There was a huge birthday cake for Cardinal Egan to celebrate his 80th birthday, and more kudos for Cardinal Dolan on his recent elevation. But the focus of the special dinner celebration at Cathedral High School April 3 was clearly on some 350 priests from all over the archdiocese who attended immediately following the annual Chrism Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Cardinal Dolan set the tone for the evening in remarks he made welcoming the priests to the dinner. Referring to the just-concluded Chrism Mass, he said, “For me to be there at that altar and to look out at all of you, and believe me it was with immense love and gratitude and admiration, it was very inspirational. I hope that grace applied to all of you as well.”
He thanked the priests for their efforts to make Reconciliation Monday, held in parishes the day before, “a great success.”
“If I needed further proof of your zeal and fidelity and your generous priestly service, which I don’t, yesterday would have been proof,” Cardinal Dolan said.
Then he turned his attention to Cardinal Egan, praising him first and foremost as a “genuine, genuine churchman.” Cardinal Egan turned 80 on April 2, making him ineligible to be an elector in any future conclave to select a new pope.
“I spoke in my homily about the love we as priests should have for Jesus and his Church,” Cardinal Dolan said. “You all know Cardinal Egan as well as I do and he’s a tremendous churchman. You only have to listen. His conversation is laced with love of the Church. His whole life has been generous service to Jesus and his Church.”
Speaking directly to Cardinal Egan, he said, “I know I not only speak for myself, but for all my brother priests here in thanking you for your love of Jesus and his Church and in praising you as an eminent churchman. Happy birthday to you.”
In remarks before cutting his giant cake, Cardinal Egan also focused on the priests gathered in the brightly decorated Cathedral High School cafeteria.
“I say this without any hesitation. This is the greatest bunch of priests anywhere in the world,” Cardinal Egan said with evident pride. “I could give you example after example of priests in this archdiocese...I have spent an awful lot of time going from parish to parish in various dioceses across the nation and I want to tell you that I do not think anyone could match our priests. We have, without any hesitation in my mind, the finest apostolate of pastors in the world.”
Cardinal Egan reserved special thanks for Auxiliary Bishop Dennis Sullivan, whom he appointed vicar general of the archdiocese, and for Msgr. Gregory Mustaciuolo, currently chancellor of the archdiocese and his former long-time priest secretary. “I could never think of being Archbishop of New York without Greg by my side,” he said. “I will never forget his goodness as I will never forget our vicar general’s.”
Following the formal festivities, Cardinal Egan sat down and chatted with CNY about his tenure as Archbishop here and his future plans. He said he intends to spend more time visiting some of the cultural attractions the city and environs have to offer and that he has “a couple of books in (him)” that he’d like to write. He said has no intention of leaving his adopted hometown.
“I’m enjoying very much the life of the City of New York,” he told CNY. “I wouldn’t think of going anywhere else. When I retired, the Holy Father asked in Italian, would I go to the sea or the to the mountains? And I said I’m going to stay right here in New York. It’s just the way I like it.
“People have been wonderful to me and the priests have been wonderful. I’m doing confirmations and parish dedications and what have you and, as I said before, anything the good Archbishop wants me to do I’ll do.”
Father James Ferreira, who serves as parochial vicar at St. Teresa’s parish on Staten Island, was deeply touched by Cardinal Egan’s remarks.
“I was moved by it,” he said. “I think it showed his genuine love for us and for his job as archbishop and I think he enjoys being here. It’s nice to hear that.”