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Area Catholics respond with warmth, enthusiasm

By R.S. Kindleberger, Globe Staff, 3/24/1984

t was only his first day in office, but Boston-area Catholics reached out their hands to Archbishop Bernard F. Law yesterday as if they were greeting an old and dear friend.

The personal qualities of the new spiritual leader of eastern Massachusetts Catholics evoked an enthusiastic response from many who came near him during a busy day that saw him formally installed during a 2 1/2-hour Mass at Holy Cross Cathedral.

Alice O'Leary of South Boston, a waitress at the Park Plaza Hotel, intercepted the archbishop as he was leaving a lunch in his honor in at Park Plaza banquet hall.

"My mother's 86. She's been watching you on television," O'Leary, beaming with excitement, said as she stepped up to shake the prelate's hand.

"She'll have my blessing," replied Archbishop Law, pressing O'Leary's right hand warmly between both of his.

The waitress later said her mother "was crying all day" with excitement while watching Thursday's ceremonies on television.

Outside Holy Cross Cathedral as the 2:30 p.m. start of the installation service grew near, about 70 persons pressed against a nylon rope strung between stanchions of the elevated Orange Line to keep back the crowd. Gusts of unseasonably cold wind whipped past, but spectators were cheerful with anticipation.

Peggy McDonough had come in from Watertown to welcome the new archbishop and possibly catch a glimpse of him in person. She had watched him the night before on television and summed up her impression in a word: "Superb."

"I think he'll stress things that unite us rather than things that divide us," she predicted.

Three steps away stood Leo Chavannes, a Haitian immigrant who was on his way to work as a cook at the Long Wharf Marriott Hotel. "God knows I'd like to be in there," he said, but he didn't have a ticket needed for admittance to the cathedral. He was still hoping to see the archbishop arrive. "I saw him on TV and I feel so close to him already," he added.

Although all seats were taken by the 2500 admitted to the cathedral, the overflow crowds the Archdiocese had prepared for never really developed. Five television sets which were mounted on the grass at the side of the church to give uninterrupted coverage of the service attracted only handfuls of sporadic viewers.

Mayor Raymond L. Flynn, interviewed outside the hotel luncheon, said he believed Archbishop Law and he "share a lot of the same philosophy in terms of helping disenfranchised and needy people." Flynn, expressing his admiration for the prelate, said he was "part of the new spirit in Boston."

One of the disenfranchised and needy was on his way down Washington street yesterday afternoon. Evidently retarded, the man said he was had taken the afternoon off from his job in a sheltered workshop in hopes seeing the new archbishop.

Unshaven and disheveled but with a tightly knotted green tie, the man said he missed Humberto Cardinal Medeiros but was anxious to reach out a hand of welcome to his successor.

"I'm going to see him today for the first time and shake his hand," he said emphatically.

This story ran in the Boston Globe on 3/24/1984.
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