Edward Cardinal Egan’s signature achievement for vocations to the priesthood is St. John Fisher Seminary. Since its founding in 1989, nearly 100 men have been ordained who spent some time at Fisher during their priestly formation. On June 20, 2014, Cardinal Egan was the homilist at the Mass celebrating Fisher’s 25th anniversary. Excerpts from the homily that he gave that evening are contained below. It was one of his last official visits to the Diocese of Bridgeport.
The homily below was first published in my blog, “My iPhone and Fisher’s 25th Anniversary Celebration,” which can be found in my blog archives, dated July 1, 2014 (archived blogs can be found by clicking on the heading below my four latest posts).
Excerpts from Cardinal Egan’s homily at the Mass to Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of St. John Fisher Seminary (Friday evening, June 20, 2014: Assumption Parish, Westport, Conn.):
That Gospel reading (John 17:11b-19) is the high-priestly prayer of Jesus Christ to his seminarians at the Last Supper. And in that high-priestly prayer and exactly in that passage, you have the program for how to run a seminary.
It opens up with Jesus Christ announcing that he needs the Father in heaven to protect, guard and nurture the calling of his Apostles… Three times he begs the Father in heaven: ‘See to it the young men who are at the table with me will pursue the calling he has given them in holiness and grace’…
Jesus Christ wants the seminary to be a place where the calling is protected, guarded and nurtured by prayer, by study, and by the example of the priests who guide the seminarians just as the Lord was the example for his seminarians, the Apostles. And John Fisher Seminary does this magnificently… and it does it with devotion, exuberance, and with the great style of the Diocese of Bridgeport!
The second thing the Lord tells us about his seminary is that the seminarians need to know the Word of God and be able to teach it, whole and entire, nothing left out, nothing added… and I have never had any doubt that the Gospel is being preached at St. John Fisher!…
The third and final element in this high-priestly prayer is that seminarians are to know that they are to be consecrated…so that they can go out and consecrate and make holy the world…
Those are the three elements of the seminary of Jesus Christ…
There is an element in every seminary that is over and above the three elements I have already mentioned. The seminary has to teach future priests to be men of kindness, compassion and love…
And I believe that in addition to your wonderful faculty at St. John Fisher, you have another addition that you may not be aware of right now, and his name is Pope Francis… and I would like to think that the men who are in seminary now will learn from him; imitate him; be sure that kindness, compassion and love are part of their lives.
(The following article originally appeared in the June, 2014 edition of the Fairfield County Catholic).
St. John Fisher and the Church Triumphant
By Father Colin McKenna
(This was one of Cardinal Egan’s last official visits to the Diocese of Bridgeport)
On Friday evening, June 20 (2014), the sanctuary in Assumption Church in Westport was awash with brilliant shades of red. The Cardinal Emeritus of New York, Edward Egan, was looking splendid in his cardinal’s attire and Bishop Frank J. Caggiano was also resplendent in red vestments for the occasion, flanked by two newly ordained deacons who wore red vestments that matched the bishop. To top it off, the pastor of Assumption, Father Tom Thorne, had arranged two enormous bouquets of red roses for the celebration, one in front of the altar and one in front of the ambo. In total, there were over one-hundred fresh red roses helping to illuminate the sacred space.
Liturgical red was the color of the occasion because those gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the founding of St. John Fisher Seminary gathered first to celebrate the holy sacrifice of the Mass, with the liturgical prayers for the feast day of St. John Fisher, an English bishop who was martyred by King Henry VIII. The color red in the Church honors the martyrs but it is also the color of victory, and the tone set during the Mass was certainly triumphant. With over 50 priest concelebrants—many of whom had attended Fisher—and many more religious and laity in attendance, both Cardinal Egan and Bishop Caggiano spoke to the tremendous success that has been St. John Fisher Seminary. And Cardinal Egan even joked about looking forward to attending its 50th anniversary!
After the Mass, the celebration moved to the Inn at Longshore on Long Island Sound where many more were able to join the festivities. In total, about 400 people enjoyed a cocktail hour in perfect weather on the outdoor patio overlooking the water before moving inside to enjoy a three-course banquet. In addition to thanking Cardinal Egan for spearheading the Fisher Seminary, other honorees who have been pivotal to the success of Fisher included Phil and Judy DeFelice, David Harvey, Dr. James Long and Drs. John and Liane Pioli.
Father Robert Kinnally, the current rector of Fisher, served as master of ceremonies for the evening, where it was announced that in addition to his current duties as rector and director of formation, he has been named the new chancellor of the Diocese of Bridgeport. Bishop Caggiano joked that Father Kinnally is going to be “a very busy man!”
