Excerpted from my address at the Granite Links Golf Course Gala Celebration on April 24, 2016 for students at Elizabeth Ann Seton Girls Catholic High School in Dorchester, Boston.
Sometimes we can be our own worst critics! I can't tell you how often I've heard people say that fewer Catholics attend Church anymore. People don't care anymore. But it's often the same people that don't go to Mass who say that. If 8 people had a protest rally against the Church, the police or something against family values, every media outlet in the city would be jumping all over it. We also hear quite a bit that our children aren't prepared educationally for the future.
A few weekends ago, many Boston Churches were filled with faithful Catholics. From St. Brendan's Church in Dorchester where we saw a great priest Fr. Michael Drea be installed as Pastor of both St. Ann's and St. Brendan's, with a lot of young parents and children looking on, to The Cathedral for the Armenian Remembrance, to St. Francis Church in Charlestown, celebrated by another extraordinary priest Fr. Dan Mahoney for the moving funeral Mass for our dear friend Brian Hingston, to the Gala to support Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic High School in Dorchester. What a demonstration of love and support. You couldn't feel prouder.
Thank you for giving me this honor tonight. But more importantly, thank you to the dedicated administrators, teachers and students for being part of a very important Boston tradition, Catholic education. Catholic schools for many years have been the rock solid foundation in the building of strong families and communities in our city and nation. Through the generosity of benefactors and the sacrifice of so many dedicated parents, Catholic schools have been able to help develop outstanding citizens, many from needy and working class families. Which immediately brings me to a little personal experience to share with the young people here tonight. An experience which has had a sustaining impact on me all these years.
When we were kids growing up in South Boston, families had to work hard just to get by. We took no vacations, had no cars, and many of our parents worked in stressful and even dangerous jobs. They worked on the docks; in wool houses, factories and department stores; cleaned downtown office buildings all night; and were domestics and laborers. The hours were long, but our parents always found time for family, faith and friends. It's not always easy to maintain these three very important qualities. You have to work hard at it. Every person will face unexpected challenges in life, like sickness, loss of a job, and death. But with family, faith in God and determination, you can achieve happiness.
I witnessed the sacrifices of so many wonderful parents and neighbors who experienced serious injury, sickness and separation, but never gave up on themselves or placing their trust in God. You may not hear this from national media personalities, Hollywood movie stars, or even U.S. Presidents, but believe me, it's your key to a happy future. And remember in life, it's not where you've been, it's about where you're going. I have seen a lot of pain and suffering in life, but I have also witnessed heroic comebacks. These early setbacks inspired many people to happiness and success. Many here tonight, including our own Mayor Martin Walsh, who we greatly admire for his courage and decency, along with my other friend, financial consultant Bill Kelly. I am deeply involved and committed nationally to the great potential of adult stem cell research. Tonight, I was pleased to hear our mayor talk about new medical advances to be developed in Boston, which brought back memories of my conversation with Pope Benedict XVI at the First International Adult Stem Cell Conference at the Vatican.
Success is not measured in political or financial achievement alone, but also in the respect that people have for you. Elizabeth Ann Seton Girls High School in Dorchester is leading the way in educating and developing outstanding citizens. The staff has earned our respect and the students deserve our support. A word of encouragement. When I was at the Vatican, or traveling throughout the world with Pope John Paul II, I often heard him say publicly and to me personally, "A faithful Catholic is a good citizen." Now more than ever in this deeply troubled world, America needs more informed and dedicated citizens. And remember, they will start learning these lessons and values in their homes from parents, in good schools like Elizabeth Ann Seton High School and so many other Catholic and public schools, with the help of concerned citizens like yourself.
Lastly, sitting at a kitchen table having a cup of tea with Mother Teresa in Dorchester one day, planning about how we can build housing for unwed mothers and their little children, she said to Kathy and me, "This is a good community with good people to help children." It sure was how Mother Teresa operated. People like you here tonight and your political leaders like dedicated State Senator Linda Forry, our outstanding Congressman Stephen Lynch, hard-working Boston City Councilor Frank Baker and Representative Dan Hunt make sure of that.
Faith, Hope and Medical Technology is still strong in Boston.
Ray Flynn is the former Mayor of Boston, U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican and Senior Advisor to Stemtech International.