A Priest Walks Into a Synagogue...
In the 1990's, when Father Walter Cuenin was the leader of Our Lady Help of Christians Church, the church's school began sending its children to visit The Adams Street Shul to learn about Jews and Judaism directly from us. The field trips have continued ever since.
When the Adams Street Shul was desecrated by six blue swastikas and antisemitic graffiti in 1997, Father Cuenin led his entire congregation out of Sunday mass --- about five hundred people. He led them in a march down Adams Street to show support for us.
Father Cuenin had served on Newton's interfaith clergy association, and been active in other interfaith work, for many years.
In 2005, when The Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action recognized Father Cuenin with a special award for his diverse trailblazing efforts in interfaith understanding, Cuenin talked about what that 1997 show of solidarity with Adams Street had been like for him:
"Basically the whole church" walked to the Adams Street Synagogue, Cuenin said. "We were so excited and didn't think to be sensitive. We had altar boys leading the way with big crucifixes -- what's wrong with this picture?"
"It didn't matter," he said. "We were all in tears --Jews and Catholics-- and we just had to be together." Cuenin also told the 2005 gathering how his time in Newton had given him a deeper appreciation for Judaism, Jewish spirituality, and the meaning of being a Jew:
"For the first time in my life," Cuenin said, "I came to appreciate and value the spiritual heritage of the Jewish faith --- not just to work with Jewish people for common cause for what is good, but to value the religious meaning and depth of the spirituality of what it means to be a Jew."
Father Cuenin particularly admires our commitment to repairing the world. "If Catholics had even a fraction of the commitment Jews had, if Catholics were involved in the way Jews are, this country would be totally different," Cuenin said, adding, "What are there? Five million Jews and sixty million Catholics? I really value the Jewish commitment, working for social justice."
Ironically, it is Cuenin's commitment to social justice, and its logical extension of speaking out for groups who feel marginalized within the church, that triggered his ouster.
Father Cuenin was beloved at Our Lady, where he spent the better part of twelve years preaching tolerance and social advocacy. By nearly every measure, Our Lady ranked as one of Boston's most vibrant parishes. But many of its best instincts were opposed by the Archdiocese. For example, Bernard Cardinal Law banned the laity-led Voice of the Faithful from meeting at Our Lady.
Late in 2005, the Boston Archdiocese removed Father Cuenin from his post, an unpopular move that, for the third time in four years, pitted the archdiocese on the opposite side of an issue with its Newton followers.
So in 2006, Cuenin headed for Jerusalem, along with some Our Lady parishioners.
It's been fifteen years since Father Cuenin led that march from his church to our shul, and seven since he lost his post in Nonantum. Currently, Father Cuenin serves at Brandeis University as the Catholic chaplain and coordinator of the Interfaith Chaplaincy. He is also the Catholic panelist on "Talking religion", a weekly interfaith radio program on WRKO which he shares with Muslim, Jewish, and Protestant colleagues.
The Adams Street Shul is pleased to welcome Father Cuenin back to Nonantum to celebrate our Centennial with us, and to honor this long-time friend of the Adams Street Synagogue.
Gala Cocktail Reception in honor of Father Cuenin
On Sunday, June 3rd, the Adams Street Synagogue will honor Reverend Walter Cuenin, S.T.D. with the Cornerstone Award for Community Building.
The Adams Street Synagogue requests the pleasure of your company at a gala event honoring Father Cuenin. Be with us to express our appreciation. All are welcome.
The event begins at 4 PM with a one-hour wine and cheese reception. Then, from 5 to 6 PM, speakers will introduce and honor Father Cuenin's accomplishments, and there will also be a musical performance, as follows:
- Benyomin Fleischmann, President of the Adams Street Shul
- Beryl Gilfix, Event Chair
- Rabbi Norbert Weinberg, Rabbi of the Adams Street Shul
- The Brookline-Newton Senior All Stars, a musical presentation
- Sister Marie LaBollita, who worked with Father Cuenin at Our Lady
- Dr. Andrew Flagel, Vice-President of Brandeis University
- David Olson, Clerk of the City of Newton
The event will conclude with presentation of The Cornerstone Award for Community Building, and a response by Father Cuenin.
For special reserved seating, or to include your greeting in the event's program book, you can make donations online below, or by mail to the synagogue office. In any case, please be with us Sunday as we honor Father Walter Cuenin.
For more information, contact .
Sunday, June 3, 2012 at 4:00 PM
|Reservations (@ $100 per person)||Enter # of guests:||
I would like to make a contribution in honor of Father Walter Cuenin, which will be listed in the Program Book.
|President's Circle *||>$1000||
|Benefactor *||$500 to $999||
|Patron *||$250 to $499||
|* includes two reservations|
|Sponsor||$125 to $249||
|Supporter||$75 to $124||
|Friend||$50 to $74||
|other donation||your support is welcomed||
With your payment please specify a greeting of up to 180 characters (2 lines) for inclusion in the program book.