Monday, 04 March 2024 09:11

A dialogue of two Former Superiors General Anthony McSweeney SSS and Norman Pelletier SSS

Father Anthony McSweeney SSS celebrating Eucharist in Melbourne, Australia


Father Anthony McSweeney was my predecessor. I worked with him in Rome for six years; he was the Superior General of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, and I was his vicar. When I joined his administration (or, as he always preferred to use the term, ministry), Father Tony, as his friends and colleagues called him, was starting his second six- year mandate as Superior General. I had arrived from a teaching and pastoral background. Father Tony had already spent many years in Rome as a Jesuit- operated Gregorian University student and then as a member of the previous General Council before being elected the Superior General. So, by the time I began serving the Congregation with him, he already had lived a considerable time in Rome.

Father Tony is a highly intelligent academic, generous, committed, and gregarious. In addition to his twelve years as Superior General, Father Tony also served as the elected President of the Union of Superiors General of Men during the final three years of his ministry for the SSS Congregation. He always conducted himself as a true Churchman and an honest Congregational leader. For these reasons, I decided to find my way to Melbourne, Australia, after the SSS General Chapter in Viet Nam. I wanted to get some of his thoughts and insights while he served in several important positions in Rome.

Initially, I intended to interview him. I had given him 18 questions to mull over and to respond to as he saw fit. Well, things turned out quite differently. No sooner had we sat down to discuss (I thought) the prepared questions than we both began to reminisce and share many of our common experiences, and off we were into our collective narrative, which we never abandoned during the three days we met.

Amid our mutual exchange, I managed to jot down several significant aspects of Father Tony’s long and dedicated service to Church and Congregation. As Superior General, during his first term of office, he was responsible for obtaining the approval of the Congregation’s new Rule of Life. He disclosed that this task was not an easy endeavor. The Vatican representatives made a few suggestions, which were easy enough to include since they covered specific points in the Church’s Canon Law. But when it came to number three of the Rule on the Mission of the Congregation, the Cardinal in charge of the Vatican representatives wanted this number to be rewritten. Father Tony replied that he had no authority to do so since the Rule had been approved unanimously by the General Chapter and that his mandate from this same Chapter was to get this Rule approved by the Vatican. The conflict continued until a new Cardinal was appointed to steer the Vatican representatives. This Cardinal appeared more sympathetic to our situation, and the Rule was finally and definitively approved. The SSS Congregation will always be grateful to Father Tony for his courage and patience in this important endeavor.

Father Tony was mandated during his second term to ensure that the vowed religious, communities, and Provinces knew and accepted this new Rule of Life. A tall order that the Congregation is still working to achieve.

As President of the Union of Superiors General, Father Tony’s biggest challenge was to formally address the gathering of the Religious Superiors in Latin America – not an easy balancing act. Father Tony had to support the group and its goals while reminding them of their collective obligations to uphold the Vatican’s positions on certain controversial matters.

On a more personal note, Father Tony always considered himself a reasonable and fair communicator who loved teaching. Apart from some minor usual aging memory issues, Father Tony is still functioning on “all cylinders” celebrating the Eucharistic liturgies and driving where and when needed. Father Tony still remembers his friends in his heart, if not always  by phone or email.



Father Norman Pelletier, sss
Bethany Center, Highland Heights, Ohio

Last modified on Monday, 04 March 2024 09:20