The regional bishop for the Northern Region of the Archdiocese of Boston, Mark O’Connell, chatted with the Eagle Tribunerecently about vocations—and even managed to mention in passing deacons:
[Bishopl] O’Connell noted the archdiocese has three seminaries: St. John in Brighton, his alma mater; Pope St. John XXIII in Weston, attended by men over 30, the delayed vocations; and Redemptoris Mater in Brookline, where members of the Neocatechumenal Way prepare for the priesthood.
“They’re all at capacity,” he said. He noted, however, that many of the seminarians are from other countries and will not be assigned to the Archdiocese of Boston after they are ordained.
“We’re not doing enough,” he said. Several parishes have hosted witness talks for men who are contemplating entering a seminary. The archdiocese has a full-time vocation director, the Rev. Daniel Hennessey, and two assistants, the Revs. Eric Cadin, former parochial vicar at St. Michael Church in North Andover, and Carlos Suarez.
During the last couple of decades, the archdiocese has closed numerous parishes due to the declining number of priests. Many other parishes have been combined into collaboratives.
“If we could ordain 12 priests per year, we could sustain all of the parishes,” O’Connell said. The archdiocese might not be far from achieving that goal. Eight priests were ordained in May.
The bishop suggested each parish has a responsibility to promote priestly vocations.
On average, if 17 men enter a seminary, 12 of them will stay and be ordained, he said.
“If every parish produced one vocation every 17 years, we would be fine,” O’Connell said. The archdiocese, he said, may assign someone to recruit older men to the priesthood or permanent diaconate.
While Catholic priests are required to be celibate, permanent deacons are allowed to be married – and most of them are.
Asked what keeps him going as a priest and now a bishop, O’Connell said, “The people.” Indeed, this man is a people person. After a recent 9 a.m. Mass at St. Theresa, for example, he spent several minutes greeting people who had attended the worship service.
“Bringing people closer to God is what I’m all about,” he said.
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Photo: Archdiocese of Boston