Cardinal O’Malley tells priests to keep the faith despite the crisis facing the church

Mark Wahlberg and Cradinal Sean O'Malley

SEPTEMBER 20, 2018

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley acknowledged it’s a tough time to be a priest as he spoke to a record crowd at the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner Tuesday night in Boston.

Before introducing keynote speaker actor Mark Wahlberg, O’Malley made a point to give a pep talk to the clergy gathered in the room as the church deals with the ongoing sex abuse crisis.

“As you all know, the priesthood today is not what Bing Crosby portrayed in ‘Going My Way’ with the corniest line ever from Hollywood, ‘dial O for O’Malley,’ ” he said. “Your lives are not a romantic narrative, but the daily hard work of witness to our faith and your commitment to a calling and a way of life which is often very difficult and very difficult for many in our society to understand.”

“During your ministry, you have had to bear the stigma of priests and bishops who have failed you, often in the most disgraceful and appalling ways,” he said. “Tonight, with immense gratitude for your lives and your service, I join all those surrounding you here in paying tribute to your vocation, your ministry, and your witness to the presence of the Lord in our midst and I renew my pledge to be your support and your companion on this journey.”

The Celebration of the Priesthood dinner, which was held at the Seaport World Trade Center, raised $1.8 million to support the health care and retirement needs of Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Boston.

It was attended by 1,700 people, which was the largest turnout ever in the 10-year history of the dinner, according to archdiocese spokesman Terrence Donilon.

The annual event honors priests and raises money for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust, which finances medical, dental, and retirement benefits for the 590 priests in the Archdiocese of Boston. Over the years, the dinner has featured some high-profile speakers, including Roma Downey, star of the TV series “Touched by an Angel”; Timothy Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics; and former Boston police commissioner William B. Evans.

When introducing Wahlberg Tuesday night, O’Malley made a point to mention the actor’s tendency to get up extremely early every morning (Wahlberg recently revealed on social media that he typically rises at 2:30 a.m. and starts his day with “prayer time”).

 “Mark’s path in life is well documented from the streets of Dorchester to Hollywood,” O’Malley said. “As he has grown in his professional accomplishments, earning both Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations and becoming an accomplished film and television producer, he is also a person who is actively living his Catholic faith, beginning each day in conversation with God and reportedly at a time much earlier than me.”

Wahlberg then spoke to the crowd and announced that he was going to match the $50,000 donation that was made by an anonymous donor who attended the event.

By Emily Sweeney GLOBE STAFF