Installing New Rector, Cardinal Says the Lord Is in Charge of St. Joseph’s Seminary

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During the Mass in which Bishop James Massa was officially installed as rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, Cardinal Dolan told him that as much as the bishop was well prepared to lead the seminary community, he was not the ultimate authority. 

“It is the Lord, not (Bishop) James Massa who is the master of this house,” said the cardinal, who served as presiding prelate at the afternoon Mass Sept. 13 in the seminary chapel.

In his homily, the cardinal explained that the new rector’s “most important goal” would be to teach the future priests formed at the seminary that “Jesus is Lord, Jesus has dominion, Jesus is in charge.”

“It is His Church, not ours. It is His call, not our initiative. It is His doing, not our own,” Cardinal Dolan said. 

The cardinal led the rite in which Bishop Massa, an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn who was appointed rector effective July 16, made his profession of faith and took his oath of fidelity. 

They were two of nine prelates at the Mass including Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, who was the principal celebrant. The other bishops were Bishop John O. Barres of the Diocese of Rockville Centre; Bishop William Murphy, Bishop Emeritus of Rockville Centre; Auxiliary Bishop Edmund Whalen of New York; Auxiliary Bishop Witold Mroziewski of Brooklyn; Auxiliary Bishop Andrzej Zglejszewski of Rockville Centre; and Auxiliary Bishop Luis M. Romero Fernandez, M.Id., of Rockville Centre.

Many priests, including Msgr. Joseph LaMorte, vicar general and moderator of the curia in the archdiocese, and Msgr. Peter Finn, a former rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary and a recently retired pastor in the archdiocese, were among the concelebrants.

Seminarians, faculty members and friends and supporters of the seminary were present in the chapel and later attended a dinner in the seminary refectory. 

As rector, Bishop Massa succeeded Msgr. Peter Vaccari, a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn who is now president of Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Father William Cleary, a priest of the archdiocese who served as interim rector for the spring semester, has been named vice rector of St. Joseph’s.

The bishop’s appointment, with the approval of the Holy See, was announced by Cardinal Dolan with the support of the ordinaries of the Brooklyn and Rockville Centre dioceses. Together, the three prelates make up the St. Charles Borromeo Council, which oversees the seminary system shared by the three dioceses since 2011. 

Bishop Massa, in his remarks at the Mass, thanked the prelates “for enabling us to move in this direction which holds such promise for clergy formation and theological education in our region.”

Then-Father Massa was one of the architects of the seminary merger, overseeing the formation of the new faculty and the accreditation of the academic programs by appropriate agencies. He also was a professor of dogmatic theology at St. Joseph’s, 2012-2015. He holds a doctorate in systematic theology from Fordham University. 

Many of the religious congregations who send their seminarians to St. Joseph’s for theological formation were also represented.

St. Joseph’s, founded in 1896, has entered its 125th anniversary year. Bishop Massa, addressing faculty members and priest and deacon formators, called this “a time of historic challenges” due to the coronavirus pandemic and in response to “renewed calls in our country for racial justice and respect for human life and dignity everywhere in society.”

Robert Carolan, 36, a fourth-year seminarian preparing for his ordination to the transitional diaconate this fall, told CNY that Bishop Massa has made a favorable impression with seminarians at St. Joseph’s. “He’s comfortable and at ease,” said Carolan, who is from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish in Shrub Oak. “You always see Christ emanating from him.

“He’s a natural leader and teacher.”

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