Cardinal Dolan: "It's all about humility, and it's all about service and love and being close to God and His people."
For Charles Samson, a St. Louis seminarian studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, the consistory weekend, in his mind, was like a series of snapshots.
Samson, a member of St. Clement of Rome Parish in Des Peres, was one of two St. Louis seminarians chosen as servers at a Feb. 19 Mass at St. Peter's Basilica with Pope Benedict XVI and the new cardinals.
While processing around the altar with incense, Samson caught sight of Cardinal Dolan, who was sitting with the other cardinals.
Samson recalled: "Our eyes met, and he smiled -- a big smile; one of those that says, 'We're here.' I smiled right back, thinking the same thing -- we were 'here,' here with the whole Church gathered together under her head. It's just like what Peter said to the Lord at the Transfiguration: "Lord, it's good that we are here" (Matthew 17:4).
"That exchange of smiles with Cardinal Dolan captured my experience of the consistory, especially serving the papal Mass," said Samson. "I was so grateful for the blessing of serving for the pope, and very proud to be a Roman Catholic."
Samson said that even though Cardinal Dolan is widely known for his warm personality and his ease of relating to others, he is also a "man of deep prayer and firm faith. His love for Christ, the Gospel and the Church is as impressive, for me, as his humor and his warmth."
Of course, Cardinal Dolan's sense of humor was not left behind during the events of the consistory, according to Samson.
At a Feb. 18 reception at the papal palace after the consistory, someone asked the new cardinal what he wanted to drink: wine or water. Displaying his hometown loyalty, he responded, "Budweiser!" adding, "My doctor says I gotta work on my dehydration."
Kate Guyol, director of development at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, was among those from St. Louis who made the pilgrimage to Rome for the consistory. She said she found wisdom in Cardinal Dolan's homily from a Mass he celebrated at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.
"Cardinal Dolan said we all rely on the support of our friends, and that friends are a blessing and help us draw closer to Christ.," said Guyol. "His joy in Christ and love for all is evident in all he says and does. Every person he meets is an immediate friend, and one cannot helped but be swept into his faithful joy. The hundreds of people who traveled from St. Louis, Milwaukee, New York, and beyond to Eternal City for this event are a testament to interconnectedness of our Church and the incredible impact one friend, one man from Ballwin, can have on the faith of many."
Most of Cardinal Dolan's family was on hand to witness his elevation at the consistory, including his mother, Shirley Dolan of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Washington. His sister-in-law, Mary T. Dolan, married to the cardinal's brother Pat Dolan -- members of Little Flower Parish in Richmond Heights -- took plenty of photos. Mary T. Dolan commented on several photos of Cardinal Dolan inside the Sistine Chapel that were typical of his personal warmth and the reaction of others to him. In one, "Uncle Tim introduces a girl with cancer to his niece Shannon Williams, who beat bone cancer" while they were at Sistine Chapel. In another Sistine Chapel photo, Cardinal Dolan "surprised us .... He's in the front at mic. People were applauding. Total surprise."
Also attending was Sister Rosario Delaney, RSM, principal of Holy Infant School in Ballwin, Cardinal Dolan's alma mater and his home parish. "The most fascinating thing about this trip is that each one of the 1,000 people (in the) combined St. Louis, Milwaukee and New York City pilgrimage, each felt a very warm relationship with the cardinal. Over our week here in Rome, I can understand why they feel this way. During our lunches, dinners and Masses, of course, he went from person to person and held personal conversations with each one of them. He truly is a remarkable person gifted by God."
Cardinal Dolan also jokingly made reference to the perennial St. Louis favorite topic of baseball, she said. "Someone presented him with a customized Cardinal jersey with his name on it. He said, 'Don't be offended, New Yorkers. I also have a Yankees one, and the red socks I'm wearing does not mean that I'm a Red Sox fan.'"
Sister Rosario added, "It was very moving during our private pilgrimage to the Sistine Chapel as he gave his first blessing as cardinal to all of us. His deep faith and love of the Church came through each time he addressed us. I have the privilege of interacting with his family, who, in a very quiet way, are very proud of Cardinal Tim."
Ann Merten met Cardinal Dolan when he began studies at the college seminary in Shrewsbury through mutual friends, and they have remained friends ever since. "My pride in him and how he has taken on this role is overwhelming," she said.
Merten traveled with Cardinal Dolan's family and other St. Louisans to Rome and then went with his mother on to New York. She noted that Cardinal Dolan's "sense of humor continues to be intact dispute the constant need to answer the same questions over and over."
New Yorkers, she said, "are totally enamored with him and talk about what a gift he has been to the city. His mother and former teacher are as much media stars as he is."
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