Sunday, March 09, 2008

Cardinal O'Connell's Descendants Oppose BC and Archdiocese's Attempt to Move Remains

The St. John's Seminary land Boston College purchased in 2004 from the Archdiocese of Boston contains the grave of William Cardinal O'Connell inside the mausoleum of the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin. As part of the purchase and sale agreement, the Archdiocese agreed to move Cardinal O'Connell's remains, but that has yet to be done -- and Cardinal O'Connell's descendants mostly oppose the idea, according to great-nephew Edward Kirk, as quoted in today's Boston Globe:

The family, or at least its most vocal members, wants the body to stay where it is; BC wants it removed; and the archdiocese is trying simultaneously to honor the memory of one of its most powerful leaders, keep its promise to BC, and respect the family's wishes.

The archdiocese declined to make Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley available for comment and refused to answer any questions, including why it agreed to exhume O'Connell's body, what role the wishes of family members or the late cardinal will play, or what the next step is...

O'Connell reiterated his wishes in his will, using a different name for the chapel, but writing, "I direct that my funeral obsequies be as simple as possible and that I be buried in the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin on the grounds of St. John's Seminary, Brighton, Massachusetts."

Another descendent of Cardinal O'Connell is Paul Kirk, Jr., Edward Kirk's brother and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee:
[Paul] Kirk made it clear that his family is prepared to contest any attempt to move the body in probate court, which has jurisdiction over disinterments.

"The family has talked about this, and it's not absolutely unanimous, but there's an obvious consensus that the thing everybody wishes for is that the cardinal remain where he now lies," Paul Kirk said.

Neither BC's ten-year institutional master plan nor their long-range 20-50 year plan show any new building to be constructed at the site, hence BC's expansion plans are unlikely to be impacted if they are unable to have the grave moved. (An earlier plan placed a proposed undergraduate dormitory nearby, but the ten-year IMPNF filed with the city of Boston in December 2007 moved the dormitory further away.)

Graves of Sulpician Priests Redivivus: "Take Your Dead With You"

As I wrote in an earlier post, there used to be graves of Sulpician priests on the land, but those graves may have been exhumed and moved in 1928 -- although the documentation on the matter appears to be unclear, according to a letter written by the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

At the "walking tour" of the St. John's Seminary land, organized by the BC Neighbors Forum in April 2007, Thomas Keady, Jr., Vice President for Governmental and Community Affairs, told a story about the link between those Sulpician priests' graves and Cardinal O'Connell. We'll see how good my memory is of the story...

When the young O'Connell wanted to become a priest, the Archdiocese's St. John's Seminary was run by Sulpician priests who denied him entrance; O'Connell proceeded to be trained elsewhere. Soon after Cardinal O'Connell was named Archbishop of Boston he got rid of the Sulpician priests running the seminary, and put diocesan priests in their place. Upon doing so, O'Connell told the Sulpician priests to "take your dead with you," or something like that.

The problem with that story, however, is one of timing. Cardinal O'Connell was Archbishop of Boston for 1907-1944, but the possible records of the disinterrment of those Sulpician graves, and subsequent reburial either at Evergreen Cemetery in Brighton or in Maryland (the U.S. center for the order) suggests it occurred in 1928, according to Brona Simon in the MHC letter. The history of St. John's Seminary also states that the Sulpician priests were replaced by Archdiocesan priests in 1911. Why Cardinal O'Connell waited 17 years after replacing the Sulpicians before driving out their predecessors' graves doesn't make much sense if the story retold by Keady is accurate.

Boston Globe article.
Boston Herald article (via AP, via "information from Boston Globe").
WBZ story.

Update: added link to St. John's Seminary history and date 1911; modified last sentence to 17 years after replacing priests, not 21 years after being named archbishop.

No comments: