Since then the pastoral work of the priest, later on Bishop Sean O’Malley, has never slowed down in his aim to open evangelical spaces of compassion and mercy in the Catholic Church in the United States. This always with the poorest among the poor in mind: The immigrants and, among them, with special care, attention and dedication, the men and women arrived from the Latin-American countries.
With this same spirit, authentically missionary and evangelical, I remember Father O’Malley coming closer to the domestic workers --most of them from Central-America— who worked in the accredited embassies before the White House and the OAS in Washington; or worked in the most diverse national and international organizations established in the city. He would come near to assist them and accompany them in the promotion and attainment of human dignity as they found their proper places in society as worthy laborers.
In an almost anecdotal way, I am trying to underline here two true and prominent characteristics in the life of the man and the Christian Sean O’Malley:
- His capacity for compassion and mercy which –like the Teacher of Nazareth-- have always moved him to act and resolve the urgent needs of his brothers or sisters in Christ, and
- His evangelical and Franciscan option to live in poverty and pastoral dedication to the poorest, smaller, marginalized and rejected by society.
It seems to me that these two characteristics --compassion and poverty-- define and sufficiently explain what has been the vital and existential trajectory of this man, this friend, this brother, this priest, and this Bishop for whom we today cheer and give thanks to God for his abundant life.
The difficult and agitated situation lived by the peoples of Latin America during the 70’s and 80’s: revolts, coup d’état, revolutions, etc. was followed by the special interest of Father O’Malley who, in his preaching and celebrations with the Hispanics in the Archdiocese of Washington, did not neglect to mention the abuses to the human rights which, at that time, were happening in the southern part of the American continent. This brought mistrust on the side of the Latin American governments and organisms against the person and pastoral work of Father O’Malley.
In the year 1974, Father O’Malley takes part in the First Regional Pastoral Encounter of Hispanics for the North East Region of the United States, which is formed by thirty-six Dioceses. During that occasion, and in the presence of Cardinals Baum of Washington, Kroll of Philadelphia, Cooke of New York; Medeiros of Boston, Aponte Martinez of Puerto Rico (invited as an observer) and the Apostolic Delegate of the Holy See Archbishop Jadot, Father O’Malley proposes the creation of a Regional Office for Hispanic Catholics, with its central offices in New York. This Pastoral Center opens its doors in 1976, offices and pastoral center which I founded and directed for more than twenty-five years. Beginning with the above mentioned encounter, Father Sean O’Malley was elected as President of the Board of Directors of the North-East Regional Office, while at the same time, President of the Directors Association for the Diocesan Apostolate to Hispanics in the North-East Region of the United States.
Under the Leadership of Father O’Malley, in his positions in the Hispanic Apostolate, is established a permanent line of cooperation between the different dioceses in Latin America and the Hispanic Apostolate Offices in the North-East. All with an important interchange of agents for evangelization (priests and nuns), programs for intercultural formation, abundant production of materials for the cathequesis, liturgy and the evangelization and missionary work among Hispanics. Also from this time are the creation of the School of Languages with the cooperation of the Diocese of Brooklyn and the publication of the first official lectionary in Spanish for liturgical use in the United States. Also, the first sociological studies on the Hispanic integration to the Church in the United States took effect, directed by Father Joseph Fitzpatrick, S.J., and a national study by Father Roberto Gonzalez, today Archbishop in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
In essence Cardinal O’Malley is a true Christian humanist, of great intellect and a great love for the Church. A definitive characteristic of the Cardinal is his great love and loyalty for his friends, among whom I consider myself grateful and blessed.
Ad multos annos Cardinal O’Malley!! May God continue blessing us with the certainty of your friendship, with the joy of your presence, with the generosity of your humanity, with the light of your wisdom, and the mercy and presence of God in our midst, manifested in your Priesthood!