Friday, November 7, 2014

Cardinal Dolan Brings His Enthusiasm for Don Bosco to Salesian High

Cardinal Dolan Brings His Enthusiasm for Don Bosco to Salesian High

by Fr. John Serio, SDB, and Fr. Mike Mendl, SDB

Fr. John wrote the bulk of this story for the province newsletter, E-Service. Fr. Mike edited it in his role as newsletter editor and added some substantial material as well as the photos.

Anticipation turned to reality in New Rochelle on Wednesday, November 5, as the long-awaited visit of Cardinal Timothy Dolan to Salesian High School occurred. The visit was long-awaited in two senses: the invitation to the cardinal to celebrate Mass with the school community and visit with the students and faculty was issued a year earlier, and it was the first visit of a New York archbishop to the school since Cardinal Cooke came in 1971.

Lorraine Danza, John Flaherty, Fr. John Serio, and Michele Turner
greet Cardinal Dolan and his party at the school entrance.
His Eminence was greeted at the school entrance by John Flaherty, principal, veteran faculty member Lorraine Danza, and a delegation of office staff and students. After riding in a Salesian school bus to Holy Name of Jesus Church, where Salesian’s school Masses are celebrated, Cardinal Dolan was greeted again by a delegation of students. When he entered the church, all heads turned as the congregation strained to get a look at their archbishop.

During the Mass in honor of St. John Bosco’s 200th anniversary of birth, Cardinal Dolan spoke of his great devotion to St. John Bosco, first inculcated by his 2nd grade teacher, Sister Mary Bosco. He spoke enthusiastically of the contributions of the Salesians to the life of the archdiocese and of his joy at meeting Salesian High School alumni all over the archdiocese, living out many careers and vocations, including as diocesan priests. He noted the presence of three SDB seminarians who are Salesian alumni: Deacon Mike Eguino, Bro. Steve Eguino, and candidate Mike Agovino. He thanked the teachers for their service and had them stand, which earned them a hearty round of applause from the students.

In his homily proper, the cardinal related that Don Bosco wanted his boys “to live well in order to die well”–to live this life in a manner that prepared them for the life of eternity with the Lord. The joy of this life, he said, is only a hint of what God has in store for us in the next life. He said that St. John Bosco’s genius was to prepare young people for eternity.

At the end of Mass, Student Council President Dan Seda welcomed His Eminence and offered him gifts of Salesian apparel, a copy of Fr. Mike Mendl’s history of the start of Salesian work in New York (The Zeal of the Salesians Is Just the Thing*), which the cardinal asked Fr. Mike to autograph, and a monetary gift which the cardinal said he would donate to the Inner City Scholarship Fund. Of course, the cardinal offered the students (and faculty!) a cardinal’s holiday—which received applause that exceeded “hearty.”

Frs. John Serio, Bill Ferruzzi, Matt DeGance, Dennis Donovan, Dominic Tran, and Marty Biglin (Holy Name’s pastor) concelebrated.

After greeting the students and staff of Holy Name School, the cardinal returned to the Salesian campus and toured the main building. He entered the library and some classrooms to interact with students and teachers, and ate lunch with members of the History Club (photo below). During lunch he questioned students and teachers about the previous day’s general elections and the role of religious ministers in the political life of the country. He called political service noble and urged the application of one’s principles to politics. He cited the example of Don Bosco in 19th-century Italy’s political and religious situation.

The cardinal used his conversations with students not only to show them the friendly and joyful visage of the Church but also to praise the education they’re getting at Salesian and offer more catechesis. For example, in a junior class that is reading and discussing The Red Badge of Courage, he spoke about the role of conscience in the story and linked conscience to natural law. On a lighter note, he let a freshman class with a New York Mets banner on the back wall know that he remains a St. Louis Cardinals fan (and flaunted some of the cardinal red of his mozzetta).

The cardinal steps into Scott Cerasuolo's class discussion of The Red Badge of Courage.
In Sr. Barbara Wright's freshman math class: 
Never mind the Mets poster on the back wall--I'm still a Cardinals fan!
The members of the G-5 mission directors group also came by for a short conversation and blessing by His Eminence. The cardinal lauded the Salesians’ missionary works and relished a conversation in Italian with the two visitors from Turin and happily recalled meeting Bro. Jean Paul Muller in Rome a few weeks ago.

The cardinal warmly greets the participants in the meeting of Salesian mission office directors
from New Rochelle, Madrid, Bonn, Turin, and New Delhi, and the
general councilor for the missions and the treasurer general of the Congregation.
It is not every day that the local ordinary comes to spend time with our community. He seemed really to enjoy his time with our community, wanted to know everything that he could about us, and evidenced his love for Don Bosco and devotion to Mary Help of Christians. Multiple times Cardinal Dolan invoked the Help of Christians in prayer and called out, “Viva Don Bosco!” We are grateful for the time he spent with us and will look forward to being with him again at the Graduates Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the spring and for the priestly ordination of Salesian alumnus Michael Eguino, SDB, class of 2002, on June 27, 2015.
*The book by your humble blogger is "The Zeal of the Salesians Is Just the Thing...": Founding the Salesian Work in New York. Written for the 1998 centennial of the SDB work on the East Coast, it studies the establishment of the SDBs in New York in historical context, from 1883 to 1908. ISBN 0-89944-174-2. It may be ordered from Salesiana Publishers (914-636-4225;

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