This is not to say that Archbishop McCarthy's tenure in South Florida has been confined to spiritual matters.
On the contrary, the area's penchant for making history, its proclivity to crisis, have enabled the Archbishop to reinforce his incessant preaching for conversion and outreach with concrete deeds.
When, over the course of a few months in 1980, more than 125,000 Cubans jammed into pleasure boats at the port of Mariel and began landing in Key West, the Archbishop was there to greet them, offering aid and comfort.
A year alter, when about 2,000 Haitians were being detained in federal camps, denied both the freedom and asylum extended to Cuban immigrants, the Archbishop protested their inhumane treatment in a harshly-worded telegram to then-President Ronald Reagan.
To underscore his point, he spent Christmas Eve at Miami's Krome Avenue camp, celebrating Mass with the refugees, and later reiterated his protests on the Phil Donahue show. Twice, the Archbishop concelebrated
heart-wrenching funeral Masses and donated burial plots in the Catholic cemeteries for groups of Haitians whose sun-scorched bodies have washed up on South Florida beaches.
In 1981, he opened the Pierre Toussaint Haitian Catholic Center, located smack in the middle of Miami's "Little Haiti" section. Staffed by Creole-speaking priests and Religious, the center spawned missions as far north as Belle Glade, including one in Fort Lauderdale and another in Pompano Beach. The Pierre Toussaint Center offers English classes for adults as well as day care and religious education for children. Each Sunday, more than
2,500 Haitians gather for Mass at the adjoining church, Notre Dame d'Haiti.