HARTFORD – Reviewing the past decade in the Archdiocese of Hartford, one sees a story of robust spiritual growth, dedication to evangelization and physical signs of faith in action.
Msgr. John J. McCarthy, chancellor of the archdiocese, said that Archbishop Henry J. Mansell, who is retiring, is leaving a legacy of living the Gospel personally and seeing the Church do the same.
“He did make an enormous, positive impact on the archdiocese because of his talents and because of his tireless efforts. He worked seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, long hours each day, and was really dedicated to living out and seeing the Church in Hartford live out the Gospel message,” he said. “One notable aspect was in social action.”
As a result, Archbishop-designate Leonard P. Blair will find an archdiocese that is stronger spiritually and imroved physically from what it was when Archbishop Mansell became its ordinary on Dec. 18, 2003.
Msgr. McCarthy was quick to rattle off “just from the top of my head” examples of what he called the social action aspects of Archbishop Mansell’s initiatives.
Msgr. McCarthy named Cathedral Green in Hartford and Francis Xavier Plaza, both constructed as affordable housing; the Institute for the Hispanic Family in Hartford; Catholic Charities offices that opened in former parish buildings in Waterbury and New Haven; the ever-increasing success of the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal fund-raising drive over the years; and the Malta House of Care mobile health care clinics for the uninsured in Hartford and Waterbury, as well as one in progress for New Haven.
Father Jeffrey Romans, who has been vice chancellor and the archbishop’s secretary for the past five years, named much of the same brick-and-mortar evidence of the archbishop’s efforts “to meet real, everyday needs of God’s people.” He added the creation of a residence for retired priests at the Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin Residence at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield.
Msgr. McCarthy and Father Romans also both commented on Archbishop Mansell’s pastoral outreach.
“I think something that is clear as you work with and for Archbishop Mansell is the importance of each person. He takes the time to be with people throughout the archdiocese at an assortment of events,” said Father Romans.
The Catholic Transcript asked people who have worked closely with him, as the heads of various offices and ministries of the Archdiocese of Hartford, to write their thoughts about the impact he has had on their efforts and initiatives.Msgr. McCarthy said the archbishop considered interacting with the faithful of the archdiocese as important as carrying out diocesan responsibilities in his chancery office. To read what they wrote, click here: abm-in-their-own-words.pdf.
“The way he divided his time between official duties and those that got him out among the people, I think he saw them as one. Seeing the people and working with them, together they live out the Gospel message, and that was part of his responsibility,” Msgr. McCarthy said.
Archbishop Mansell’s style of administration reflects the same vision, Msgr. McCarthy said.
“He has a great facility for combining efficiency with gracious interpersonal relationships. He gets an awful lot done and gets it done very quickly, but he’s never brusque with the people he works with. He always shows great patience and great understanding and great interest in all those with whom he comes in contact, and it goes beyond the work relationship,” he said.
Msgr. McCarthy, who also is the rector of the Cathedral of St. Joseph, said the archbishop “had a great sense of the unity of the archdiocese as the people of God in Hartford and especially as it is symbolized in St. Joseph’s Cathedral.”
As a result, he said, the archbishop oversaw significant physical improvements such as the erection of a permanent altar and a new baptistry. And the archbishop’s vision of the cathedral as a cultural center is evidenced by the cathedral’s Sacred Sounds Series and the outstanding musical programs there, Msgr. McCarthy said.
Father Romans said that Archbishop Mansell has elevated the visibility of the Church’s role in the public square, as well.
“He has worked very hard to help people in the state of Connecticut come to understand all that the Catholic Church does for the people of our state and beyond. He consistently talks about how the Catholic Church in Connecticut is, after government, the largest provider of health care services, educational services and social services; and no one comes close to the Church in the offering of pastoral services.
“This is a message he has really brought to the youth of our archdiocese, reminding them every chance he has that this is the Church they are members of and that they are the ones to whom this task falls as they become adults in the Church,” Father Romans went on. “It will be their responsibility to continue the good works of the Church so that others will experience the presence of Christ through the outreach of the Church.”
Msgr. McCarthy said he was struck, some years ago, by something the archbishop said about the Church’s outreach. “He said, ‘So much can be accomplished with synergies among the private sector, the public sector and the Church,’ and that if they work together, tremendous things can happen.”
