CHARLESTON — In preparation for the Advent season, many area Catholics did their part to renew their hearts and minds by attending the annual mission for the parishes of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and St. Mary of the Annunciation Nov. 29-Dec. 3.
The guest speaker for the week’s event was no stranger to the cathedral, and the decision to invite him was easily made, according to Msgr. Joseph R. Roth, pastor.
“I have been close friends with Father (Edmund) McCaffrey for 25 years,” Msgr. Roth said. “He is a stimulating speaker, and he truly exemplifies everything that a man of God should be.”
The recently retired Father McCaffrey, a priest with the Diocese of Charleston, has made quite a mark in the church over the years. He helped found St. Michael Church in Garden City and the Institute of Religious Life in Chicago.
Since retirement McCaffrey has done everything but slow down.
“I don’t think that a priest should ever retire,” said Father McCaffrey. “When a man gives himself to God it should never end with a retirement.”
He spends his time traveling, giving retreats and parish missions all over the country.
“I have been to California, Tucson (Ariz.), Kentucky, and North and South Carolina to name a few,” he said. “It has all been very fulfilling work.”
McCaffrey’s theme for the week’s mission, which was a combination of daily masses and evening talks, was “To become holy and go to heaven” a topic near and dear to his heart.
“I saw this theme played out in the life of Mother Teresa, a friend of mine for 26 years,” he said. “When she was considering opening a convent she would request that a weekly confession time was available for all of the nuns. If it weren’t then she wouldn’t start the convent. She truly understood what it meant to live a holy life.”
The topics that Father McCaffrey covered in his talks were the holy Eucharist, Mass, adoration, the Blessed Mother, the Holy Rosary, and devotion to the angels.
The daily Masses covered “snippets” of information, which were discussed in more detail in the evening, Father McCaffrey explained.
“It is so important that we understand the role that the Blessed Mother plays as a means to go to heaven,” he said.
One of the important features of the week was a penitential service on Dec. 2. Father McCaffrey said that the size of the crowd was truly a surprise, and Msgr. Roth echoed that sentiment.
“We had a much bigger crowd than we had expected,” Msgr. Roth said. “We had eight priests there that night and we heard confessions for two straight hours.”
Father McCaffrey said that the turnout is a testimony to the week’s success.
“My goal for the week was to see the parishioners become altar lovers,” he said. “The confession crowd tells a story of what was accomplished.”
For Betty Hendricks of Charleston, the mission was exactly what she hoped it would be.
“I found that Father McCaffrey’s talks were what I needed,” she said. “I was very impressed. His talks were very encouraging and insightful.”