Sometimes first impressions are the truest. The day before my announcement as Archbishop of Baltimore, I arrived at 408 N. Charles Street and rang the doorbell at what was to be my new residence. I don’t mind telling you that it was an overwhelming feeling waiting for that door to be opened. Though I had resolved to trust in the Lord and His grace, I naturally wondered what I might be walking into.
The man who opened the door was Msgr. Arthur Valenzano. He smiled, greeted me warmly and helped me with my luggage. He put me immediately at ease and made me and my priest secretary, Father Marcello, feel right at home. Before long we were talking, trading stories, and enjoying one another’s humor, almost as if we had known each other for many years.
If he were here watching me write this column, there is high likelihood Monsignor would ask me to stop. But he’s not here so I’ll press onward. I’ve been here almost eight months, and since then my initial impressions of Monsignor Valenzano have been more than confirmed. He is one of the best and kindest priests I have ever met. As they say, “he’s the real deal”. And he continues to make me feel at home and to exert on me daily the influence of his pastoral heart.
Since I’m already probably in hot water with Monsignor Valenzano, I might as well just go ahead and say what’s in my heart. In a wonderful presbyerate, blessed with so many good and devoted priests, Monsignor Valenzano stands out as “a priest’s priest”. For me he exemplifies how the priesthood is to be lived and practiced. He is a source of unity and strength for all of us priests and for the whole Archdiocese. Not surprisingly he has touched the minds and hearts of countless parishioners and many others with the light and love of the Lord. Living near the Basilica of the Assumption, I see this firsthand.
So here is what I’m leading to. Monsignor Valenzano has helped so many of us. Now it’s our turn to lend him a helping hand. It’s already been reported in the pages of the Catholic Review that he is battling leukemia. He is doing so with great faith and trust in the Lord. But it’s now become necessary for him to receive a bone marrow transplant and finding a good match is of critical importance. That’s where we come in. Let’s do our level best to find a match, right here in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
The Archdiocese is working with the Be the Match bone marrow registry to organize a bone marrow drive on Saturday, January 26 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at St. Mary’s Seminary, located at 5400 Roland Ave. in Baltimore. Participants must be 18-44 years of age and will be asked to provide a simple, pain-free cheek swab that will be logged in the universal donor registry. With any luck, we’ll find a match for Monsignor or for someone else in critical need of this life-saving gift.
There’s at least one more thing we can and should do. And that’s to pray. Monsignor Valenzano keeps us in his prayers and now we need to keep him in our prayers. I would ask that we remember him every day when we converse with the Lord. Ask Him to bless and sustain this good priest and all the priests of our Archdiocese.
I might make one more recommendation. Let’s ask the Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney’s help. Father McGivney was ordained by Cardinal Gibbons in 1877 in the very church where Monsignor Valenzano is now pastor. Father McGivney also founded the Knights of Columbus and like Monsignor Valenzano was a great parish priest. His cause for beatification is underway. Wouldn’t it be good for us to seek the intercession of Father McGivney for Monsignor’s health? You will find the prayer for Father McGivney’s cause printed on the same page as this column. I’d invite you to pray it for Monsignor Valenzano and other intentions near and dear to your heart.
And say a prayer for me, that Monsignor Valenzano will forgive me for spilling the beans!