Who is Cardinal Seán O’Malley? 3 Pilot Profiles.

March 11, 2013

Papal Election

By Scot Landry


Yesterday, Cardinal Seán celebrated Mass in his Titular Church (Santa Maria della Vittoria) for about 100 parishioners and it seems about the same number of media from Boston, throughout the United States and from several other countries.

Several of the international journalists asked me questions about Cardinal Seán and his early life and priestly and episcopal assignments before Boston. A correspondent from Japan (Japan!) said he’s been on the Archdiocese of Boston website, the Vatican website and several other websites and he could only find relatively brief biographies. He asked me for advice on where to turn to answer the question for people in his country – Who is Cardinal Seán O’Malley?


This blog post, with the links below, hopes to answer that question.

We are blessed in the Archdiocese of Boston to have The Pilot newspaper. It is the oldest Catholic newspaper in the United States (since 1829) and the official newspaper of the Archdiocese (since 1908). It has published 3 special editions that profile Cardinal Seán’s early life, entrance into the Capuchin novitiate, profession as a Capuchin Franciscan friar, ordination to the priesthood, service as the director of the Centro Cat’olico in Washington DC, and episcopal leadership as a Bishop of the dioceses of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, Fall River in Massachusetts, Palm Beach in Florida and then in our beloved Archdiocese of Boston.

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The most recent special edition was in 2009 when The Pilot marked the 25th anniversary of Cardinal Seán’s Ordination as a Bishop. In that issue there is:

  • a detailed biographical profile;
  • an article from the Florida Catholic on his family’s reaction when he was appointed to the Diocese of Palm Beach;
  • and many photos of his early years.
  • To read those articles excerpted from this 2009 special edition, please CLICK HERE.

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In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI named then-Archbishop O’Malley a Cardinal. The Pilot had extensive coverage in their special issue, which includes the following articles:

  • A cardinal-archbishop like none before him;
  • ‘Receive the ring from the hand of Peter’;
  • Thousands come to congratulate, greet new cardinal;
  • Cardinal O’Malley speaks on significance of elevation, challenges of the Church (detailed interview);
  • Cardinal’s elevation ‘well-deserved,’ say Boston Catholics;
  • Friends, family join cardinal for first public Mass;
  • His Coat of Arms;
  • Reflections of priests and other friends;
  • Santa Maria della Vittoria – Cardinal Seán’s titular Church;
  • Order of Malta holds reception for new cardinal;
  • and several other articles.
  • To read those articles from this 2006 special Cardinal Elevation edition, please CLICK HERE.

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Cardinal Seán was installed as the 9th Bishop of Boston and 6th Archbishop of Boston on 30 July 2003. The Pilot special issue had the following articles:

  • Welcoming a new shepherd;
  • Archbishop O’Malley: a healer, administrator and teacher;
  • Archbishop takes reins at difficult moment for Church;
  • Appointment to Palm Beach (from Florida Catholic);
  • What’s in the name O’Malley;
  • Friends and colleagues recall Bishop O’Malley’s years in St. Thomas;
  • First day in Boston, Archbishop speaks on roots, task ahead;
  • Archbishop Seán’s episcopal lineage;
  • and several other articles.
  • To read those articles from this 2003 special Archbishop Installation edition, please CLICK HERE.

We are certainly grateful to The Pilot‘s fine staff and their very hard work publishing a great newspaper with a Catholic perspective each week.

We salute the other fine Catholic newspapers throughout the U.S. and the world and we encourage your financial support and donations, as subscription fees for Catholic newspapers can no long fund the entire budget of these wonderful channels of formation and information. They, like secular newspapers and magazines, are challenged financially as print circulation declines, people move to reading information online, and not enough online readers donate to support the good work and staff that produces the content. [The Pilot would be grateful for any gifts you could share.]

In 2008, The Pilot also dedicated an issue to mark Cardinal Seán’s five years of leadership of the Archdiocese of Boston and they asked me to write a reflection:

The Rebuilder
Scot Landry
15 August 2008
The Pilot (PilotCatholicNews.com)

It was one of those moments that you will remember always exactly where you were and what you were doing.

At 5:59 a.m. on the morning of July 1, 2003, I had just turned on the bathroom radio to begin my morning shaving ritual when I heard WBZ1030 cut in: “Breaking News from the Vatican: Bishop Seán O’Malley from Palm Beach, Florida, to be named the new Archbishop of Boston.”

