By Tanya Connor
BRIGHTON – Worcester Diocesan priest Msgr. James P. Moroney was installed as 20th rector of St. John’s Seminary Sunday.
At the Mass in the seminary chapel, the rector and faculty members made the profession of faith and took the Oath of Fidelity to the Church required of them by canon law.
In addition, Bishop McManus presented Msgr. Moroney with the decree which declared him a Prelate of Honor, the second level of monsignor. It was dated June 28 and signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
Announcing this rise in rank last month, Bishop McManus said it is an honor that a priest from the diocese has been asked to serve as rector of a major seminary.
Cardinal Seán O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, expressed gratitude to Bishop McManus and the Worcester Diocese for sharing Msgr. Moroney with the seminary. The cardinal said the rector has prestige all over the world, but what really attracts him about this priest is his joy and his deep love of the priesthood. (Msgr. Moroney is consultor to the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and executive secretary of its Vox Clara committee of bishops from the English-speaking world.)
Cardinal O’Malley said he was delighted to have bishops and seminarians’ families there Sunday, which was the seminary’s annual family day. He thanked the families and said many men can respond generously to the call because of their support.
Matthew Conley, a first theology student from Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Dorchester, said afterwards that he was very pleased Msgr. Moroney allowed seminarians to have their families visit on his special day; it showed how pastoral he is.
Msgr. Moroney focused on shepherding in his homily.
He said he and his faculty are called to help men discern God’s call and form them as shepherds.
“Some of you began God’s holy work of forming priests … in other holy houses … where mothers and fathers taught sons how to make the sign of the cross … how to love as Jesus first loved them,” he said.
“Some of you are their pastors and priests. You so moved them by the dedication of your lives that these men wanted to be just like you. You inspired them to become other Christs. …
“Some of you are their bishops who have confided them to the care of this venerable seminary. …
“[H]ere, men learn … to live as holy priests. They learn to preach, to administer the sacraments, and to set the world on fire with divine faith … to draw all people to Christ.”
Msgr. Moroney quoted Bishop John Wright, first bishop of Worcester, previously auxiliary bishop of Boston: The priest is the sort of man in whom Christ is “present … as he is present in no saint … and in no angel … a priest [whose] supreme privilege, as well as his terrifying responsibility, is to be, in a sense, Christ himself.”
The world will often treat priests as it treated Christ, Msgr. Moroney said. When they preach Jesus they will be reviled by those who would deny him.
“When they proclaim fearlessly that the life of every human being, no matter how young or how old, well or ill, enjoys a dignity that comes from the Creator, they will be deemed foolish, old-fashioned, or insensitive to technological advances,” he said.
“When they live and preach fidelity and purity, they will be considered quaint or prudish and out of touch with the real world. …
“When they live as servants and defenders of the poor, always seeking the last place, the world will call them naive, and will tempt them with the pleasures of prestige and worldly treasure.
“But they will rest assured … that they have been called to be nothing less than living images of Christ. …
“As the pastor of this holy house, I will accomplish my task only with the help of God,” Msgr. Moroney said. “I will seek to be gentle and humble and faithful and true. Like the Good Shepherd … I will seek to know my sheep and invite them to know me. I will seek out the lost and bind up their wounds and carry them home. I will lay down my life … and protect this house from thieves and marauders of body or mind. I will lead this flock of shepherds to good pastures. … And I will do it all in union with the Bishops and our Holy Father. …
“I will profess the faith we have received from the Apostles and renew the Oath of Fidelity. By this oath, I promise my firm adherence to the Church. To signal their own fidelity to the mission of the seminary, the faculty will likewise take an Oath of Fidelity to the Church.” The Bible on which they would take the oath belonged to Cardinal Jean Lefevre de Cheverus, first bishop of Boston, he said.
After the homily, Msgr. Moroney made the profession of faith (the Nicene Creed and additional words proclaiming belief in everything the Church teaches) and took the oath to carry out his duties to the Church. He and Cardinal O’Malley signed his oath. The process was repeated by the faculty.
Among those Msgr. Moroney singled out at Mass were Monsieur Pierre-Marie Dumont, founder and publisher of Magnificat, who he said flew in from Paris.
He said his parents were watching the Mass on Catholic TV, and mentioned his sister, Deborah Galanos, her son, Daniel, and cousins, Sisters Mary and Ann Horgan, Sisters of Providence, who were present.
“We know he’s worked so hard and we’re so extremely proud,” his sister said after Mass. “And he’s been such a blessing, not just to the Church, but to our family.”
“It was a beautiful ceremony,” said Sister Mary. “I think he’ll do a wonderful job with the young men.”
Deacon Joseph M. Baniukiewicz, past president of the Diocese of Worcester Chapter of the Knights of Columbus, said Msgr. Moroney is their chaplain. Knights of Columbus and Knights and Ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem participated in the Mass.
The installation was “a moving experience for him and for everyone else present,” Deacon Baniukiewicz said of their chaplain. “A lot of people have never seen anything like this.”
Three weeks ago Linda Poirier’s son Stephen arrived at St. John’s to start studies there for the Diocese of Manchester. “The first time I saw Monsignor here, he came up with this huge charisma,” she said. “He was so welcoming to us.”
“Bishop Kennedy’s done a fabulous job,” trustee Craig Gibson said of Msgr. Moroney’s predecessor, Bishop Arthur L. Kennedy, an auxiliary bishop of Boston. “The seminary is, thanks to him, almost full.” He said Msgr. Moroney, who has “abundant gifts,” “is a star in the area of sacred liturgy” and is kind and gentle, was an excellent choice.
“He’s got a clear vision on growing the seminary, doing so with the bishops around New England,” he said. “He’s a terrific guy. We’re very excited.”