Category Archives: Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien

Congrats to Baltimore’s newest cardinal!

Pope Benedict XVI presents the pallium to Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien in 2008 in Rome. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Benedict XVI announced today that Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and pro-grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, will become a cardinal!  Cardinal-designate O’Brien will be elevated at a consistory to be held at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on February 18.

Check out The Catholic Review story here.

Stay with The Catholic Review for more on this breaking story throughout the day!

Church leaders not sitting on sidelines in MD gay marriage debate

Mary Ellen Russell, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, speaks in support of traditional marriage during a Nov. 30 press conference at First Apostolic Faith Church International in Baltimore. (CR Staff/George P. Matysek Jr.)

There’s no doubt that same-sex marriage is going to be the hot-button issue in Annapolis next year.

Gov. Martin J. O’Malley, a Catholic, has already said he will sponsor  legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland – sparring with Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien over his high-profile attempt to fundamentally alter the definition of marriage.

Gay marriage came close to passing last session, but was ultimately defeated on the last day of the session after the state’s interfaith leaders made a push against the controversial measure.

Religious leaders plan to do even more in the coming 90-day legislative session that begins Jan. 11.

During a press conference last week at the First Apostolic Faith Church International in Baltimore, people of many faiths – Catholics, Protestants, Jews and others – came together to announce the formation of the nonpartisan Maryland Marriage Alliance. They promised they will not sit still as the governor tries to push gay marriage through the General Assembly.

Two speakers struck me with a message that combined tough resolve with respect for all people.

Bishop Angel Nuñez of the Bilingual Christian Church in Baltimore called out the governor by name, noting that the governor’s “pretty words” will not change the fact that marriage is between one man and one woman. Bishop Nuñez went on to address what he believes true tolerance is about.

“Traditional tolerance respects and accepts the individual without necessarily approving of or participating in his or her beliefs and behavior,” he said. “That is what we have done and will continue to do.”

Mary Ellen Russell, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, echoed that point, noting that no one supports discrimination against homosexuals. The current laws of Maryland, she said, “reflect an appropriate balance between preserving the special role of traditional marriage in the creation and upbringing of our future generations of children, and the granting of rights to other committed couples.”

“It is not discrimination to treat fundamentally different things differently,” Russell said.

You can hear the statements of Bishop Nuñez and Russell below.  Also, Russell will be giving a Theology on Tap presentation tonight at the Greene Turtle in Fells Point regarding same-sex marriage in Maryland.  There’s more information here.

This is just the beginning of what is going to be a very passionate debate over the next several months.  If gay marriage is signed into law, it will surely go to referendum.  What’s your opinion?

Bishop Angel Nuñez:

Mary Ellen Russell:



VIDEO REPORT: Archbishop O’Brien remembers 9/11

(CR photo illustration/April Hornbeck)

When terrorists attacked the United States 10 years ago this September, Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien was in Washington with 60 military chaplains.

The archbishop, then the head of the Archdiocese for U.S. Military Services, witnessed calls pour in from military commanders looking for their chaplains to minister to those in need. It was a sign of the indispensable role military chaplains play in providing support in times of crisis – offering a comforting presence, celebrating the sacraments and praying for the dead.

In this week’s Catholic Review, Archbishop O’Brien looks back to 9/11 and reflects on how the nation changed after the terrorist attacks. You can read the story here. For more stories on how lives were impacted by the events of 9/11, click here. Below is the interview with Archbishop O’Brien on which the story is based.

Man in the know thinks archbishop will be good fit for Holy Land

Bishop Denis J. Madden (second from right) joins archdiocesan leaders at an Aug. 29 press conference highlighting Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien's appointment to a Vatican office. (CR Photo/Bill McAllen)

Bishop Denis J. Madden knows something about the Holy Land.

From 1994-1996, Bishop Madden was the Director of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine office in Jerusalem before serving as director of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association from 1996-2005.

Among his duties while with the CNEWA, Bishop Madden was the chief negotiator among the three ecclesiastical authorities responsible for repairing the dome of the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem.

As Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien prepares to take on a new role defending Christianity in the Holy Land as pro-grand master of the Equestrian Order (Knights) of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, he will find a knowledgeable friend in Bishop Madden.

I asked Bishop Madden about the news of Archbishop O’Brien’s appointment and the challenges the archbishop will face in the Holy Land. Bishop Madden praised Archbishop O’Brien for showing courage in addressing difficult challenges in Baltimore. He also described the archbishop as a good fit for the Holy Land. Take a listen to Bishop Madden’s responses below.

