National Catholic Register


For Cardinal Maida, a Time to Recollect

BY Janet Cassidy

February 15-21, 2009 Issue | Posted 2/6/09 at 9:04 AM


Cardinal Adam Maida has served the Archdiocese of Detroit for over 18 years and is looking forward to a little rest.

At 78, with a million air miles and numerous accomplishments to his name, he plans to retire in Detroit, a city he loves, and remain close to the people with whom he has bonded deeply.

Prior to the installation of his successor — Archbishop Allen Vigneron — Cardinal Maida spoke with Register correspondent Janet Cassidy about ecumenism, prayer and hope for a struggling city, where the auto industry has been particularly hard hit by the economic downturn.

You have stayed relevant in responding to the needs of God’s people as they arise. Does this keep hope alive in a community, in the hearts of people, when they sense someone is listening and responding to their needs?

Well, I think that’s one of the challenges we have — to develop trust between and among people with whom we work and serve. Trust builds credibility and accountability. There are times when people might ask questions that seem simple, and there are times when people might ask questions that are complex, but it is important to recognize that the person who relates it has significance. I respect that. I have found that by listening to the insights of people — their experiences, where they’ve come from, and what their concern is at the moment — there is an element of trust that brings us together, and then we go from there.

Trust spreads quickly in a community, and I think you also have to factor in how that happens. There may be times when we might appear authoritative or as if we are speaking from pedestals, but once you listen carefully and respond properly, that bond of trust that is established is so very important in creating a culture that is vibrant and healthy.

One of the fundamental principles of our faith is the fact that God created us in his image and likeness, and regardless of creed or color, we all have a dignity given by God that reflects the life of God in our own human life.

Do you think that hope can have an impact, a real impact, on people living in dire situations?

A person without hope is doomed to failure, and one of the great gifts God has given us is the gift of faith, which tells us about his love for us and our love for him. Because of that faith, there is this great hope. Jesus validated this by his resurrection. No matter how difficult life can be, there is the ultimate hope for salvation and peace in the Resurrection.

Scripture tells us that the Lord is interested in the lives of sparrows, that he counts the hairs on your head (Matthew 10:29-30). God is there to listen to our concerns, give us the strength and grace to accept our present condition and move on with great hope for the moment; he is there for the end, when we will have communion with him and live with the peace of the Lord forever.

Where do you think interfaith dialogue can help in a declining economy, when people are losing their jobs and their homes?

No question interfaith dialogue and communication, as well as participation, is absolutely critical in the economic situation we find ourselves in. We stand together and live in a community. We recognize that what affects one person affects everybody. In this particular crisis, everyone is affected.

The ecumenical dimension brings to the table a common acceptance of the dignity of the human being and that we are all of the family of God. When there is a crisis and a need, the bonds of God’s love bring us together and we can sail beyond the differences that divide us in ordinary dialogue.

We can go to Scripture, where the Lord says whatever you did for the least of my brothers, you did for me (Matthew 25:40) and see that faith tells us that the face of the Lord can be found in the lives of the poor. We should set aside our differences and focus on bringing the face of Christ to people, which will bring them great hope.

What are you hoping retirement will look like for you?

I have served in the Detroit area for 18 years; I love Detroit and the people, and I also have family and friends in Pittsburgh, Pa. My brother, who is a priest, celebrated his 50th anniversary and is also retired. The two of us will be sharing a common life of retirement. Of course, there is never retirement from the priesthood; we’ll continue to be priests.

The human body, at [almost] 79 years old has its own weaknesses and consequences. I plan to take a few months off and try to get refocused, to see what develops. I would prefer not to be tied to a schedule, as the whole of my life has been that way. I have traveled one million miles — and that’s only air travel. It doesn’t include cars and all the others. I’ve seen enough!

Cardinal Mooney built St. John’s Seminary 60 years ago. It has been transformed to a place of youth and family retreats now, and I will be taking over his apartment at the seminary. I am very happy to be close to home.

There are many people who feel that they do not have time for prayer. How do you find the time? What kind of prayer habit have you established?

Prayer is the lifeblood of the human being, our contact with the Lord. It is through this contact with the Lord that we get the energy and wisdom to live out our lives. My practice has always been to pray for two hours in the morning. I have silent time and read the breviary, do lectio divina, celebrate Mass, and so forth. I am also reading about St. Paul and reflecting on his missionary work.

Have you ever found a particular form of prayer difficult to master? How did you overcome it?

After Mass and prayer, I go to work, and then the burdens of the day pretty much take over. It is hard to go from one problem to another and be recollected again. I pray the afternoon and evening prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours and have some quiet time. One of the great privileges I have is a chapel in my house where I can pray; I can end every day in front of the Blessed Sacrament. These are moments of grace when I really try to connect with the Lord. Sometimes there are distractions, even when you try to pray quietly. Problems keep popping up in your mind. It’s a challenge we all have.

There are times when I feel close to the Lord, and there are other times when the Lord seems to be far away, not listening. But I find it most profitable when I listen and don’t speak too much. The presence of God — that presence in itself and the experience of that presence — gives me the energy, quiet and peace I need to begin and end each day.

Janet Cassidy writes from

Grand Blanc, Michigan.