“The Holy Spirit really DOES guide the Church” was my immediate thought. When I considered the type of archbishop I wished for in 2003, I thought of Bishop Seán O’Malley, who I had come to admire while he was in the diocese of Fall River for the way he nurtured my twin brother’s vocation to the priesthood and for his kindness to my family and many others. However, I thought that the option of appointing Bishop O’Malley here to Boston was a non-starter because only 10 months earlier Pope John Paul II had sent him to Palm Beach, Fla., to help that diocese rebuild after two bishops had resigned.


The news that he was coming to Boston gave me great hope for our local Church. Many friends who knew him from his time in Fall River made remarks such as:

“If anyone could re-earn trust in Church leadership, it’s Seán O’Malley.”

“He will work to do the right thing, to restore simplicity, transparency and unity to the way the Church operates.”

“He leads as a holy, humble and honest pastor who has the heart of a missionary; that is exactly what the Church needs.”



Leading the Archdiocese of Boston in mid-2003 was perhaps one of the most difficult leadership challenges in the history of this country. He was called by the Holy Father, like St. Francis, to help rebuild the Church. Yet this simple and shy Capuchin friar would need to begin the process of rebuilding under heavy media attention and focus.



One of the most inspirational aspects of knowing Cardinal Seán personally is that he always says “yes” to the Lord. Prior to coming to Boston, he said “yes” to many difficult assignments. In fact, he has taken “yes” as his episcopal motto: ”Quodcumque Dixerit Facite” (“Do Whatever He [Jesus] Asks of You” from Mary’s words at the wedding feast of Cana). So, it was no surprise that he would say “yes” to the Holy Father once again, despite the many challenges here, and become our archbishop.



His initial remarks made during his installation Mass and first few press conferences struck the tone of the beginning of his era of leadership. “People are more important than money” he stated, signaling how he would reach out to all those hurt by Church personnel and would seek a settlement appropriate to the pain caused. He called all Catholics to get involved in the rebuilding of our archdiocese, to assist in the work of providing help to all those that had been hurt, and to support the many priests who had been faithful to their vocations who had suffered tremendously as a result of the sexual abuse scandal.



The call to work with Cardinal Seán to rebuild the Church in Boston resonated profoundly with so many. Catholics across the archdiocese stepped forward to lend their time and talent to committees established to recommend solutions to the largest challenges facing our Church. Others became more involved at the parish level. In recent gatherings I have heard many of these lay leaders reflect on Cardinal Seán’s first five years:

“He’s great to work with because he confronts major issues directly and honestly without sweeping anything under the rug.”

“A great leader is one that people WANT to follow into difficult and uncertain times; we all are here because we were inspired by Cardinal Seán to step up to the plate and get involved.”

“Because of Cardinal Seán, we can love our Church again.”



Cardinal Seán’s approach to leadership stands at odds with the expected version of a rebuilder, who often possesses a take-charge personality (like many of our military generals). His approach as a humble and holy Franciscan missionary inspires others to join more deeply into carrying on the mission of the Church.



Under his approach, our local Church has made great strides in the past five years. Let us thank God for that progress from those very difficult days. Yet, there is so much more work to do. Let’s encourage so many more of our fellow Catholics to become involved so that together we can help the Church reach its full potential to hand on our faith, grow in holiness and make a profound difference in the world. We are all invited to become part of Cardinal Seán’s construction crew to rebuild and renew Christ’s Church.



Early this morning, Cardinal Seán celebrated the Seminary Mass at the Pontifical North American College. The NAC has a unique Mass time – 6:40 am. I am told that it is the perfect time for the seminarians to pray before Mass, attend Mass, eat breakfast and then get to class across town on time.




The NAC warmly welcomed George Martell and me. The hospitality and the wonderful seminarians and faculty at the NAC always make it a treat to visit. We are so lucky in the U.S. to have so many fine seminaries, including St. John’s, Blessed John XXIII and Redemptoris Mater in the Archdiocese of Boston. The NAC is a special place to study for the priesthood because seminarians are formed in the spiritual center of Catholicism, where Peter (the Holy Father) lives, and it is a cross-roads of the Universal Church because seminarians, religious and priests from throughout the world converge here to study at the Roman Pontifical Universities.




The Deacon who preached today’s homily shared stories of his summer experience, between his first and second years at the NAC, of volunteering in Lourdes. He mentioned how many pilgrims come to Lourdes looking for physical cures. If you count the number of crutches left there, it’s apparent that some are granted and some are documented by the Church. But more common are spiritual cures to help reconcile with God and with others and to be ready to meet their Heavenly Father and their Heavenly Redeemer. The Deacon shared a story of a woman he met from Arizona who experienced just that type of healing.


