That’s the bottom line. We’re very lucky in this archdiocese to have such a strong spiritual leader. He’s a good, good man, and that’s what counts. We’re very happy to have him as our board chair."
Dale R. Hoyt, archdiocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, said, "He’s a model, and he really cares. ... That’s a shepherd." He said the archbishop has helped students by making tuition assistance a part of the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal. He also said that he helps by his presence, "going to the schools and being with the students and being able to talk to them."
In October, Archbishop Mansell turned 75 and was required by Canon Law to submit his letter of resignation to Pope Benedict XVI. According to a press release from the Chancery, the letter "was received by the Vatican, but he will remain the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Hartford until a replacement is designated by the Pope. This process could take several months to a year or more in some cases."