Cardinal Wuerl Celebrates Mass of Thanksgiving for Venerable Aloysius Schwartz
June 7, 2015
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Earlier this year, Pope Francis signed a decree that Monsignor Aloysius Schwartz, a missionary priest from Washington D.C., had lived a life of “heroic virtue,” and declared him as “Venerable.” Today, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church to honor Venerable Schwartz, the first Washingtonian to receive this distinction, which is a step in the process for sainthood in the Catholic Church. The cause for canonization is being promoted by the Archdiocese of Manila in the Philippines where Father Schwartz had served for many years, died, and is now buried.
“The news that one of our own who became a priest has been declared as “Venerable” is a great joy and inspiration,” said Cardinal Wuerl in his homily and provided some biographical background on Father Schwartz, who is said to have dreamt of being a missionary priest and serving the poor from the time he was a young boy. “That heartfelt desire was confirmed years later when, as a seminarian, he visited the shrine of the Virgin of the Poor in Banneux, Belgium, and he was inspired to dedicate his priesthood to the Virgin of the Poor and to serving the poor with Mary’s tender love,” continued the cardinal. Following his ordination to the priesthood in 1957, Father Schwartz went to the Diocese of Busan in South Korea, where there was extensive poverty and misery because of the war. “Many of the people Venerable Aloysius served in Korea lived in shacks, and so for many years he also lived in what he described as a hovel, with a tarpaper roof and mud walls,” explained the cardinal.
“It was with Gospel zeal that ‘Father Al,’ as he was affectionately known, then founded the Sisters of Mary and established programs that would provide care, education and hope for a brighter future to children who were orphaned, abandoned or otherwise impoverished. Later, he also founded the Brothers of Christ, who serve the poor and people with disabilities in South Korea. Venerable Aloysius’ legacy lives on today in Boystown and Girlstown programs that the Sisters of Mary operate in South Korea, the Philippines, Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala and Honduras, where they are educating more than 20,000 poor children. The sisters’ motto remains, ‘Let us serve the Lord with joy,’ and that joy permeates their work. Over the years, more than 100,000 children have graduated from those programs and gone on to a variety of successful careers after having once been street children,” the cardinal said.
Cardinal Wuerl quoted from a book of spirituality for the Sisters of Mary that Father Schwartz wrote, To Live Is Christ: “Christ not only gives the poor priority. He identifies with the poor and becomes one of them. Henceforth, whatever you do to the poor, you do to Christ. Whatever you give to the poor, you give to Christ.” The cardinal continued, “The priest noted that Christ calls all his disciples to follow the way of the cross. Monsignor Schwartz bore his own cross – terminal amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) – with joy, faith and perseverance, even helping to supervise the planning of a school for girls in Mexico when he was paralyzed and in a wheelchair.”
“Pope Francis often tells us to go out, meet people where they are – especially the poor and those on the margins of society – and accompany them. He urges us to walk with them and to help them, and ourselves, grow closer to Jesus. That is just what Venerable Aloysius Schwartz did. Like him, we can be missionary disciples of Jesus in today’s world, sharing his Good News by what we say and do. Where do we find the strength, the energy to do this wondrous work of being, each of us, a missionary disciple? At the same source, at the same table where Father Al encountered Jesus and learned to be his true witness. Today the Church tells us all over again that it is in the Eucharist – Holy Mass – where we personally experience our transformation into true missionary disciples,” said the cardinal as he concluded his homily.
Members of Venerable Schwartz’s family were in attendance at the Mass, as were several Sisters of Mary. At the end of the Mass, the cardinal blessed a statue of the Virgin of the Poor for the parish.
The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 95 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C., and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.