“In the homily, I wanted to convey clearly my joy at coming home to serve in the archdiocese and that the time in Rome will remain an important chapter in my years of priestly ministry,” Oliver told CNA via email, calling the end of his service at the Vatican “not at all unexpected.”
“In fact, I ended up serving longer than the expected time,” he said.
In the homily, he said: “But OK, now it’s time for a change, and the readings put the cross before us. But really, feelings of rejection? There hangs the Savior of the world, of every human being, one cast out and alone, on the hill of Golgotha. Anger? What depth of hatred can lead someone to nail another person to a cross and to stand there taunting him and spitting on him for hours?”
“And there are the arms of our Savior stretched out to his executioners and praying for forgiveness.”
Oliver said that he had been given a warm welcome in Boston, but did not know what he would be doing next, describing himself as being in a “free agent period, just like professional athletes.”
“Maybe the Patriots still have a bit of money left over,” he joked.
He said that he had been particularly touched by an email he received from a young woman who had been the victim of clerical sexual abuse and afterward ignored by the Church. She had been traumatized by her experience and almost committed suicide, he said.
The woman wrote to him after hearing that his term in Rome had ended. Oliver said that she wrote: “I’m so sorry to hear the news. It must be so difficult for you, I can’t possibly imagine. Please know how valuable your service as a priest is. Please know that God has great things ahead for you. Take a moment today and pause.”
“This is a victim of abuse by a priest,” he said, “when feeling completely rejected and alone, rejected by the Church, and she’s writing these words to a priest. This is evangelization.”
“As St. Paul writes in Ephesians, we need strength, we need the divine strength of God to understand these things, to comprehend the breadth, and the length, the depth, and the height of the love of the Crucified Savior,” he concluded.
“He has borne our sins. He welcomes us to the Father. He wishes us to respond, he wishes us to bring this life to others, and to speak to them about what he has done in our lives.”
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Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency's senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.