2023 Homily in Canton 

at St. John’s Church at St. Oscar Romero Parish


Father Robert Connors

“…To get a broader perspective of their many ministries, Sr. Marion Batho loaned me some resources, including a history of the first 70 years entitled, “Just Passing Through”. That was a perfect help because I found out that St. James in Haverhill was the fifth school that opened in 1887. That is MY elementary school on Harrison Avenue. Many of us know that teaching was a lot different then. The sisters had 40, 50 or more students per class. How did they do it? Those of us with experience know – great control and expectation. You may have acted up one day, but not the next day. The other silly memory I have is that the sisters were old. Of course, when you’re 7 or 8, every adult is old; I realize now that often some of the sisters were probably in their early 20s, just beginning a teaching ministry”


Sisters, associates, agrégées, and partners in mission gather at the church service.

“For all of us who have benefited from their service, we honor them today and pray for every sister – living and dead – that planted seeds of learning and faith in so many diverse ways for so many years. Grounded in their own faith, they worked for the faith.”

“I think one reason why we have so many […] Catholics in name only, is because being a faithful, active disciple of Jesus is a lot of work. Sadly, our faith life, like so many other aspects of our lives, weakens if we don’t work at it. The challenge is HOW to keep our relationship with God growing. One way offered by the Church are through the liturgical seasons. E.g., Advent and Lent challenge us to repent, reconcile and renew our relationship with the Lord. All the major feasts focus our belief, and build up our faith through worship. This weekend we are in the middle of three of those major feasts. Last week, the powerful Pentecost moment and the coming of the Spirit upon the disciples; next week, Corpus Christi, celebrating the greatest on-going gift of Jesus – his Body and Blood in the Real Presence of the Eucharist; and this week, The Holy Trinity, which the Catechism tells us is “the central mystery of Christian faith and life” One God, Three Persons. Three distinct persons working together in a community of faith, in perfect love, and perfect UNITY.” 

Brother Robert Connors giving communion.

“Simply put, Christians believe that God is LOVE and that the purpose of creation is sharing that love. Coincidently, the theme for the Sisters’ anniversary year is A Unifying Love flares. This is a perfect description of the Trinity, which was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever the source of our existence, our hope, our destiny. We rely on the Spirit constantly renewing the face of the earth.

“We may be celebrating 150 years of their presence in Boston, but the Congregation began much earlier, going back to 1650 when the Bishop of LePuy France gave his blessing to the “Little Design” as he referred to the new group. By 1778, Mother St. Jeanne Fontbonne had established 240 communities (note: her leadership of the Sisters began at 26 years old!). In terms of their moving to America, I found it interesting that it was, not a bishop, not a priest, not even a member of the Congregation, but a lay woman, catalyst, and benefactor, who encouraged sending women to America, specifically to St. Louis, Missouri.”

“Was the Spirit working? Absolutely. These sisters departed in 1836 for their new ministry on the feast of the Annunciation – a perfect “beginning” moment. Their mission continued from St. Louis to Philadelphia, to New York to Boston 150 years ago, in 1873, invited by the pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, Jamaica Plain. Four sisters opened a school with 200 girl students. 200!!! From St. Thomas to So. Boston, to Stoughton, to Amesbury, to St. James Parish in Haverhill in 1887. And the Unifying Love continued to flare, for by 1917, 400 sisters were teaching in 24 schools.”

St. Thomas, one of the many schools the sisters taught at.

“One of the special schools was here at St. John’s in Canton, which began with the invitation in 1901 and the school opening in 1902. The history records the major renovation of a military school building on the 13 acres behind the church.” 

“A year later, in 1902, a fine structure was ready for use-a three-story and a half edifice, surrounded on all sides by broad verandas; designed with every up-to-date appliance in lighting, heating, ventilation, and sanitation; equipped with a beautiful chapel, a commodious Novitiate proper, dormitories for the Novices, cells for the Professed Sisters, community room, classrooms, laundry, and kitchen. [Thank God, for lights, heat, sanitation, a commodious Novitiate and cells? …For the professed sisters! Interesting choice of words….]

“So, what does this feast day mean for us? Based on today’s Scriptures, this feast focuses our attention on God’s self-revelation as loving and deeply involved with humanity from the moment of human consciousness. More specifically, this feast invites us to contemplate the depth of God’s love and God’s desire to draw all into divine life. It celebrates the love of God to create us, the sacrifice of the Son to redeem us, and the gift of the Spirit to inspire us.

“When Jesus gave his Church the great commandment to “love one another as I have loved you” he did not command us to be comfortable. He commanded us to be like him: to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves. The charge was not given for a static church, but one that is ever evolving, ever growing, ever being formed anew.

“This past week, the Spirit was alive and well. I read an article which offered a timely reflection to commemorate the Sister’s ministry. The author wrote, “The entry into faith takes place most often by the impact of one soul upon another. An encounter with the heroic generosity and deep faith of a religious person is the most striking testimony to the truth of the Gospel. The spiritual vibrancy of persons who have intense faith, their generosity and full attention to the souls around them—these are more convincing arguments for the truth of Jesus Christ than any intelligent words. Those who give up everything for God have always been the most powerful proof for the truth of Christ as a personal presence.

“God bless you all.