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Spotlight Report

Around Boston archdiocese, many find hope in new bishop

O'Malley record inspires praise

By Catherine Dunn and Nicole Fuller, Globe Correspondents, 7/7/2003

Yesterday marked the 14th Sunday in the Roman Catholic Church's season of Ordinary Time. It also marked what some parishioners called the beginning of a new day for the church since Bishop Sean Patrick O'Malley was named Boston's archbishop-elect last week.

At several churches visited yesterday by the Globe, worshipers expressed hope and happiness about the naming of a new leader.

At Our Lady Help of Christians in Newton, Marsha Fonteyn, 56, sounded a note of cautious optimism after Mass ended. While she is waiting to see how inclusive O'Malley will be of women and laypeople, Fonteyn said, she was heartened by O'Malley's past experience as bishop of Fall River.

''It sounds like he handled the initial concerns about abuse by the priests very well and that he really listened to victims and tried to help them,'' said Fonteyn, a Newtonville resident.

O'Malley was named last week to replace Cardinal Bernard F. Law, who stepped down amid criticism over his handling of the sexual abuse scandal that has shaken the Roman Catholic church.

O'Malley is a Capuchin Franciscan friar who comes to the pivotal Boston diocese having headed dioceses in Palm Beach, Fla., and Fall River, both of which were grappling with clergy sex abuse scandals when he was appointed to lead them.

After the 11:30 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Sharon, Helen Drake also voiced confidence in O'Malley based on his record. ''He's already been an instrument of healing in the Fall River diocese,'' said Drake, who has attended Our Lady of Sorrows for 50 years. ''You hear nothing but good reports about him.''

In an interview after the Mass, the Rev. Robert Bullock noted O'Malley's history of responding to victims of abuse and said O'Malley's biggest priority should be solving the lawsuits pending against the church.

''This is absolutely clear that this is the mandate,'' he said. ''This has to happen. He's ready to act on it.''

Both Bullock and the Rev. Richard J. Craig, a visiting priest yesterday at Our Lady Help of Christians, said they were impressed with the tone O'Malley established on his first day as archbishop-elect last Tuesday.

''I think that his first day is a wonderful indication of the direction he's demonstrating in taking the time ... to meet with victims and their families and to clearly make victims his first priority of his ministry as our new archbishop,'' Craig said.

Milton resident Linda Gray MacKay, who attended the 10 a.m. Mass at Our Lady Help of Christians, her childhood church, said she thinks O'Malley offers a ''more pastoral, more merciful, welcoming, outgoing, and supportive'' message to victims.

''There's just such a hurt group of people - they need to see the face of love back in the church,'' said MacKay, a member of Voice of the Faithful, a worldwide organization of 30,000 laypeople founded in response to the revelations of clergy abuse. ''And, I think, hopefully he will provide that.''

In Newton and at the Gate of Heaven Church in South Boston, the simplicity of O'Malley's brown habit and sandals also struck a chord with parishioners.

''I like the fact that he's a Franciscan,'' said Paul Fonteyn, 57, at Our Lady Help of Christians. ''The Franciscans have always been priests of the people.''

''I think he can bring some light to our archdiocese,'' said Mary Maiullari, 41, standing outside Gate of Heaven. ''I'm banking on his past record.''

While MacKay from the Newton church found O'Malley's appointment promising, she also said that ''it will take the whole church ... the people of God, to heal the church. No one man can do that.''

This story ran on page B3 of the Boston Globe on 7/7/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.


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