July 20, 2006
The sound of the jet motors had put all in my section of the airplane to sleep, all except me. I was returning from meetings in Rome that are set each year for the first week in July. Everything had gone well. I had had an opportunity to spend some time with our new Holy Father; and I was able to attend a Mass that he celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica with the new archbishops of the world, the so-called "Pallium Mass." Three of the new archbishops were from the United States, and two of them had been my students in the 1960s. Despite the intense heat, the week had been a delight.
In the pocket attached to the back of the seat in front of me, I spied a colorful flyer bearing the title, "The Glories of Rome." It was an elaborate advertisement for various sightseeing programs offered by a European travel agency. I wondered if there were ever a travel flyer entitled "The Glories of New York," and I began to mull over in my mind what "glories" it might feature. St. Patrick's Cathedral? The Metropolitan Museum? Central Park? The Brooklyn Bridge? Yankee Stadium? Rockefeller Center? The Statue of Liberty?
The list went on and on. However, the more I thought about the matter, the more other "glories" came to mind, "glories" that would never find their way into a travel flyer, but "glories" nonetheless. Five seemed especially glorious.|
The first is an organization of young, successful business men and women. It was founded in 1998 to assist parish elementary schools throughout the archdiocese and is known as Project YESS, that is, "Young Executives Supporting Schools." With a membership of around 300 and a board of 27, it meets four times a year under the brilliant leadership of Mr. Thomas A. Madden of Tischmann-Speyer Properties and Mr. Mark S. Rossi of Cornerstone Equity Investors.
The organization is altogether clear about its mission. It is committed to addressing the unglamorous but basic needs of schools, especially schools that are housed in aging buildings. Project YESS raises funds, hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, to repair roofs, replace boilers, modernize bathrooms and such. It seeks no attention. It has put its name on none of the improvements it has made possible. It prefers to do its work quietly and humbly. As one of its members told me a few years ago at a fund-raising event on the roof garden of Rockefeller Center, "In simplest terms, Cardinal, we do windows." I never forgot that clear and charming statement, and I never will. For me Project YESS is an authentic "glory" of New York.
In 2001, the Cathedral Prep Seminary High School Program, which many know simply as "Cathedral Prep," was founded with Reverend Thomas A. Lynch as its moderator. Father Lynch was ordained in 1992 and is a professor of Church History at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers. Once a month he brings together young men from Catholic and public high schools who sense a call to the priesthood.
They arrive on Friday evening for prayer and a spiritual conference given by Father Lynch. On Saturday morning they participate in Mass and attend a second spiritual conference, this one given by another priest of the archdiocese. On Saturday afternoon there is a catechetical instruction followed by recreation in the gymnasium, pool and playing fields of St. Joseph's Seminary. The day ends with a recitation of the Rosary, another spiritual conference by Father Lynch and a movie. On Sunday morning the young men, usually 20 to 25 in number, have Mass in the chapel of St. Joseph's Seminary and a breakfast to which their families are invited in the seminary dining room.
I have had the pleasure of stopping in on these Cathedral Prep weekends and meeting with the young men who attend them each month for one or two years before deciding if they wish to enter the St. John Neumann Residence and Hall on their way to the priesthood. In 2008, if it be the will of the Eternal High Priest, the first of the "Prep" men will be ordained. On that happy occasion there will be no doubt whatever that Cathedral Prep is one of our authentic "glories."
In 1897, William Russell Grace and his brother, Michael, established the Grace Institute as a tuition-free educational and vocational school for immigrant women in a mansion on Tenth Avenue and West 60th Street in Manhattan. William Russell Grace was an Irish immigrant who had achieved the American dream by founding W.R. Grace and Company and twice serving as Mayor of New York. The Sisters of Charity of New York were chosen to staff the Institute; and when the doors were opened in 1898, it had 300 students. The next year there were 500, and throughout the years that followed there were tens of thousands.
The original curriculum included "cookery, millinery, children's care, Red Cross and dress-making." Soon typing, bookkeeping and stenography were added. And today in the Institute's 14-story building on Second Avenue between 64th and 65th streets, classes are given-all tuition-free-in "computer skills, Internet research skills, keyboarding, business math, business writing and communication, office procedures and career development skills."
