June 7, 2007
A Sunday in June
In 1904, Reverend Raymond Walsh, O.F.M., a Franciscan friar, celebrated the first Mass in the City of Yulan in Sullivan County. The liturgy took place in the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Kinnelly who, shortly thereafter, gave the Archbishop of New York land in Yulan for a future parish church.
Father Walsh and his growing Catholic community began immediately to raise funds for the church, assisted in their efforts by such famous entertainers of the day as Eddie Cantor and Irving Berlin, who during the summer appeared in various vacation hotels in the area. Thus, on July 14, 1907, St. Anthony of Padua Parish Church was dedicated by the Most Reverend Thomas F. Cusack, an Auxiliary Bishop to the Archbishop of New York, John Cardinal Farley.
In the 1930s, the church burned to the ground. In spite of the heavy burdens of an economic depression that was raging in every corner of the nation, the church was rebuilt and stands today as a remarkable tribute to the faith, generosity and-one might add-excellent taste of all who were involved. It is a simple structure, but handsome and marvelously devotional.
Last Sunday, June 3, I left Manhattan shortly before 8 a.m. to make my way up to Yulan for the 100th anniversary of the parish and church of St. Anthony of Padua. The rain fell throughout our journey, at some points so heavily that we could hardly see out of the car windows. Nonetheless, once all the celebrants had vested in the rectory and were ready to move over to the church, the rain stopped, the sky cleared and the sun appeared. The pastor, Reverend Anthony Moore, O.F.M., explained why. Early in the morning he had had a conversation with St. Anthony, and everything worked out exactly according to plan.
The Mass was inspiring, attended, as it was, by the Provincial of the Holy Name Province of the Friars Minor, Very Reverend John F. O'Connor, O.F.M., and clergy and religious from surrounding parishes. At the conclusion, Father O'Connor gave St. Francis medals to Mr. Carl Hentschel, the oldest member of the parish who will be celebrating his 100th birthday this year; to Mr. and Mrs. Chet Oset, both of whom have lived in the parish for more than 80 years; and to 20 other members of the parish community who have over the years been deeply involved in parish undertakings.
From the church we went to a hotel a few miles away for a splendid luncheon. I raised a toast to the parish, the pastor and the Holy Father and then explained to the packed dining room that I had to get back to St. Patrick's Cathedral for a Mass with the Puerto Rican community. All seemed to understand, as we got into the car for a speedy return to New York City.
In the Cathedral an immense crowd was praying the Mass with the Most Reverend Félix Lázaro Martínez, Bishop of Ponce in Puerto Rico, as principal celebrant. Some months before I had invited him to be with us for this Mass, and he had graciously accepted. After the final blessing, I spoke to the congregation about the countless blessings that the Puerto Rican people had brought to the City and Archdiocese of New York and encouraged all to be active in their parishes, as examples of dedicated followers of the Lord.
Then, to complete a beautiful celebration, I blessed over 100 "Hijas de Maria" (Daughters of Mary) who, in white veils, brought flowers to be placed before an image of the Virgin. My predecessor, John Cardinal O'Connor, had asked the Holy See to recognize the Association of the "Hijas de Maria" canonically, and it was my privilege to implement the affirmative decision from Rome. It is an outstanding organization of girls and young women who commit themselves to lives in imitation of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and do immense good throughout the Archdiocese-in parishes, schools, hospitals, nursing homes and all kinds of neighborhood institutions of education and charity. As I sprinkled them with holy water, I begged the Mother of God to assist us in making their numbers increase greatly over the years to come.
The liturgy in Yulan and the liturgy in the Cathedral would have been more than enough to make my Sunday in June truly memorable. But there was something else as well.
With me during our five-hour drive to and from Yulan was a publication titled The Dunwoodie Review that I had received in the mail a few days earlier. It is issued by our major seminary, St. Joseph's in Yonkers, and contains articles by professors, students and alumni. And it is first class in every sense.
The articles by professors are four in number. The first is by Sister Sara Butler, M.S.B.T., S.T.D., Professor of Dogma at the Seminary and a member of the Pontifical Theological Commission. It concerns the ordination of women. The second is by Reverend Joseph T. Lienhard, S.J., S.T.D., Professor of Dogma at the Seminary and also at Fordham University. It concerns the reactions of the Fathers of the Church to the Arian heresy of the fourth century. The third is by Reverend Monsignor Kevin P. O'Brien, Ph.D., Spiritual Director at the Seminary. It concerns prayer in the life of a priest. The fourth is by Reverend Monsignor Hugh F. McManus, Ph.D., Professor of Homiletics at the Seminary and Pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Scarsdale. It concerns the manner in which homilies are to be delivered. All are incredibly interesting and powerfully written.
The articles by seminarians of St. Joseph's Seminary are two in number. The first is by Mr. Christopher Argano, who will be ordained in 2009. It concerns the theology of creation. The second is by Mr. Vincent Druding, who will be ordained also in 2009. It concerns purgatory. Both are very timely and very well written too.
The three longest articles are by alumni, and I found them all not only interesting and well-researched, but also extraordinarily thought-provoking. The first is by Reverend William Cleary of the Ordination Class of 2004 who is a parochial vicar at St. Frances de Chantal parish in the Bronx. It concerns the dwelling of the Holy Spirit in each of us. The second is by Reverend James Collins of the Ordination Class of 2004 who is a parochial vicar at St. Teresa of the Infant Jesus parish on Staten Island. It concerns the sacrificial character of the Mass. The third is by Reverend Brian Taylor of the Ordination Class of 2006 who is a parochial vicar at St. Joseph's parish in Bronxville. It concerns human dignity as understood by the French theologian Henri du Lubac. From all three I learned much, and I look forward to reading them again.
There is a column in a New York newspaper that frequently ends with the exclamation: "Where but in New York!" As I finished the day on June 3, this was the question that came to mind. Where but in the Archdiocese of New York could one rejoice with the members of a country parish as it celebrates its centennial, pray with a Cathedral filled with devout faithful from Puerto Rico, and be amazed and instructed by the remarkable learning of professors, alumni and students of the local seminary. We have so much for which to be thankful, and I am especially grateful that in preparation for our Bicentennial celebration we have a whole year to explore the wonders of the Archdiocese, and to discover new ones as well. The Lord has blessed us mightily. May His name ever be praised.
Copies of The Dunwoodie Review can be obtained from St. Joseph's Seminary, 201 Seminary Ave., Yonkers, N.Y. 10704. Cost is $25 and checks should be made payable to The Dunwoodie Review; donations are accepted.,
With prayerful best wishes, may I remain
Very truly yours in Christ,
Edward Cardinal Egan
Archbishop of New York