By Will Edwards
This article can also be viewed in Issue 6, Fiftieth Year of The Minstrel (November 19, 2015). Click here to view the entire issue.
Evoking his trademark sense of humor and a commanding, familiar tone, His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan delivered the 30th Rev. Thomas J. Furphy Lecture on Wednesday to a crowd of over 1,500 in Billera Hall, estimated by school officials to be the highest attendance rate in the series’s three-decade history.
The 10th bishop of the Archdiocese of New York—who said the $35,000 speaker’s fee the university offered him would go toward St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, which recently underwent a $170 million renovation—spoke about the leadership styles of the current and two previous Popes.
“Anything moving and living and growing needs three things: They need a soul, they need a mind and they need a heart… So does the world. So does the Church,” Dolan said. “If we look at Pope St. John Paul II, we see a man of the soul. If we look at our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict, we see a Pope of the mind. And if we look at our beloved Pope Francis, we see a Pope of the heart.”
Dolan, who received his doctoral degree in American Church history from The Catholic University of America, went on to talk in-depth about the three pontiffs and their unique roles in the Church of their times. He cited St. John Paul II’s unflinching nature in the wake of Soviet communism, Benedict XVI’s reinvigoration of the Church’s emphasis on the partnership of faith and reason in a “culture of secularism on steroids” and the continual overt acts of love shown by Francis, whom he hosted in New York in September.
Short on neither wit nor conviction, Dolan captivated a ranging audience that included both young-adult students and elder community members. He told anecdotes of his interactions with Pope Francis and throughout his lecture produced intermittent one-liners to roars of laughter from a crowd who, despite knowledge of his conviviality, continued to be surprised by his novel spontaneity.
“[Pope Francis] tells us the church is not a [non-governmental organization]; the church is not a cold institution; the church is not some agenda-driven lobbying organization; the church is not an ethical society,” he said.
“The church is our family,” Dolan continued, “and it’s a family that is dysfunctional. Have you ever met one? Do you want to come to my house for Thanksgiving?”
The Cardinal’s appearance was not only the response to an invitation sent by University President Rev. Bernard O’Connor, OSFS, but was also an ode to both St. Francis de Sales, whose book “Introduction to the Devout Life” inspired Dolan in high school, and Rev. Thomas J. Furphy, OSFS, for whom the lecture series is named and who was a professor at DeSales from 1967-77, known for his interest in national and international problems.
“The fact that there were so many people here, number one, just tells you that they were ready for this kind of a person and in need of this kind of experience, and he certainly delivers,” O’Connor said. “He’s very, very sharp, deeply religious and just really interested in connecting with people. That’s why in many ways he’s sort of like Francis. People respond to him.”
Before the lecture, Dolan sat down with students for a question-and-answer session and fielded inquiries about retaining members of the Church and the importance of a knowledge of history while in a leadership role. Consistent with his genuine aura exuded during the lecture and with O’Connor’s description of him, Dolan left a lasting impression on the group, students said, as he seems to do with whomever he crosses paths.
“He was like a father in the sense that you could talk to him about anything, and he found it great to just be with you,” senior Nick Fresco said. “Just the sheer presence of that room was something to take away from that forum. I don’t think you could truly walk away and not think about that presence.”