Twenty years ago, when I was Vicar for Education here in the archdiocese, I had the pleasure of attending graduations and other events at the Grace Institute with Mr. J. Peter Grace, the grandson of William Russell Grace, and J. Peter Grace's devoted wife, Margaret. ("Margie" to her many friends and admirers.) On those occasions I was deeply impressed by what I saw. Since becoming Archbishop of New York, I have returned to the Institute to meet with the gifted staff and even address the students, thanks to the kind invitation of the executive director, Dr. Mary B. Mulvihill. The students are of all races, faiths and backgrounds. They are the future leaders of Greater New York, and the Institute that so graciously and generously educates them is nothing short of a "glory."
The Archdiocese of New York is around 170 miles long from Ulster County on the North to Staten Island on the South. Five years ago, the future of John A. Coleman Catholic High School in Hurley in Ulster County was thought to be in doubt. Indeed, some were telling me it had to be closed.
The parents and grandparents of the students got together and decided to make the school everything they wanted for their children and grandchildren. An experienced principal from Hyde Park, Mr. John Traverse, was engaged to lead the charge. An enthusiastic P.T.A. was formed to raise funds and to tell the citizens of Ulster County of the strengths of Coleman Catholic. The archdiocese, which owns the land and buildings of the school, saw to major repairs and assisted with financial support. Enrollment went up. The academic program became so successful that virtually all of the graduates were going on to college and university. (To be exact, 96 percent over the period of five years.) The athletic program made the school first in its league in track. And the program of religious formation flourished with Sister Catherine Gormley, S.U., a former principal of Coleman Catholic, and Reverend Jeffrey Maurer, a young associate pastor at Sacred Heart parish in Monroe, providing the leadership.
Twice over the past few years, a newspaper in New York City reported that the John A. Coleman Catholic High School had been closed. I have been to visit it a number of occasions over recent years. It is open, growing and a "glory" of the Church and community in Ulster County.
In 1902, Archbishop (later Cardinal) John M. Farley established the "Association of Charities," an affiliate of the Ladies of Charity that had been formed centuries earlier in Paris, France. It was to be an organization of lay women committed to helping needy mothers and children in New York City and beyond. As the years passed, it became known simply as the Ladies of Charity of New York. It currently numbers about 950 members who are devoted to the Blessed Mother and inspired by the concern for the poor of St. Louise de Marillac, who founded the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in France in 1633 along with St. Vincent de Paul.
The Ladies of Charity originated the annual Cardinal's Christmas Luncheon to benefit needy mothers and children, which they now sponsor in collaboration with the Development Office of the Archdiocese. In addition, they perform splendid works of charity in their own quiet, gracious and dignified manner. Each year, for example, they prepare numerous "layettes" for mothers in need that contain blankets, diapers, sweaters and scarves, many of which items are hand-knitted and hand-crocheted by the Ladies of Charity themselves. Under the guidance of their President, Miss Dorothea McElduff, they seek no notice, publicity or applause. They seek only to help mothers and children in need in the three boroughs of the City of New York and the seven upper counties served by the archdiocese.
Each year in May I attend the membership luncheon of the Ladies of Charity at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on 42nd Street. The event includes, in addition to a delicious repast, a crowning of the Virgin by children from nearby parish schools, a recital by a distinguished vocalist and a sing-along as well.
This year the Ladies of Charity gave me their St. Louise de Marillac Award. I thanked them most sincerely, telling them of my visits to the chapel on the Rue du Bac in Paris where the saint is buried. As Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities, was delivering the grace after meals, a burst of sunlight streamed through the immense windows of the hotel dining room. It was almost as though the Lord wanted to alert me to the fact that I was involved in yet another "glory" of New York.
In 2008, if it be the will of the Eternal High Priest, the first of the "Prep" men will be ordained. On that happy occasion there will be no doubt whatever that Cathedral Prep is one of our authentic "glories."
For information concerning the five institutions about which Cardinal Egan has written, please contact Susan George, Project YESS, (212) 371-1000, ext. 3335; Father Lynch, Cathedral Prep, (914) 968-6200, ext. 8182; Dr. Mulvihill, Grace Institute, (212) 832-7605; Mr. Traverse, John A. Coleman Catholic High School, (845) 338-2750; and Miss McElduff, Ladies of Charity, (212) 371-1000, ext. 2542.
Edward Cardinal Egan
Archbishop of New York