Father Jacob’s Homily for Holy Mass in memory of Msgr. Séamus Freeman SAC September 7, 2022

Church of SS. Salvatore in Onda, Rome, 7 September 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

               Gathered together as members of the Pallottine Family to honour and pray for the repose of the soul of our dear confrere and Bishop Séamus Freeman, we wish to anticipate and celebrate this evening the feast of the Nativity of our Blessed Mother, which falls on 8 September. Our journey is always more secure in the company of our heavenly Mother. We thank God for the gift of this humble maid, the woman who believed in the promise of God, and became the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of the entire Church. She is the Mother of Divine Love, the Queen of the Apostles and the Star of Evangelization. She is the first disciple who gave birth to the Son of God and accompanied him in his salvific work, participating in the mission of Jesus to the very end. That is why she is crowned as the Queen of the Apostles, as our Founder says. Therefore, we have every reason to celebrate the birthday of our Heavenly Mother with great honour and joy.

               We celebrate also the life and mission of our dear confrere and Bishop Sèamus Freeman, who passed away on 20 August 2022. He was 78 years old, 57 years a Pallottine and 52 years a priest and 15 years a bishop. Bishop Freeman is known and loved by all of us for his person and for his service to the Society as General Consultor and Rector General and for his manifold contributions to the entire Pallottine Family. He was a visionary, hard worker and dignified in his behaviours. More than anything else, he loved our Founder and understood the richness of his charism for the Church today. His untiring efforts, together with many members of the Pallottine Family, led to the recognition and acceptance of the Union of Catholic Apostolate as an International Public Association of all the Faithful of Pontifical Right on 28 October 2008.

               God destined to extend the pastoral service of Msgr. Freeman as the Bishop of the Diocese of Ossory, his home Diocese. After suffering from a stroke, Bishop Freeman began to lose his memory and faced very hard days. The last time I met him was in February 2018. Even as his memory was fading, he asked me “to continue the good works”. Bishop Freeman was a personal friend and my mentor in many ways. I owe so much to him for forming me over the years. 

               During the funeral Mass for Bishop Freeman in the Cathedral of Ossory, I was asked to give a short message. The words of the Scripture that came to my mind was from the 2nd Letter of St. Paul to Timothy 4:7-8: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but to all who crave His appearing”. Bishop Freeman too fought the good fight, finished his race, kept the faith; now he awaits the crown of righteousness. May the Lord, in his infinite mercy, forgive all his sins, and grant him eternal life. As the Pallottine Family, so dear to him, we pray for this intention.

               The right way to honour Bishop Freeman today is to continue to work together for the realisation of the spiritual and apostolic patrimony of our Founder, St. Vincent Pallotti.  In a way, we can say that three elements would be important to realise this prophetic vision of our Founder.

               Bishop Freeman, working together with numerous persons of the Pallottine Family, tried to establish a firm juridical, institutional foundation to the Union. The definitive approval of the General Statutes on 28 October 2008, by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, presently the Dicastery of Laity, Family and Life, was a proof of his effort. As human beings, we need also certain structures and norms. The General Statutes are not just juridical norms. There is also the history, spirituality and mission of the Union, described in these Statutes. Fidelity to the Statutes, in its contents and spirit, are essential for the life of the Union.

               Our ex-General, Fr. Fritz Kretz, happens to be present here today at the Eucharistic celebration. Throughout his 6 years of office as Rector General, he used to speak about the rich spiritual and apostolic contents of the Cenacle. It was his passion. Today he has realised his dream of living in a Cenacle in Germany through a life of prayer, contemplation and spiritual guidance of the faithful. The Cenacle symbolises the contemplative and mystical dimension of our charism. It is a place of intense prayer, God experience, and apostolic transformation. St. Vincent was a mystic, profoundly penetrated by the Divine. He lived a life of an inner harmony with the Creator and all the creatures. Often we are so fragmented, superficial and worldly in our inner being. We need to become more God-centred and mystic in everyday life. This Church San Salvatore in Onda, for example, is the spiritual centre of the entire Union. Are there spiritual vibrations in this Church, in our communities and in our own hearts? Finding God always and in all things. A mystic, in the broadest and most humble sense of the word, is simply someone whose relationship with God is primarily contemplative. Someone who prays, and who prays silently, opening the heart to the presence of God, which cannot ever be fully put into words. The contemplation of St. Vincent was summarised in essential words like “God, my God”, “My Mercy”. Such a contemplative, mystical dimension is the second element necessary for the life of the Union.

               A mystic is not someone closed up in oneself or live in a lonely place but he or she is in perfect communion with his fellow human beings and the whole creation. St. Vincent was the perfect example of a mystic who was fully in communion with God and with those who are in most need. Love of God flowing into love of neighbour. That was why he wished to be food for the hungry and drink for the thirsty. Such a spirit of giving, fraternal love is the third element that can revitalise the life of the Union.

               Gospel of Mark 6;34 says, Seeing the crowd, Jesus had compassion on them for they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began to teach them and gave them food to eat for they were too exhausted. Such a spirit of compassion lies at the very heart of our missionary spirit. We need to listen to the cry of the poor and touch the flesh of the poor, as Pope Francis says. Compassion is the ability to suffer with others; it is the willingness to take upon the burdens of others and make it easier for them, just as Jesus did. Compassion is an expression of true humility, arising from the consciousness of our own littleness and sinfulness. An authentic experience of our own brokenness enables us to be sensitive and compassionate towards others. Arrogance, pride and self-righteousness are the attitudes of those who are blind to their own littleness before God. Mission compassion in all its forms must become a stable expression of humility, humanity and holiness.

               Yet if the apostolate or mission is not nourished in contemplation, sooner or later it is turned into activism. Contemplation-love-apostolate is a necessary sequence. “God wishes to light up the world with love” – this was St. Vincent’s reminder for us.

               We have in our midst today a Pallottine Bishop, Msgr. Bruno Ateba, who works in the diocese of Maroua Mokolo in Northern Cameroon, in the most difficult conditions. The extreme climate, the massive social needs, the attacks of the terrorist group Boko Haram, are all parts of the daily life of Mons. Bruno Ateba. Yet Bishop Bruno never loses his smile and optimism because true happiness is often found in the peripheries. For the cause of the Gospel, it is worth accepting all these troubles. We wish God’s protection and assistance for the episcopal ministry of Bishop Bruno Ateba.

               As we are gathered together to pray for the repose of the soul of Bishop Séamus Freeman, we express our gratitude once again for the gift of him to our Pallottine Family and the Church. We express our condolences to the Provincial Rector, Fr. Liam McClarey and to all the members of the Mother of Divine Love Provinces. We shall remember his family members too in our prayers. We affirm our renewed commitment to the realisation of the Pallottine charism by being faithful to what the Church has officially approved, by following the footsteps of St. Vincent the Mystic and by being missionary disciples in service of God’s people. May Msgr. Freeman pray for all of us. May he live in the company of our Heavenly Mother, St. Vincent Pallotti, Blessed Elizabeth Sanna, our Blessed Martyrs and all the saints and angels. Amen.

Jacob Nampudakam SAC