Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Behind Bars and Building Bridges: The Whirlwind Continues

Pity the poor latecomers to Sunday's 10.15 Mass in St Patrick's Cathedral.

Not only were no seats to be found... but no standing room, either.

With a couple hundred folks left to linger on the steps, the standard 2,300 capacity of "America's parish" was surpassed by close to 1,000 more as the faithful and curious alike jammed the narthex and lined the aisles to witness the first public Eucharist celebrated by New York's self-described "new baby archbishop."

Indeed, collection baskets were still going around just before the Eucharistic Prayer and, along the 50th Street side, worshippers could be seen standing still in a Communion line that barely budged for 10 minutes.

After an opening blitz that lit up the "capital of the world," it was just another sight to behold. And afterward, another press conference ensued outside as a plaque commemorating Pope Benedict's visit to the Midtown landmark was unveiled on the first anniversary of his pilgrimage to it, the first time a papal stop at St Pat's included a Mass within its walls.

From the ballparks to a Bronx pantry, Sirius studios to Citigroup Center, Tim Dolan's taken the town by storm. Later today he visits his first parish school and tomorrow kicks off the first of two plenary meetings with his most crucial constituency -- a presbyterate that, so it's said, is smiling for the first time since the "Ides of March."

Yesterday, however, took him to New York state's lone maximum-security womens' prison for what's been the high-profile week's most intimate, moving event:
Jesus won’t judge him, he said, based on his visits to Yankee Stadium or even to St. Patrick’s Cathedral: “He is going to say, ‘When I was hungry, you fed me. When I was in prison, you came to see me.’ ”...

He told the women that they should never feel alone, as if they have been forsaken. Jesus received “capital punishment,” he said, and knows exactly what they’re going through.

After Mass, Dolan stood outside the chapel and greeted each woman individually. He embraced most and said at least a few words.He happily chatted with those who had a comment or question.

He asked many women to pray for him. Several of the inmates asked to be blessed by the new archbishop and one remarked “You are so cute.”

Afterward, Dolan took a couple of questions and [said] that visiting inmates and others in need is his sacred responsibility.

“They do more for me than I do for them,” he said.

After the Mass, Dolan was going to visit with long-term patients in the prison’s hospital. Then he was heading to the nursery, where babies born to pregnant inmates can live for up to a year....

Dolan promised the inmates that he would return, especially around holiday times.
Last night, the archbishop made his first appearance before the Big Apple's interfaith community, addressing a Holocaust memorial service held in a Lutheran church.

Already a top member of the national Jewish-Catholic dialogue, as the guest-preacher spoke from handwritten notes, more once the tape can be transcribed.

In the meantime, though, an e.mail circulating around the Gotham presbyterate provides one worthwhile glimpse into these days as seen from the trenches.

Quoting Easter Preface IV and including the date of Dolan's installation, the note declares that "the long reign of sin is ended, a broken world has been renewed, and we are [sic] once again made whole."

And once they finally "talk turkey" with the new boss, we'll see how the sentiment holds up.

PHOTO: Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times(1);
Alvarez/New York Daily News(2)