VIDEO REPORT: Archbishop O’Brien’s press conference on his new appointment

Here’s a Catholic Review video report on Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien’s appointment as pro-grand master of the Equestrian Order (Knights) of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem.

For insights into the archbishop’s unique sense of humor, click here.


A glimpse into Archbishop O’Brien’s playful side

George P. Matysek Jr. with Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien in Rome, 2008.

For the last four years, I’ve had the honor of covering Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien as one of my main beats at The Catholic Review.

I was at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome when Pope Benedict XVI placed the pallium around Archbishop O’Brien’s neck, conferring the symbol of his office as a metropolitan archbishop. I’ve seen the archbishop testify forcefully against the death penalty in Annapolis and meet with parish and school leaders throughout the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

I’ve witnessed our spiritual shepherd quietly encourage seminarians and answer questions of young people thinking about the religious life. I’ve also seen him choke with emotion when reflecting on his close bond with the priests he serves.

The archbishop has a well-earned reputation as a serious-minded and devoted leader who gives everything he has in service of a Church he loves. Yet, there’s another side to him – a playful side that endears him those who know him.

All of Baltimore first encountered Archbishop O’Brien’s wit at his installation Mass at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen on Oct. 1, 2007.

The packed cathedral erupted in laughter when Archbishop O’Brien acknowledged that some may find it “puzzling, even ironic, that the Holy Father should choose a native son of New York to be archbishop of another part of the American League East.”

The archbishop won even louder laughs when he recounted how he gave a copy of his high school yearbook to the editor of The Catholic Review to be used for a “human interest” piece in a special edition about the installation. Unknown to the archbishop, his junior year report card was tucked inside the yearbook. A member of The Catholic Review staff informed the archbishop of the discovery – “gleefully” reminding the new archbishop that his lowest grade that year was in religion.

“Even my Irish imagination had a little difficulty in putting a good spin on that,” the archbishop said with a smile.

“Knowledge of the faith is so very important, but what you do with that knowledge is ever so much more important,” he said.

Just prior to Archbishop O’Brien’s first Ash Wednesday celebration in Baltimore, he held a brief press conference on the portico of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I held my breath and asked what I knew might be a somewhat personal and bold question to pose to an archbishop:

“Can we ask if you’re giving anything up or doing something special for Lent?” I ventured tentatively as the archbishop stood at the top of the steps.

The archbishop paused for a second, exhaled and looked taken aback. Then mischief engulfed his face completely.

“I’m giving up rash judgments on certain people,” he said as his smile grew wider and he chuckled playfully. “How’s that?”

My fellow reporters broke into laughter. I did too, although my face was crimson and my heart was beating faster.

“Trying to be more charitable – that’s the main thing for all of us, I think,” Archbishop O’Brien said, showing some charity after he had zinged me.

Just a few weeks later, I happened to exit the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen through a side door at the same time as the archbishop. He had just finished celebrating the Holy Thursday Mass. As we walked a few feet together, he asked me if I was married or single. When I said I was single, he noted that he knew that was the case because I’m a person who’s always smiling.

About a year later, at the end of the May 3, 2009 dedication liturgy for the new St. Ann Church in Grantsville, one of the owners of the nearby Newman Funeral Home surprised parishioners by giving their pastor a check for $18,000. The gift was the amount the parish had paid the funeral home for allowing the faith community to worship there after their former church was destroyed in a 2006 fire. The owner wanted to donate the money to the parish as a sign of his commitment to the religious community.

Thanking the donor for the gracious gesture, Father James Hannon turned to Archbishop O’Brien and joked that he would give him the check in the knowledge that the archbishop would certainly turn it over to the parish.

When the pastor sat down, Archbishop O’Brien solemnly arose from the presider’s chair and walked over to the lectern as if to continue the liturgy. Without saying a word, he picked up the check and walked back to his seat while smiling mischievously. Waves of laughter from the congregation built to a crescendo before the archbishop finally made a detour and handed the check to Father Hannon.

I’m going to miss Archbishop O’Brien’s good humor. More importantly, I’m going to miss his solid leadership, his model of Christian living and his sense of pastoral outreach. Archbishop O’Brien truly cared for the people he served. He had to make some tough calls during his tenure. He did what he thought was best to build up the Church of Baltimore.

God bless you, Archbishop O’Brien, as you begin a new phase in your ministry.

Click here for coverage of the archbishop’s appointment to Rome.


8/31 UPDATE: Jennifer Williams, my friend and colleague at The Catholic Review, has some of her own memories of Archbishop O’Brien’s humor posted here.

