Cardinal Lacroix, now of Canada, celebrates Mass in Manchester
MANCHESTER — Some approached in small groups, others as individuals, as Manchester residents greeted a man who had once walked the streets of their city, visited its library and attended its parochial schools and who now walks as one of the leaders of the religion they share.
Gerald Cyprien Lacroix, who was raised in Manchester, became a priest and rose to be archbishop of Quebec, and last month was installed as a cardinal, greeted everyone who wanted to meet him after he celebrated Sunday morning Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral.
As couples, families and individuals approached him for a brief conversation, the new cardinal remained engaged, devoting his attention to each visitor as though there was no one else in the room.
Some asked his blessing, others kissed his ring or the crucifix he wore.
Many reminisced, while others created their own memories as the cardinal posed for photographs waiting patiently for picture-takers to acclimate themselves to the peculiarities of cell phone cameras.
The visit to the home church of New Hampshire's Roman Catholic diocese came a day after officiating at his personal home parish in the city, St. Anthony Padua.
While not widely publicized, the cathedral Mass drew more than 500 people, a sizable increase over the usual turnout for the mid-morning service on Sunday.
"He's always been a person of this community," said Bishop John McCormack, who led the New Hampshire diocese for 13 years before his retirement in 2011. "He's one of us."
John Gomez, a member of the honor guard of members of the Knights of Columbus, said the new cardinal was typical of the people of his home parish, St. Anthony of Padua.
"Most of the people from St. Anthony's during that time were real down to earth people," he said.
Christine Kindeke, a native of the Congo, presented Lacroix with two maps of the world.
"I want him to have this as a reminder that he is a bishop of the entire world," she said.
At the conclusion of the rites, Lacroix invited people from Manchester to visit Quebec City as part of an upcoming pilgrimage for the 350th anniversary of the oldest church in the United States and Canada, the Parish of Notre-Dame de Quebec.
"You are most welcome in Quebec," Lacrox told the congregation. "It will be a joy for our people to welcome you."
He concluded by asking that the fond wishes of the people of New Hampshire remain with him as he continues his duties in Quebec.
"Please pray for me, please pray for the ministry the Lord has asked me to accomplish," Lacroix said. "I am deeply touched by this celebration and to Bishop (Peter) Libasci for inviting me to preside in his cathedral."
Lacroix then turned and announced "Bishop Libasci will now deliver the final blessing," and paused.
"In French," he added
Libasci didn't hesitate or falter, and many of the worshippers responded in French, an acknowledgment of the common background they share with one of the leaders of their church.