HARTFORD – Archbishop Leonard P. Blair presided over a joyful ceremony on March 22, celebrating the blessing and conferral of this year’s St. Joseph Medals of Appreciation to 206 parishioners from across the Archdiocese of Hartford.
A festive air prevailed as the cathedral filled to capacity early with honorees, their families and friends. It was standing-room-only once again at this traditionally popular annual event. See list of honorees here.
Archbishop Blair invoked the intercession of Saint Joseph in welcoming the honorees, the congregation, and the scores of priests, deacons and seminarians who had processed before him to take seats on both sides of the sacristy.
With a homily focused on the truth of our faith that “It is always on the cross that the glory of God is revealed,” Archbishop Blair extended both thanks and a challenge to this year’s St. Joseph Medal of Appreciation recipients.
The archbishop said, “I want to congratulate all of you who are being honored today, and above all to thank you on behalf of the whole archdiocese for all the devoted and loving service that you have rendered to the church and to your local faith communities throughout the years.”
With references to the day’s reading as well as to a recent letter he wrote, which ran in The Catholic Transcript and was inserted into all parish bulletins, establishing the groundwork for a pastoral plan for the Archdiocese of Hartford, he invited them to reflect with him on the archdiocese and its family of faith at this particular moment in its history.
Citing Pope Francis, who declares that in baptism we’re all called to be missionary disciples in the face of all the challenges that the world can throw at us today, he talked about the letter in which he has introduced his pastoral plan for the Archdiocese of Hartford.
When we see with the eyes of faith today, he said, “It’s a very different landscape, it is a whole new world.”
He asked medal recipients to reflect on the archdiocese at this moment in time in the light of what Jesus said about what it means truly to see, not just by worldly standards, but in the light of the cross. In John’s use of the phrase, “to see,” he said, there is profound meaning in the Gospel, which describes an ability that can only truly happen when one has faith.
He asked “What do we see of our local church today?” in the context of statistics that reveal steep declines in numerous areas of participation, sacrament reception and support over the past several decades. The numbers, he said, apply to the church throughout much of our country, and indeed much of the world.
Archbishop Blair acknowledged that, in announcing the pastoral plan, he knew that responding to and meeting its challenges would “put our comfort zones to the test.” Here again he cited Pope Francis, who dreams of a missionary option, “an impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures, can be suitably challenged for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.”
The pope, said the archbishop, says that “pastoral ministry in a missionary seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says ‘we have always done it that way.’”
Archbishop Blair described the honorees as people who clearly love the church. He said he is confident that with them, through faith and prayer, cooperation, sharing experience and working together, everyone in the archdiocese will enter into this pastoral plan in a way that will ensure a faith-filled and fruitful mission for the church and the Archdiocese of Hartford for years to come.
After the homily, Archbishop Blair blessed the medals, invoking once again the intercession of Saint Joseph on all who receive them, after which Msgr. John McCarthy, cathedral rector, called all 206 recipients forward toward the sanctuary to receive their medals from the archbishop.
Father John L. Lavorgna, secretary to the archbishop and assistant chancellor, was master of ceremonies with assistance from Fathers Carlos A. Piedrahita and Marcin P. Pluciennik.
At the conclusion, Father Lavorgna invited all recipients and their families to have a photo taken with Archbishop Blair before the altar.
Paula Taylor, of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Windsor Locks, said that in the hectic world she finds what she does for the parish to be calming. Echoing the sentiments of many recipients, she said she does not like accolades for what she does to help the two churches within the Catholic Community of Windsor Locks.
She and Gerard Staves, of St. Mary Parish in Windsor Locks, were both sponsored by their pastor, Father Robert O’Grady.