Archbishop O’Brien heading to Rome!

CR photo/Owen Sweeney III

Congratulations to Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien!  Pope Benedict XVI today appointed the archbishop as Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.  Click here to read The Catholic Review’s coverage of the announcement and click here to read about the archbishop’s deep impact locally, nationally and internationally.  A press conference is scheduled for 10 a.m. today at the Catholic Center in Baltimore.

I’ll have much more throughout the day!

UPDATE: Click here for some insights into Archbishop O’Brien’s sense of humor.

Archbishop O’Brien is award-winning columnist

Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien

Add award-winning columnist to Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien’s list of accomplishments.

During the 2011 Catholic Press Awards, held June 24 in Pittsburgh, the archbishop was awarded first place for the best regular column by a bishop or archbishop.

Archbishop O’Brien’s column, “Thoughts on Our Church,” is a regular feature in The Catholic Review. Same-sex marriage, Catholic education, vocations, pro-life concerns and immigration issues are among the many topics he has addressed in his popular column.

“Drawing upon personal experiences to illustrate his points, Archbishop O’Brien helps us see him as human,” the judges said. “That makes the lessons his columns convey even more powerful.”

Congratulations, Archbishop O’Brien!

They just keep going and going and…

At a dinner honoring religious women and men celebrating jubilee anniversaries, Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien greets Oblate Sister of Providence Mary Alice Chineworth – a 93-year-old nun celebrating 75 years in religious life. (CR Photo/George P. Matysek Jr.)

May 14 was a special day for religious women and men in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien celebrated a Mass at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, honoring those marking 25, 45, 50, 60, 65, 70, 75 and 80 years in religious life.  You can read about that special event here. Congratulations to all the jubilarians!  Thanks for your dedication and service to our community!

2011 Jubilarians:

25 Years
Sr. Mary Francis Altavilla, R.G.S.
Sr. Patricia Marie Barnette, R.G.S.
Sr. Teresa Leimbach, S.S.M.I.
Sr. Judith Murray, O.C.D.
Rev. Neville O’Donohue, S.M.

45 Years
Rev. Mother Christina Christie, A.S.S.P.

50 Years
Sr. Colette Ackerman, O.C.D.
Bro. James Bednar, F.S.C.
Sr. Mary Annette Beecham, O.S.P.
Sr. Eleanor Casey, D.C.
Sr. Catherine Francis Clemons, D.C.
Bro. Charles M. Cully, C.F.X.
Sr. Maureen Delahunt, D.C.
Sr. Frances Marie Demarco, R.S.M.
Sr. Andre Dembowski, R.S.M.
Bro. Phillip DePorter, F.S.C.
Sr. Helen M. Doherty, R.S.M.
Sr. Carol Durkin, D.C.
Sr. Mary Jane Elligan, R.G.S.
Bro. William Fealy, F.S.C.
Sr. Elizabeth Thorne Grant, A.S.S.P.
Sr. Mary Gilbart, D.C.
Sr. JoAnne Goecke, D.C.
Sr. Frances Haddow, R.S.M.
Bro. Eric Henderson, F.S.C.
Sr. Mary Francita Hobbs, S.S.N.D.
Sr. Marjorie Gallagher, S.N.D.
Sr. Miriam Jop, S.S.M.I.
Sr. Helen Marie Kling, D.C.
Sr. Mary Louise Kvech, S.S.N.D.
Sr. Kathleen Moore, R.G.S.
Sr. Virginia Muller, S.S.N.D.
Sr. Mary Aloysius Norman, S.S.N.D.
Sr. Maria Luz Ortiz, M.H.S.H.
Sr. Mary Margaret Pignone, S.N.D.
Sr. Mary Claudina Sanz, O.S.P.
Sr. Mary Anne Smith, R.S.M.
Sr. Mary Ian Stewart, S.S.N.D.
Sr. Alice Talone, C.B.S.
Sr. Mary Gabriel Walker, O.S.P.
Sr. Helen Wiegmann, S.S.J.
Sr. Dorothy Marie Young, S.S.N.D.
Sr. Mary Louise Zaworski, M.H.S.H.

