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Spotlight Report

Many working behind the scenes to coordinate installation

By Joanna Weiss, Globe Staff, 7/30/2003

Before the Mass begins, before the homily is said, before Boston's sixth archbishop is seated in his ceremonial chair, somebody has to make the chicken salad sandwiches.

Somebody has to snake the wires out the cathedral window for the TV broadcast.

Somebody has to be in place to direct traffic at the post-Mass luncheon - and monitor the length of the receiving lines, so everyone can greet the new archbishop in person.

It's a daunting task, preparing what will be one of the most-watched, closely-scrutinized events in recent Boston history. Today's installation Mass will take place before 2,500 invited guests and 75 credentialed news reporters and photographers from 50 organizations. An invitation-only late lunch at St. John's Seminary will feature 4,000 sandwiches, 2,000 cookies, and 70 gallons of coffee. Everything has been organized quickly; it has been less than a month since Bishop Sean Patrick O'Malley was named Boston's archbishop- elect.

So behind the pomp of today's festivities, largely off-camera and mostly unsung, an army of staff and contractors have spent hundreds of hours at work. Some are intimately familar with the Archdiocese of Boston, from the 35 seminarians who will handle usher duties, to the staff at Hart Brothers Caterers in Rockland, which has done work for the archdiocese for 16 years.

And some behind-the-scenes tasks have fallen to those who are new, both to the archdiocese and the nation. A cleaning crew of four, from ABC Maintenance of Boston Inc., started work in the cathedral by 6 a.m. Monday and yesterday, washing the floors, cleaning the carpets, polishing the pews till they gleamed. At a lunchtime break on Monday, Hai Le, 24, who came to the United States from Vietnam five years ago, drank in the scene around him.

''It's big,'' Le said, marveling at the vastness of the space, at the light streaming in from stained glass windows high above, and at the way people constantly wandered into the church, sat quietly in the pews, and gazed at the altar.

By yesterday morning, the room was thicker with activity: News photographers tested their camera positions, while Stephen J. Sasso, assistant chief engineer of Boston Catholic Television, climbed from the choir's perch above the front door to the TV studios in the basement, preparing for contingencies. He'll have six cameras trained on today's ceremony. He's set up four big flat screen TVs, to broadcast close-ups of the Mass to guests in the rear. He guesses that the cathedral is lined and surrounded with 30 miles of cable.

Outside, a crew from Peterson Party Center in Winchester spent the afternoon installing risers for the media horde that are strong enough to hold 2,500 pounds per square foot. And over at the chancery in Brighton, Nancy Allen, secretary to Archdiocese spokesman Rev. Christopher Coyne, kept answering a phone that has seemed to ring nonstop, with credential requests from news organizations as far away as Chicago.

At the seminary down the hill, as the afternoon wore on, Jack Lynch, business manager of the seminary, went over preparations for a vast but low-key lunch: three tents arrayed around a statue of the Blessed Mother, 980 rented chairs for a revolving set of guests. The grounds have been mowed, the landscapes tended. The menu is deliberately simple, he said, so that people could get food and drink as quickly as possible.

Even an understated affair can mean a lot of food. Last night, Michael O'Hart, the owner of Hart Brothers Catering, was preparing 4,000 sandwiches: chicken salad and tuna salad on rolls; sliced beef and turkey on Italian bread; ham and cheese on croissants. By morning, he said, his cooks will have made about 100 apple strudels and 2,000 cookies. He'll serve nine cases of chips, 2,000 cans of soda and bottled water, and a tableful of fruit.

As yesterday afternoon wore on, O'Hart was hopeful that he'd get a couple hours of sleep before the morning delivery.

This morning, of course, is well-planned, as well. Seminarians are scheduled to head to the cathedral at 8 a.m., Lynch said, where they'll handle usher duties and check tickets, then leave before Mass ends so they can beat the guests back to the seminary.

It's a lot to coordinate, Lynch conceded yesterday. But no, his voice didn't sound nervous at all. And no, he said he didn't feel frazzled. And yes, the weather looked as if it were preparing to comply. And he expected everything else will, too.

''It's easy to smile about what goes on,'' Lynch said. ''It's been fun. It really has.''

This story ran on page B6 of the Boston Globe on 7/30/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.


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