HUBERTUS — “Think pink” was the message Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan left with the nearly 1,400 people who came to the Basilica of the Shrine of Our Lady Help of Christians at Holy Hill Sunday for the first of two farewell Masses the archbishop was to celebrate as he prepares to leave to become archbishop of New York.
Like the vestments he wore on Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent, pink symbolizes a mixture of sadness and joy, a mixture of the purple penance of Lent and the white of Easter rejoicing, he told the overflowing crowd, about 400 of whom were in a downstairs chapel watching the Mass projected onto a large screen.
“I find myself in somewhat of a pink moment,” said the archbishop during his homily. “Yes, I admit a sense of excitement, a sense of happiness and honor and gratitude as I contemplate my new call to apostolic service as pastor, shepherd of the Archdiocese of New York; there’s the white. But I also readily admit to you this afternoon, feelings of loss, apprehension and sadness as I leave you, people I have learned to love and deeply appreciate for nearly seven years, and there is the purple.”
Noting that Laetare Sunday, the Latin word for Rejoice Sunday – is three weeks away from the “Super Bowl of rejoice Sundays, Easter,” Archbishop Dolan praised the wiseness of “Holy Mother Church who realizes that the somberness, the rigor, the penance of a long Lent can wear us down.
“So now that we are past the 50 yard line, she reminds us of the goal, the triumph of Easter,” he said referring to the rose colored vestments. “See how I have picked up all this football vocabulary in these past six and a half years in Wisconsin,” he said.
The archbishop thanked those in attendance for their presence but also their support during his time in Wisconsin. “I love you all very much. I thank you, I will miss you,” he said.
The turnout was amazing, according to Carmelite Fr. Fred Alexander, pastor of the Basilica of Holy Hill.
‘It really was a marvelous situation,” he said. “I’ve been at Holy Hill since 1988, off and on, and this was the second largest crowd I’ve ever experienced there, second to when the relics of St. Therese were there (in 1999).”
It’s not too bad being second to a doctor of the church, noted Fr. Alexander.
Calling the archbishop a “people person,” Fr. Alexander praised his pastoral approach. “He’s brilliant. He preaches using what we call picture words. There are some people who can preach and put you to sleep, but others, by the words they use, can create pictures,” he said, pointing to the archbishop’s description of himself as a “Pepto Bismol bottle” in the rose colored vestments.
“Not only did we all laugh, but we looked at the pink vestments and can visualize that,” said Fr. Alexander, explaining that the lesson will likely have a lasting impact.
Calling the event uplifting, Fr. Alexander said, “Our loss is New York’s gain.”
Alvina Kavanagh, a member of St. Alexander Parish, Milwaukee, came to bid the archbishop farewell because she feels a special closeness to him. She described the archbishop’s personality as much like her late brother’s, Fr. Ervin Mogilka.
“He was the same personality and I would loved to have had him here. I feel the archbishop has lifted the archdiocese, inspired young people and thought of everybody, the poor, the needy. He’s been there with us, not sitting up on a throne someplace. We appreciate everything he’s done. The people of New York are going to be getting the best.”
Hank and Lorraine Winter, members of Blessed Savior Parish, Milwaukee, have attended several of the archbishop’s Masses because “we care so much about him. He’s a people person,” said Lorraine, noting she was choked up in church at the prospect of his leaving. “We couldn’t have had a better archbishop,” she added.
Cathleen Clark, a member of St. Luke Parish, Brookfield, said she got to know the archbishop through the pages of the Catholic Herald.
“I had never seen the archbishop in person and I wanted to see him. I feel a special bond to him especially now that he is leaving,” she said, noting she attended the Mass with her nephew.
“He seems to be beloved no matter where he is. I have a friend whose brother was a priest in St. Louis who said they loved him there and hated to see him leave and now I’m sure everyone feels the same thing here. So you just hope he’s blessed by the Lord and does so well in New York. It’s kind of wonderful; we just wanted to see him because you don’t know what will happen in the future.”
Seeing the archbishop at Mass was a pleasant surprise for Oscar Morales and his nephew Ivan Corro. Members of St. Adalbert Church, Milwaukee, the family went to Holy Hill with out-of town-guests, but said it was special to be able to attend the Mass celebrated by Archbishop Dolan.