60 Years
Sr. Mary Ellen Brodie, R.S.M.
Sr. Virginia Cotter, D.C.
Sr. Catherine Dolores Cress, S.N.D.
Sr. Mary Dicroce, S.N.D.
Sr. Rosemary Dilli, S.S.N.D.
Rev. John R. Donahue, S.J.
Sr. Kathleen Marie Engers, S.S.N.D.
Sr. Barbara Ann English, S.N.D.
Sr. Elaine Gentile, S.N.D.
Sr. Joanne Getzendanner, R.G.S.
Rev. Alban Harmon, C.P.
Sr. Mary Louise Herrmann, O.S.F.
Sr. Marie Carl Horn, S.S.N.D.
Sr. Mary Susanne Hughes, R.G.S.
Sr. Marion Agnes Jerzak, S.S.N.D.
Sr. Helen John, S.N.D.
Bro. Daniel Lynch, C.F.X.
Rev. Francis G. McManamin, S.J.
Sr. Doris Jean Miller, R.S.M.
Sr. Mary Eileen Morisroe, R.G.S.
Sr. Mary Lucia Quesada, O.S.P.
Sr. Mariel Ann Rafferty, M.H.S.H.
Sr. Cecilia Reilly, O.S.F.
Sr. Marthe Restrepo, L.S.P.
Sr. M. Jacinta Robson, R.S.M.
Sr. Carrie Schindler, M.H.S.H.
Sr. Jane Claire Simon, S.S.N.D.
Sr. Marilyn Spellman, S.U.S.C.
Sr. M. Delia Spitznagel, S.S.N.D.
Sr. Martha Starrett, O.P.
Sr. Clare Szlachetka, R.G.S.
Sr. Barbara Worn, S.N.D.
Sr. Mary Louise Zollars, D.C.

65 Years
Sr. Mary Jean Horne, D.C.
Sr. Francis Marie Lanasa, D.C.
Sr. Marie Veronica Maguire, S.N.D.
Sr. Regina Monahan, S.N.D.

70 Years
Sr. M. Aurelia Benedetto, R.S.M.
Sr. Angela Cool, D.C.
Sr. Margaret Gardner, O.S.F.
Sr. Naomi Grill, S.S.N.D.
Sr. Mary Xavier Linz, S.S.N.D.
Sr. Therese A. McMenamin, S.N.D.
Sr. Mary Eileen McNamara, O.C.D.
Sr. Marguerite Schaefer, S.N.D.
Sr. Frances Zeller, S.S.N.D.

75 Years
Sr. Mary Alice Chineworth, O.S.P.
Sr. Mary Helen Edelen, D.C.
Sr. Mary Lina Litvik, S.S.N.D.
Sr. Agnes Silvestro, D.C.
Sr. Edith Stricker, D.C.
Sr. M. Mark Walsh, R.S.M.
Sr. Beatrice Wise, D.C.
Sr. Marie Yetter, D.C.

80 Years
Sr. Bernita Hessling, S.S.N.D.
Sr. Bertha Robertson, D.C.

Dr. Nancy Grasmick’s retirement is a loss for Catholic schools

Dr. Nancy S. Grasmick, superintendent of Maryland public schools, meets with Dr. Ronald J. Valenti, former superintendent of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, in 2006. (CR file photo/Owen Sweeney III)

Today’s announcement that Dr. Nancy S. Grasmick is stepping down as the longtime superintendent of Maryland public schools may well be a loss for Catholic schools as much as it is for public ones.

During her 20-year tenure, Dr. Grasmick has been a consistent ally of the Catholic school system – a rarity in a nation where public and private systems often view one another with suspician.

With her support, Maryland’s private and parochial school athletic associations approved standards of competition for athletics, with the state sanctioning Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association events.

Dr. Grasmick’s department has long administered the state program that provides nonreligious textbooks in nonpublic schools. She also supported a plan that allows teachers in the Catholic school system to process their re-certification requirements through the archdiocesan superintendent’s office.

For the last several years, Dr. Grasmick has served on Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien’s Blue Ribbon Committee on Catholic Schools that has examined ways of strengthening Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Dr. Nancy S. Grasmick visited Archbishop Curley High School in Baltimore in 2006. (CR File/Owen Sweeny III)

I interviewed Dr. Grasmick in 2006 after she spent some time visiting Archbishop Curley High School. She was investigating the Baltimore City school to gain insights that might be applied to the reform of public high schools.

Dr. Grasmick told me that some of her counterparts in other parts of the country react with “pure shock” when they learn of her cooperation with private schools.

“In most states, it’s a very contentious relationship between the public schools and the nonpublic schools,” she said. “There’s no communication and little respect. It’s like a competition.”

The superintendent said she believes that education, whether offered in public or private schools, must benefit all children. 

For the good of education throughout the state, let’s hope Dr. Grasmick’s successor feels the same way.

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