As if waiting for a colossal wedding to commence, the throng of visitors to the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, Homeland, chattered excitedly in the pews as the organ prelude sounded. Young and old, religious and lay, babies and children, awaited the launch of an historical event for the Archdiocese of Baltimore – the installation of the new archbishop, Edwin F. O’Brien, as he took possession of the Premier See in the United States.
Religious orders in various robes and habits rushed in to secure seats. Deacon Ray Moreau, the cathedral’s chief administrative officer, scurried by to take his place in the processional line, a walkie-talkie in hand. Onlookers poised digital and video cameras.
Observers might not be able to envision the countless details necessary to pull together such a grand event. But a perusal of the 40-page cream-colored program put the particulars into focus as it listed ministers of the liturgy, ushers, choir members, and archdiocesan representatives who greeted Archbishop O’Brien on the altar. It acknowledged servers, readers, master of ceremonies, city police, cathedral staff, cantors and musicians.
From the latter, a trumpet blasted suddenly from the church’s balcony before an almost 30-minute procession began, altar servers slowly leading the way up the 227-foot aisle clutching lit candles and crucifixes.
Two by two, 61 deacons and 415 priests followed, the latter in full regalia, their cream-colored robes highlighting red symbols embroidered down the middle. In the order of the church’s hierarchy, 69 bishops followed, their double-pointed miters bobbing up and down as they nodded, smiled and waved to people in the pews. Every seat in the 54 rows was occupied; extras leaned against the cathedral walls.
Eight cardinals followed in red, each flanked by two priests. The last in the long line was Cardinal William H. Keeler taking one last walk as the leader of Baltimore. Applause erupted, as the cardinal moved toward the sanctuary.
Under the cathedral’s high ceiling was found a general “high” of faith for two hours as the “Alleluias” were passionately repeated.
In Archbishop O’Brien’s words, the Mass was “beautifully coordinated.”
Clergy filled the left side of the cathedral three-fourths full. “I’ve never seen so many priests in one place,” said Father Damien Nalepa, V.F., pastor of St. Gregory the Great, Baltimore.
“It’s overwhelming; there’s so much clergy,” said Stephanie Goecki, a cathedral parishioner, who came as an event volunteer, as did many others. “This is my church. I am pleased and privileged to be here.” As an attendee of Cardinal Keeler’s installation in 1989, Ms. Goecki said that was “one of the reasons I wanted to come back – to see the changing of the guard.”
Undeniably, it was a ceremony to see – and hear. Television cameras and radio stations aired the two readings recited in Spanish and English. Intercessions were proclaimed in eight languages including French, Tagalog, Igbo, Polish, Korean and Vietnamese.
Cathedral bells tolled past 3 o’clock as the new archbishop pledged and promised during his seven-page homily. Hymns were sung using English, Latin and Spanish.
A mother and her four children watched the clergy burst from the massive double doors of the cathedral recessional.
Geri Doyle, new to Maryland and a parishioner of St. James, Boonsboro, said she wanted to come to this historic event partly because she was born in the Bronx as was the new archbishop, and “to be around all these holy people.”
Her son Christopher, 14, thought it was “cool to see all these cardinals.” He and his siblings, Kathryn, 13; Lillian, 5; and Elizabeth, 9, each received from Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua a blessing and a tiny blue cross with the words “Jesus loves you.”
Instantly a long line formed under a massive tent as Archbishop O’Brien received handshakes, pats on the shoulder and well wishes.
Tom Wood, of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Ijamsville, said he “wanted to be with the new archbishop” unofficially representing the Knights of Columbus. “It’s so exciting for me to see the monsignors and the bishops. I’ve met so many traveling about,” said Mr. Wood. “The cardinals are superstars to me.”