In a spirit of triumph, Father Kinnally acknowledged the hard work of vocation director Father Sam Kachuba. As it now stands, ten men are scheduled to enter formation at Fisher this coming September. To make his point even more dramatic, Father Kinnally asked all of the seminarians in attendance to stand up, and the twenty or so men who did so received a rousing round of applause.
One note of humorous controversy that has been circulating concerns the exact number of men who have attended Fisher and have gone on to be ordained priests for Bridgeport. Cardinal Egan poked fun at Bishop Caggiano, who once said the number was around 80 men. By Cardinal Egan’s accounting, the number is 95, including our most recently ordained. As if to settle the matter, Father Kinnally said at one point during the festivities that “more than one-million men have come through Fisher and have been ordained priests for Bridgeport!”
Whatever the exact number, soon more than one hundred men will have attended Fisher and will have been ordained priests for the Diocese of Bridgeport. In this day and age, when Catholics and others frequently wonder where future Catholic priests will come from, the Diocese of Bridgeport has found the answer: St. John Fisher Seminary.
(Cardinal Egan’s last official visit to the Diocese of Bridgeport was on February 8, 2015, to celebrate Msgr. Bill Scheyd’s 50th anniversary as a priest. The following article appeared online at www.bridgeportdiocese.com).
50 Years of Thanksgiving | February 09, 2015 •
By Father Colin McKenna
NEW CANAAN—February 10, 1965, was a cold, rainy, snowy and sleeting day.
Deacon Bill Scheyd was worried that he might not make it to his ordination Mass at St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport. His car was slipping and sliding as he made his way to become a priest, but he made it, and the diocese has been greatly blessed ever since.
On Sunday, February 8, at St. Aloysius Church in New Canaan, Msgr. Bill Scheyd celebrated his 50th anniversary Mass as a priest, to the great joy of hundreds of people in attendance, including clergy, religious, family, friends and parishioners.
The church was packed for the regularly scheduled 11:30 am Mass that served as the anniversary liturgy, but this was no ordinary Sunday parish Mass. In attendance were 13 concelebrating priests; 3 choirs; 6 altar-servers; 2 deacons; 1 Cardinal; 1 Bishop; a harpist, a percussionist and a horn section. This was grand liturgy!
In his remarks before the final blessing, Cardinal Egan said, “In Msgr. Scheyd we have all been blessed with a great priest.” In response, the entire congregation stood and gave Msgr. Scheyd a lengthy standing ovation.
Bishop Caggiano explained to the congregation that when he first arrived in the diocese, Msgr. Scheyd gently took him aside and said, “Bishop, whatever you need, I’m here to help you.” This was an assurance that gave the newly minted Bishop of Bridgeport great comfort.
Msgr. William Joseph Scheyd, born and raised in Bridgeport, has been Vicar General for four successive bishops in the Diocese of Bridgeport. Cardinal Egan mused that such a feat must be some kind of record.
When he was thirteen years old, Bill Scheyd was among the throngs of Catholic school-children who greeted the first Bishop of Bridgeport, Lawrence J. Shehan, at the Bridgeport train station. This was 1953, when the Diocese of Bridgeport was formed from the Archdiocese of Hartford.
Msgr. Scheyd’s 50 years as a priest have nearly spanned the life of the diocese. Cardinal Egan quipped that we should all mark our calendars now for Msgr.’s 75th anniversary celebration, to be held in 2040. Msgr. Scheyd replied that he would be delighted to have the Cardinal attend his 75th!
During his homily, Msgr. Scheyd partly attributed his lengthy career and perseverance to genetics. “My father worked in the same company for 46 years,’ he said. In truth, Msgr. stated, ‘Without Jesus Christ we can do nothing.” He explained that this Mass was an act of thanksgiving to God.
“I am grateful to God,” Msgr. said, adding that he is also grateful to all who have helped him serve 50 years as a priest, many of whom were present.
“Trying to imitate Jesus Christ is a great challenge,” he said. “You all have been for me the strength and support which has brought me to this day.” He also thanked his special and powerful patron, St. Joseph (from whom he received his middle name).
After the Mass, all were invited to a reception in the church hall where a beautiful cake was inscribed with a message that summed up the day: “50 and counting! Thank you!”
What return can I make to the Lord for all His goodness to me? I will raise up the cup of salvation and call on the Name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people. (Psalm 116: 12-14)
May Edward Cardinal Egan Rest in Peace.