He said of the archbishop: “He combines great vision with the skills and the energy and the know-how to implement the vision.”
Archbishop Mansell was installed as the fourth Archbishop of Hartford on Dec. 18, 2003. He received the pallium from Pope John Paul II on June 29, 2004, in Rome.
During his tenure, Archbishop Mansell has been a shepherd and advocate not only for Catholics, but for all people who live within the Archdiocese of Hartford. He has visited every parish in the archdiocese, most of them on multiple occasions.
At an open-air discussion at the state Capitol in March 2007, Archbishop Mansell clarified the Church’s position on the Plan B emergency contraception initiative then before the state legislature. “We are not opposed to emergency contraception for women who are victims of rape. What we oppose is abortion,” he said. The bill passed with a requirement of a pregnancy test but not an ovulation test, a perceived flaw by the bishops. But because the science of how Plan B pills work was incomplete, Connecticut bishops, led by Archbishop Mansell, concluded that Catholic hospitals in the state may administer Plan B if a pregnancy test is not positive.
With Connecticut’s other bishops, Archbishop Mansell led thousand of Catholics and supporters to the grounds of the state Capitol and into the Legislative Office Building in March 2009 to voice opposition to an anti-Catholic bill that had been proposed by the state legislature.
Dubbed the “anti-bishops’ bill” by some opponents, S.B. 1098 would have required Catholic parishes in Connecticut to have boards of directors that excluded pastors and disregarded the authority of the bishops in administrative duties. Every expert, lay and religious, unanimously agreed that the bill was a clear violation of religious freedom and Church law. Addressing a rally at the Capitol March 11, 2009, Archbishop Mansell said, “They wouldn’t have given this to a first-year law class even as a hypothesis, it is so poorly drawn.” A firestorm of opposition to the intrusive bill forced lawmakers to scrap it without a fight.
As co-chair of the Mayor’s Commission to End Chronic Homelessness, Archbishop Mansell assisted in the development of a 20-year plan to eradicate chronic homelessness in Hartford.
In July 2006, through the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal and with the Order of Malta of Hartford County and St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, Archbishop Mansell blessed and dedicated the Malta House of Care mobile clinic in Hartford, providing free medical service to uninsured people of any race, religion and nationality in several Hartford locations.
On June 27, 2008, he opened the newly relocated Institute for the Hispanic Family, a 22,000-square-foot building at 45 Wadsworth St., Hartford, at a cost of nearly $7 million.
He dedicated Cathedral Green, supported in part by the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, in September 2009. On the site of the former St. Joseph Cathedral School in Hartford, Cathedral Green is an affordable and supportive housing development. The $9.1 million project in the 53,000-square-foot space is home to 28 low-income families.
Recently, he dedicated and blessed Francis Xavier Plaza, a similar project at the former St. Francis Xavier School in Waterbury. The $7.1 million project will house 20 individuals or families when it opens in 2014.
At both affordable family housing sites, Catholic Charities provides easy access to programs and services to ensure that residents continue on a path of stability.
In August 2010, Archbishop Mansell launched a second Malta House of Care mobile medical clinic in Waterbury. This year’s appeal will support a third van, for New Haven.
Archbishop Mansell has overseen the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, each one exceeding the previous goal. He initiated a tuition assistance component to the appeal for Catholic elementary school students as well as an emergency assistance component to provide medical care, food and other help to parishioners in need.
Archbishop Mansell also has established a Priest Wellness Program with the three Catholic hospitals in the Archdiocese.
Archbishop Mansell has also opened a new Catholic Charities Family Center on the site of the former St. Donato Parish in New Haven. The former Sacred Heart Rectory in Waterbury also was converted into a Catholic Charities facility.
The archbishop also inaugurated an annual Blue Mass for safety personnel, White Mass for medical workers and Red Mass for judges and lawyers, as well as an annual Pro-Life Mass, Anniversary Mass and Mass for Caribbean Catholics of North America, among others.
His many honors include honorary doctorates from Niagara University, St. Bonaventure University, Canisius College, Albertus Magnus College, Goodwin College and the University of Hartford.