Cardinal Theodore McCarrick
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick

As he marked his 60th anniversary as a priest with his fellow jubilarians and brother priests of the Archdiocese of Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick praised their faithful service.

The archbishop emeritus of Washington – who led the archdiocese from 2001 until his 2006 retirement – spoke at a May 2 banquet for the jubilarian priests, after concelebrating a Mass with Cardinal Donald Wuerl in their honor.

“There are saints in this crowd,” said Cardinal McCarrick. “…When we were together for God’s people, I could sense the holiness and devotion here, (your) willingness to serve God’s people and the pope.”

He added, “Never lose that, dear brothers, that desire to be holy men, to be in love with the Lord, in love with your people, in love with the Church.”

After he concluded his remarks, the priests at the Pastoral Center dining room gave him a standing ovation.

Pope (now Saint) John Paul II appointed then-Newark Archbishop McCarrick as archbishop of Washington in November 2000, and he was installed at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in January 2001. Seven weeks after his installation, the pope elevated Cardinal McCarrick to the College of Cardinals.

In his years as the archbishop of Washington, Cardinal McCarrick opened the Redemptoris Mater Seminary for diocesan missionary priests and joined local and national leaders in supporting the 2004 establishment of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program. He also launched the Forward in Faith capital campaign that raised $185 million in pledges, and he initiated plans for Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park, which opened in 2007 and features an innovative corporate work study program for students from low-income families.

Cardinal McCarrick, a native of New York City, was ordained as a priest of the Archdiocese of New York on May 31, 1958. He earned a doctorate in sociology from The Catholic University of America, where he served as an assistant chaplain, as dean of students and director of development. He was named president of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico in Ponce in 1965.

Later back in New York, Msgr. McCarrick served as priest secretary for Cardinal Terence Cooke. In 1977, Pope (now Blessed) Paul VI appointed Msgr. McCarrick as an auxiliary bishop of New York, and four years later, Pope John Paul II named Bishop McCarrick as the founding bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey. From 1986 until his appointment to the Archdiocese of Washington, he served as the archbishop of Newark, where he hosted Pope John Paul II’s visit to that city in 1995.

Cardinal McCarrick has visited many nations as a human rights advocate and to survey humanitarian needs, including trips to China, Cuba, Iran and Rwanda. In 2000, President Bill Clinton presented him with the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights.

The cardinal served for many years on the board for Catholic Relief Services and continues to serve on its foundation board. He has traveled around the world to areas affected by natural disasters, including to Louisiana and Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, to support prayer and financial support for people in need.

Cardinal McCarrick, who turns 88 on July 7, now lives at the Jeanne Jugan Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Washington. In a recent interview there, he said one of his greatest blessings in his 60 years as a priest has been the opportunity to serve people and help them “get to know the Lord.”

He praised the “example for all of us” of Pope Francis – “his love of the Lord, and his love for the people. It’s so obvious, and a beautiful witness.”

The Little Sisters “have been good to me,” the cardinal said, adding that he has also been blessed by the friendship of the men of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, who serve at St. John Baptist de la Salle Parish in Chillum, where they have a house of formation, and they also staff St. James Parish in Mount Rainier, and members of that order have served as the cardinal’s priest secretaries during his retirement.

Cardinal McCarrick praised the example of priests who inspired him to seek the priesthood, and the priests he “encountered along the way” in his 60 years as a priest and bishop, whom he described as “holy men, dedicated men, talented men who gave their talents to the Lord and the Church.”

He said his vocation has also been blessed by the example of laypeople facing challenges with perseverance and faith, and making him feel like a part of their family. “You learn so much from them,” he said. “It’s always an enormous blessing to see the lives and goodness of people.”