Archbishop Timothy Dolan's second grade teacher, Sister Bosco Daly from Ireland, was front and center, reading at the service, at yesterday's official installment of the new archbishop of New York'.
"I'm so pleased she's coming over," Dolan had said prior to the event. "She's a spiritual mother to me."
Sister Bosco, a Mercy nun based in Drogheda, Co Louth, has known Archbishop Dolan, 59, since he did his First Communion.
Sr Bosco was sent to Ballwin, Missouri in 1957 with a bunch of other Irish nuns to get a Catholic school up and running. It was there that she and the other sisters quickly became acquainted with the young Dolan, "a bright sweet boy." The Drogheda nun taught Dolan in his second, fourth and fifth grade classes.
Sr Bosco, 84, who spoke to IrishCentral.com from her convent, has been a mentor and a friend to the newly elected archbishop since his childhood.
"I began teaching Tim at the Holy Infant Grade School in Ballwin when he was making his Holy Communion," said Sr Bosco. "His family, you see, belonged to the parish in the area."
Born in 1950, the oldest of five children to Robert and Shirley Dolan, Dolan's education began at Sr Bosco's Holy Infant Grade School. Upon finishing his schooling, Dolan, is the 13th bishop and 10th archbishop of the See of New York, knew he wanted to dedicate his life to the Lord.
Having a close relationship with his former teachers, Dolan, who succeeds 76-year-old Cardinal Edward Egan (he submitted his resignation in 2007), contacted the sisters, including Sr Bosco, for further instruction on how to proceed in a life of worship.
"Tim was always very grateful to the nuns who taught him," said Sr Bosco. "I kept in contact with Tim throughout the process of him wanting to become a priest."
Dolan, under Sr Boscos guidance, attended St. Louis Preparatory Seminary. He then went onto Cardinal Glennon College in Missouri, and then attended the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
Dolan served as a local parish priest back home, and in that time earned his doctorate in church history at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D. C. He then worked at the Apostolic Nunciature (Vatican Embassy) in Washington, D.C., served on the faculty at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis and returned to Rome as rector of the Pontifical North American College. Dolan came back to the Archdiocese of St. Louis as auxiliary bishop in June 2001.
Proud of her protegee, Sr Bosco feels that Dolan "climbed the ladder very quickly."
Throughout this time Dolan would contact her on a regular basis for guidance. "I was there for his Communion, his Confirmation, his ordination as a priest at Holy Infant in Baldwin in 1976 and his first Mass," she said.
And, she is there today, April 15, watching from the aisle, as her favorite past pupil will officially be installed as Archbishop to the second largest Archdiocese in the U.S. (the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which serves 2.5 million parishioners, is the largest).
"Yes, Tim said to me on the phone when he called to say he had been chosen as the New York archbishop that he wants to see me in the first pew of St. Patrick's Cathedral," Sr Bosco said back in February. "I'm very excited. It will be so lovely to be there."
Sr Bosco, who returned to Ireland in 1979 to become mother superior in a convent in Drogheda, spent a week with Dolan in Milwaukee two years ago. "I had a great week. Tim brought me everywhere, he was just wonderful," said Daly. At the time of her visit, Dolan was already serving Milwaukee as archbishop, a position he received in 2002.
Describing Dolan, who is also fluent in Spanish, as a great person, Sr Bosco said, "He is as humble as a doormat and a real people's person with a terrific sense of humor."
He "is the perfect man" for the job, she said. "Tim is a really great guy. The people of New York will love his character," she said. "He is just terrific."
New York's new archbishop is no stranger to Ireland, particularly Co. Meath. "He has been to us many times in the past," said Co. Meath Bishop Michael Smith.
Because of his strong friendship with Sr Bosco and the other Mercy sisters, Dolan has, on several occasions, said mass and lead prayer in Drogheda while visiting his friends.
Dolan's appointment continues the trend of Irish American archbishops serving New York. This was broken only once in 1826 when Frenchman John Dubois was chosen as archbishop.
In a statement, Archbishop Dolan addressed New Yorkers, saying, "My brother bishops, priests, religious women and men, seminarians, committed Catholics of this wonderful church, I pledge to you my love, my life, my heart, and I can tell you already that I love you, I need so much your prayers and support, I am so honored, humbled, and happy to serve as your pastor."
Dolan was installed by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., at St. Patrick's Cathedral.
The post of archbishop is the most prominent in the American Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II called the position, "archbishop of the capital of the world."