His homily made me think of Lourdes, and of my many friends in the Order of Malta in Boston who make an annual pilgrimage there around the beginning of May. They always sponsor and care for pilgrims with significant illnesses and bring them to Lourdes on a chartered plane. Luke Dillon, a 10-year old from Westford, shared his story of his pilgrimage to Lourdes last year on The Good Catholic Life. Cardinal Seán has enjoyed accompanying this inspirational pilgrimage.

After Mass, George and I did some work for tonight’s broadcast of Catholic Faith Essentials, an online adult formation course during the Year of Faith. The broadcast, recorded at the NAC and in St. Peter’s Square, will focus on the Conclave and how it works.

George and I completed this brief YouTube after we were done recording our episode of Catholic Faith Essentials.

George was then fortunate to be able to take photos of the American Cardinals as they were leaving the NAC to board a shuttle bus to take them to their final General Congregation meeting before the Conclave begins on Tuesday.

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago

Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop-emeritus of Los Angeles

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop-emeritus of Washington, DC

Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York

Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop-emeritus of Philadelphia

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC

George even was invited onto the bus to take this group shot. It looks like Cardinal Dolan may be telling a joke to Cardinals Mahoney and Rigali at the back of the bus.


Let us continue to keep all the Cardinals in our prayers as they prepare to cast their very important votes starting Tuesday afternoon.

On the walk back from the NAC through St. Peter’s Square, I was able to witness the curtain being installed on the central balcony. Here is a brief (solo) video of the moment.


In just a few days, we will see the senior cardinal deacon (in 2013, French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran) appear on the central balcony of St. Peter’s and announce: Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum. Habemus papam! Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum, Dominum …[baptismal name] Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem [surname] qui sibi nomen imposuit [chosen papal name].

The English translation is: I announce to you a great joy. We have a pope! His Most Eminent and Reverend Lord, Lord [baptismal name] Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church [surname], who has chosen for himself the name of [chosen papal name].

Soon thereafter, the new pope appears, delivers his first Urbi et Orbi (to the City of Rome and to the World), and imparts his first Apostolic blessing.

Here’s how it looked in April of 2005:

And here’s how it looked in October of 1978:

Later in the day I interviewed Kathryn Lopez of the National Review and Catholic Voices USA for today’s episode of The Good Catholic Life radio show.



Kathryn was nice enough to stay for this brief YouTube video.

Tomorrow will be an eventful day in Rome. We will cover as much as we can. We encourage you to watch these events on CatholicTV or EWTN. Here’s the schedule:

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

15:45 Rome/10:45am Boston – Transfer from Domus Sanctae Marthae to Pauline Chapel

16:30 Rome/11:30am Boston – Procession from Pauline Chapel to Sistine Chapel

16:45 Rome/11:45am Boston – Oath administered and Extra omnes! Proclaimed

Followed by meditation by Card. Prosper Grech, OSA

1st vote taken

19:15 Rome/2:15pm Boston – Vespers

19:30 Rome/2:30pm Boston – Cardinals return to Domus Sanctae Marthae


Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

06:30 Rome/1:30am Boston – Breakfast served in Domus S. Marthae (until 7:30)

07:45 Rome/2:45am Boston – Transfer from Domus S. Marthae to Sistine Chapel

08:15 Rome/3:15am Boston – Mass

09:30 Rome/4:30am Boston – Hora Media in Sistine Chapel

Morning vote(s) taken

12:30 Rome/7:30am Boston – Cardinals return to Domus Sanctae Marthae

13:00 Rome/8:00am Boston – Lunch16:00 – Cardinals return to Sistine Chapel

16:50 Rome/11:50am Boston – Votes taken

19:15 Rome/2:15pm Boston – Vespers

19:30 Rome/2:30pm Boston – Cardinals return to Domus Sanctae Marthae

We’ll leave you with a photo of someone who wants the Franciscan from Boston as the next Pope!


Thanks for reading this blog at TheGoodCatholicLife.com.
Scot Landry

Comments Closed

One Response to “Who is Cardinal Seán O’Malley? 3 Pilot Profiles.”

  1. Michele Says:

    Japan doesn’t know how to use the internet 😛


    The people of Boston love you too, Cardinal Sean, and will remember you as loving us!!!