In homecoming, Cardinal Dolan expresses gratitude to St. Louis
In a grand homecoming, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan was received with applause, hugs and handshakes as he made his way into the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis May 6 for a Mass of Thanksgiving.
He stood before bishops and priests who concelebrated the hour-and-a-half Mass before more than 1,500 people — all of whom enjoyed a cool moment in the cavernous cathedral basilica, shaded from the sweltering heat outside.
He was joined by numerous family members, including his mother, Shirley, who made the drive from Washington, siblings, nephews and nieces, including Kathleen, who was decked out in her First Communion dress. The second-grader received her First Communion yesterday from her uncle at Little Flower Parish in Richmond Heights.
The hometown boy from Holy Infant Parish in Ballwin — now serving as Archbishop of New York — delivered a nearly 18-minute homily from the ambo, which was laced with his signature wholesome humor and occasional friendly jabs toward his family and friends.
Holding up his biretta, which he received back in February when he was elevated to the Sacred College of Cardinals, he delivered a strong reminder that despite his new status in the Church, that “this red hat was not about Tim Dolan at all. It was all about Jesus Christ and his Church … and a summons to me to serve Him and Her (the Church) better.”
“Jesus is the vine. We are the branches. That without (Jesus) nothing is possible, (and) that while in and with and through Him nothing is impossible … Life — nautral life and supernatural life of grace that is family home, friends and faith — that’s what really counts, more important and infinitely than even a red hat,” he said.
Cardinal Dolan said that it was not tough at all to get used to being called cardinal, noting that one of his first memories as an infant was “my mom and grandma holding me up and cooing, ‘Your eminence, your eminence,’” which elicited laughter throughout the cathedral.
While so much has changed since he left St. Louis 11 years ago to serve as Archbishop of Milwaukee, later to be named to New York, he said one thing has not changed: “my love for you all.”
“If I could, I’d put this red hat on top of the Arch, on top of this magnificent basilica, on the tower of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary and on those other shrines of St. Louis so sacred to me — Steak 'n Shake, Ted Drewes and Imo’s.”
He said the honor of being named a cardinal serves as a tribute to the people of St. Louis, from a man who now is a New Yorker, but will always be a “proud and grateful St. Louisan.”
Among those who received a surprise visit from Cardinal Dolan were Tiffany and Brian O’Neill and their seven children, who made the drive from Topeka, Kan., to attend the Mass.
The O’Neills were standing in the back of the cathedral basilica, watching the procession, when Cardinal Dolan suddenly entered from a side door, behind the family. The Cardinal stopped to give each of the children a blessing before moving on to the vestibule.
Brian O’Neill said it was worth it to come to St. Louis for the Mass “because of (Cardinal Dolan’s) work in the Church. He just made it worth it. He’s demonstrated an extraordinary leadership, especially with the HHS (health care) mandate. He’s arguably the most important person in the Church in the United States” right now.
Cardinal Dolan received friends and family at a reception after Mass at nearby Rosati-Kain High School. Standing in line to receive the cardinal were Lauren Arens, and her friends, Maggie Corrigan, Elizabeth VanSant and Sarah Ellis, all high school sophomores and members of the Archdiocesan Children's Choir. They were joined by Lauren's grandfather, Mike Lang, who attended St. Louis Preparatory Seminary South as a classmate of Cardinal Dolan's from 1964-68.
After listening in on his homily, the girls unanimously noted that Cardinal Dolan is "so funny," adding that his sense of humor is something so needed to reach youths in the Church today.
Mike Lang said he and several classmates came to see Cardinal Dolan, adding that it's his "down-to-earth" nature that makes him so appealing to many. "You feel like you're a part of his family when you see him," he said.
Speaking of family, Cardinal Dolan's mother, Shirley, braved the heat and stayed for her son's reception. Asked what she wants St. Louis to know about her son, she said, "I think they know it all, don't they?" Laughing, she conceded that his presence in New York and now as a member of the College of Cardinals has been a great gift to the wider Church, but not having him at home, "sometimes I get very weepy." Shirley Dolan said she gets to visit him about three or four times a year.
Cardinal Dolan's visit to St. Louis was extra special for his aunt, Lois Milford, a member of Mary Queen of Peace Parish in Webster Groves. Milford, who is the Cardinal's godmother, was not able to make it to Rome for the consistory, and his homecoming gave her a chance for some extra time with him.
She said the family is not at all surprised that Cardinal Dolan has made it to where he is today. "He's wanted to be a priest since he was about in the third grade. He's so bright and can take on just about anybody," adding that's exactly what the Church needs now.
Msgr. Michael Turek, a classmate of Cardinal Dolan's at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, said his friend has "a way of endearing himself to everyone and the gift of making everyone feel special and important.
Everybody feels he's their good friend," said the pastor of St. Joan of Arc Parish in south St. Louis, "and he never forgets a name — or an embarrassing situation."
To watch a video of the Mass, click here.
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