- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 21, 2014

Past and present leaders of the Archdiocese of Washington joined Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl on Sunday as he celebrated the archdiocese’s 75th anniversary, calling on the area’s faithful to be thankful for the past but also hopeful about the future.

The anniversary Mass, held at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Northwest, was the culmination of a year’s worth of celebration and recognition of the diamond jubilee.

“The celebration of the archdiocese is not confined to looking back,” Cardinal Wuerl, the current archbishop, told parishioners. “It gives us an opportunity to look forward. We can always do more but be grateful for what came before us.”

The archdiocese, as well as Catholicism in America, has its roots in colonial Maryland. In 1634, Jesuit Father Andrew White celebrated the first Mass in the 13 original colonies on St. Clement’s Island in St. Mary’s County.

Though the Catholic colonists struggled for their religious freedom, throughout the next century the faith prospered.

Washington was originally part of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the first in the newly independent U.S., but Pope Pius XII in 1939 split the archdiocese. Today its membership totals more than 620,000 and includes 95 Catholic schools, 38 locations for Spanish-speaking Masses and is one of the largest charitable providers in the area.

But Cardinal Wuerl said the history of the archdiocese extends back much farther than early America; it goes back to ancient Jerusalem, where Jesus Christ called his apostles to do his work.

“Our journey of faith has been a long one,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “From Jerusalem to Rome to England to Baltimore to this cathedral. We are called to be in our lives this manifestation of the Lord.”

Among the anniversary events this year was the convening of the first Archdiocesan Synod, a meeting of roughly 200 people — from archdiocese leaders to laywomen, laymen, deacons and priests — to discuss the more than 15,000 suggestions and recommendations from archdiocese members.

Though some of the guidance from the synod is spiritual, Cardinal Wuerl said, the “outcome of the synod is tangible.”

“The synod is an affirmation of the past 75 years of spiritual and pastoral life,” he said. “Today we stand on the foundation of the faith life of the past 75 years.”

Along with the synod, the anniversary was marked this year by two masses held by Cardinal Wuerl at historic sites in Southern Maryland, as well as a new “Catholic Impact 2014” publication, which highlighted the charitable work of the archdiocese in the D.C. area.

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, participated in Sunday’s mass. Reflecting back on his time with the archdiocese, he applauded Cardinal Wuerl’s work and “pastoral spirit.”

“It’s been an extraordinary gift to the archdiocese,” Cardinal McCarrick said. “This archbishop brought the church of Washington into full flowering.”

For his part, Cardinal Wuerl said 75 years might not seem like a long time when compared to the long history and future of the church, but he said it was important to remember we are part of “a great pilgrimage with many markers along the way.”

“The Holy Spirit is working in our age,” he said, “but there is still much to do.”

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