Legal Community Gathers in Berks County for Annual Red Mass

Bishop Alfred Schlert, center, celebrates the Red Mass Oct. 8 at St. Catharine of Siena, Reading with, from left, Father John Rother, Msgr. James Treston, Msgr. Edward Coyle, Bishop Emeritus of Rockville Centre William Murphy and Msgr. Edward Domin. (Photos by John Simitz)


Staff writer

“May the Holy Spirit inspire and guide all of you in the coming year,” Bishop Emeritus William Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York told members of the legal community as guest homilist and concelebrant of the annual Red Mass Oct. 8 at St. Catharine of Siena, Reading.

Sponsored by the St. Thomas More Society of the Diocese of Allentown, the Mass was open to the public and was followed by a reception in the parish center.

Allentown Bishop Alfred Schlert was principal celebrant of the noon liturgy, a regularly scheduled Sunday Mass at the parish.

Also concelebrating were Msgr. Edward Domin, pastor of St. Catharine of Siena; Msgr. James Treston, pastor emeritus of St. Ignatius Loyola, Sinking Spring, in residence at St. Catharine; Msgr. Edward Coyle, pastor of St. Ann, Emmaus and chaplain of the St. Thomas More Society; and Father John Rother, assistant pastor of St. Catharine.

Deacon Gregory Schneider of St. Catharine assisted.

St. Catharine’s Voices in Praise Choir, directed by Dave Kostival, provided music for the liturgy. St. Catharine’s Knights of Columbus Council 14880 provided an honor guard.

The tradition of the Red Mass dates back to the 13th century. It is a Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit that invokes divine blessings on all those involved in the pursuit of justice – especially judges, lawyers and elected officials.

It is named for the red vestments worn by clerics and the red shoes worn by the judges of the High Court in England.

The society, begun in 2010, is a Catholic professional association that promotes the mutual interaction of faith and culture in the realm of law and public policy.

Its work is inspired by the life and legacy of St. Thomas More (1478-1535), patron saint of statesmen, politicians and lawyers. He models a fidelity to the faith grounded in the search for truth, the dignity of the person, the unity of the family and the justice of civil society.

Bishop Murphy said it was a great joy to be at the Mass, and noted he attended the Aug. 31 ordination of Bishop Schlert. “I have great gratitude to all of you for how well you prepared Bishop Barres to be the Fifth Bishop of Rockville Centre,” he said, referring to Bishop John Barres, Fourth Bishop of Allentown.

Bishop Murphy said we are all called by God to draw more deeply to him, his Church and one another.

“The Church has a role to inspire and encourage all the faithful. All of us are called to contribute and use our gifts.”

Bishop Murphy said Bishop Barres spoke of St. Thomas More earlier that week, calling the saint “a man for all centuries.”

“St. Thomas More is a model for you in everything you say and do, and is an example to imitate in truth and integrity. May your Catholic faith inspire your professional life and give witness to human dignity,” Bishop Murphy said.

Bishop Murphy advised members of the legal community to set aside time to pray together in front of the Blessed Sacrament, attend Mass together monthly and offer pro-bono counsel to those in need of it.

“You’re all poised and ready to achieve even more significant growth in the years ahead,” Bishop Murphy said.

“You will be the ones to mediate the Gospel in your work for the good of society.”

He told those gathered that “The Church encourages and supports you in this kind of Christian witness and in your good works.”

Bishop Murphy said the two fundamental threats to freedom are denial of the right to life – to the unborn, the vulnerable and those at the end of life through assisted suicide – and denial of religious freedom.

He said St. Pope John Paul II deemed these two rights the basis of all other rights. And Pope Francis said there is “soft persecution” of religious freedom in our own country.

“Don’t hesitate to bring about coalitions of people who may not share our faith but share our values,” Bishop Murphy said.

“Use your professional expertise to defend human life and human dignity. We stand with you when you stand up for these rights, and Bishop Barres, Bishop Schlert and I encourage you to do just that.”

Bishop Murphy drew his homily to a close with the words of St. Paul in Philippians 4:8, which were part of the day’s second reading: “Finally, brothers, let your minds be filled with everything that is true, everything that is honorable, everything that is upright and pure, everything that we love and admire – with whatever is good and praiseworthy.”

Bishop Schlert thanked Bishop Murphy for his presence at the Mass. “Thank you for your words. We’re so happy to have you with us,” he said. He also thanked the parish for welcoming the Red Mass and the choir for its beautiful music.

Msgr. Domin offered thanks to Bishop Murphy and Bishop Schlert, and led applause for the prelates.

Bishop Murphy was consecrated auxiliary bishop of Boston, Massachusetts Dec. 27, 1995, and installed as Fourth Bishop of Rockville Centre Sept. 5, 2001. Pope Francis accepted his resignation Dec. 9, 2016 when then-Bishop of Allentown John Barres was appointed Fifth Bishop of Rockville Centre.

Bishop Murphy has served several times as a member of a Holy See Delegation for United Nations conferences, and as a member of the Third United Nations Special Session on Disarmament in 1988. He has been a member of three presidential delegations to Haiti (1987, 1990 and 1991), and was appointed to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2001.

He has served on and chaired a number of committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to serve as a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

For more information about the Mass, or for judges and attorneys interested in joining or learning more about the society, visit website or email