Democrat Photo by Fred Stabbert III
CARDINAL EDWARD EGAN, center left, performs a reading during the Celebration of Vespers last Thursday at St. Peters Church in Liberty. Joining Cardinal Egan on the altar are Deacon John Riley, left, and Monsignor Edward Straub, pastor of St. Peters in Liberty, right.
Cardinal Makes Friends
In Sullivan County
By Fred Stabbert III
LIBERTY June 12, 2001 As subtle as a sledgehammer. That is how Cardinal Edward Egan defines his love of the Catholic Church.
Whether visiting in Rome, praying in St. Patricks Cathedral, recruiting new priests or making a Vicariate Visit to St. Peters Church in Liberty, Cardinal Egan loves to bear witness to the Catholic faith and repeat those stories for all to hear.
When I was flying to Rome recently, one of the stewards asked me to sign his breviary [daily prayer book]. He told me that he prayed every day for his family, his wife, and his children, Cardinal Egan said. Just in case everyone didnt hear him, I said, You pray every day for your family, your wife and your children loud enough so everyone on the plane could hear.
A Man with a Message
In his first visit to Sullivan County since being ordained Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Edward Egan extolled the virtues of faith and beseeched the congregation to lead by example.
He laid his large hand on the shoulder of an altar boy and asked, When do you think Ill be ordaining you?
Be subtle, he said, poking fun at his own direct recruitment method. Ive never had an unhappy day in the priesthood.
Thats 8,687 days to be exact. Ordained in December, 1957, the Chicago native was made a Bishop in 1985 and ordained His Eminence Edward Cardinal Egan, Archbishop of New York last year to replace the late Cardinal John J. OConnor.
Parents are the real educators, he said. My father was no holy Joe but he took me and my family to church every Sunday. They teach us the real lessons.
When Jerry McMurrer of St. Marys Church in Obernburg asked about Precanna, Cardinal Egan repeated McMurrers name and church several times.
Is that enough of a commercial, Jerry? Cardinal Egan joked.
Precanna is a Catholic class for engaged couples which teaches about faith and allows couples to know each other better.
Cardinal Egan said he believes todays couples may focus too much on the celebration of a wedding and not enough on the ceremony.
Even my sister had a tough time picking out her wedding dress. Im in reality, too, Cardinal Egan said.
Dressed in a bright red robe and skull cap, the six-foot-three-inch Cardinal began his day in Liberty by meeting with priests and deacons representing all 21 of Sullivan Countys Catholic Churches.
Hes on the right track, The Rev. Robert Nee, O.F.M. of St. Georges and St. Francis, said. He talked for an hour-and-a-half about how we can improve our church.
Following the closed door meeting, Cardinal Egan led a Celebration of the Vespers.
There are 413 parishes in the Archdiocese of New York, the Cardinal said. And I define a parish as a community of faith gathering around an altar to become holy so they may bring their faith to reality and holiness to the Lord and our God.
Speaking to a packed church, Cardinal Egan said, We people who believe can embrace the faith with our minds and hearts.
And we believe some pretty outrageous things, he continued. We believe every human being each and every one is fashioned after the image of God. Every human being is a mirror held up to divinity.
The 69-year-old Cardinal was adept at becoming one with the congregation. He spoke to Sister Kevin John Shields, who sat in the first pew.
She was one of my toughest teachers, werent you, sister? he said. And I remember dear Father Edward Greene and his splendid lunches.
The Franciscans still have a great presence in Sullivan County, he said.
And he also addressed Monsignor Edward Straub of St. Peters in Liberty.
It looks like you raised the roof since the last time I was here, Cardinal Egan joked, referring to the large-scale renovations the church undertook to restore the church to its original splendor.
And what if you wanted to be more holy?
Cardinal Egan said it was easy.
It means five things, he said. Being ferociously just, compassionate of heart, truthful, having cleanness of heart and having conversations with God.
The reality is our God is ever-ready to converse with us. We should do likewise, he said.