I said in a previous post that this Saturday would be a day you can say "you were there" and I think I was right. To quote a great Christian Brother, Bro. Ernest Miller, FSC, "Mercy!"
This weekend Cardinal Lacroix '75 made his first visit home since being created a cardinal last month by Pope Francis. We spent weeks planning for this day and really got down to business on Wednesday afternoon. As soon as Grandparent's Day ended on Wednesday we switched focus to Cardinal Lacroix's Mass at St. Anthony's Parish and the ensuing reception at Trinity High School. So many students helped with the gym set-up and helped make it look so nice. Mrs. Haradon P'16 donated all the linens and Saint Anselm College let us use a huge riser so our choir could sing from our stage. Mr. Sheehan '79 of our math department and I were inseparable as we worked on all the details. Fr. Richard Dion, our chaplain, was coordinating the Mass and always checking in with new ideas for the reception. On Friday afternoon, Fr. Richard and I drove around Manchester installing lawn signs welcoming Cardinal Lacroix back to Manchester.
Cardinal Lacroix celebrated the 4pm Mass at St. Anthony's, his boyhood parish, with over 900 people in attendance. Bishops Libasci and McCormack, Abbot Mark Cooper, OSB, and over a dozen priests con-celebrated the two hour Mass. During the gospel I noticed a missed call on my work cell phone from the caterer and I knew that couldn't be good. Mr. Sheehan and I stepped out of the church to call her back and she mentioned that they could not get the ovens working in our kitchen. Mr. Sheehan graciously drove over to the school and got them started right up. However, we missed Cardinal Lacroix's homily in the process which I heard was amazing. Oh well.
Following Communion, Fr. Richard reminded the cardinal that he was in his old neighborhood and many people still remember him fondly. He then invited up a number of people from the congregation, people from the neighborhood, to come up and greet Cardinal Lacroix and welcome him home. The most poignant was his old babysitter who was in a wheelchair and the cardinal went down to her to hug her. Fr. Richard said that one person wanted to be there but couldn't - his senior prom date! Fr. Richard pointed out that she is now a Baptist minster and wasn't sure whose fault that was. The church was roaring. Fr. Richard then presented a red biretta and zucchetto and invited the cardinal to hang it on a shelf that was put up in the church so Cardinal Lacroix would always have a place to hang his hat. That was incredibly special and moving.
Following Mass, the celebration moved over to Trinity. I had lined up dozens and dozens of students (with promises of extra credit and chicken tenders!) to stand outside Trinity and go crazy when the cardinal pulled up. Despite the freezing weather, the kids came through and greeted the cardinal in a frenzy. We had given him a Trinity hockey jersey with Lacroix on the back and he emerged from his car holding it up saying, "I am a Pioneer!" We then took a group picture with him.
Once inside the school, he was led into the gym by bagpipers. The place was packed with over 500 people from all walks of life. People then ate while the Trinity choir sang and the cardinal worked the room. There was then a series of speakers including our principal Mr. Mailloux '72. Mr. Mailloux accepted a cross that was made by Yvan Lacroix '76 and blessed by Cardinal Lacroix. Yvan also made one for Pope Francis, St. Anthony's, and Cardinal Lacroix.
Following the event a number of us cleaned up while the cardinal took pictures and chatted with people. A ton of our students took selflies with him and one boy even had the cardinal help with a prom-proposal (more on that in a later post).
Since I had to lock up, I stayed to the end and when all was said and done, it was just me, some parents, and a group of students. We had some precious few minutes with the cardinal and he chatted with the kids, showed up his ring, his pectoral cross, etc. It was wonderful. He told me that he wants to come back soon and be there with all the of the students. After locking up I treated the last remaining students to ice cream at the Puritan.
This was indeed a magical day and there are too many people to thank for helping to make it possible. Life is good. God is good.
The Union Leader had some great coverage here, here, and here.