July 27, 2018

Christ the Cornerstone

Reflections on my first year as archbishop of Indianapolis

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

Tomorrow will be the one-year anniversary of my installation as archbishop of Indianapolis on July 28, 2017. It’s been a full year, and I thank God for all the graces given to me during the past 12 months.

As I reflect on the past year, what stands out is the hundreds of people I have met throughout the 39 counties of our archdiocese.

Along with ordinations of priests and deacons, and the final profession of religious women and men, parish visits for confirmations, the installation of pastors and other special occasions have truly been the highlight of this past year.

I enjoy getting to know people, and I’m especially pleased when I have the chance to meet the many holy people who make up our local Church. These truly are the everyday saints that Pope Francis writes about in his apostolic exhortation “Gaudete et Exsultate” (“Rejoice and Be Glad: The Call to Holiness in Today’s World”)!

I can’t really describe it as a sad moment, but the death of my friend and mentor Archbishop Emeritus Daniel M. Buechlein, O.S.B., was a profound experience for me—as for so many others.

Archbishop Daniel had been my seminary rector; he was a close friend and advisor during my years as a priest, and then as a bishop. To serve as the principal celebrant at his funeral Mass was a great privilege. I had grieved for him over time, and I was relieved when God took Archbishop Daniel to his heavenly home. But I miss him, and I thank God that he was such an important influence in my life and ministry—and in the life of our archdiocese!

During my installation homily a year ago, I made the point that our task is not so much to resolve the world’s problems as to lead others to a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. I believe this even more today.

My brother priests and I have been called to be Christ for others in a very particular way. Pope Francis says that we are witnesses to the mercy of God, and that means that we have a sacred duty to make Christ available through the Word of God, the sacraments and our pastoral care. With our deacons, consecrated men and women, and the dedicated lay people who serve as parish life coordinators and who minister in so many diverse ways throughout the archdiocese, we are called to be models of holiness and witnesses to the love and mercy of Christ.

I can’t say that I had no idea what I was getting into a year ago, but it’s definitely true that the size and complexity of this archdiocese were more than I expected. I thank God for all of you who have welcomed me so warmly, and who have made my ministry much less overwhelming than it might have been. I’ve discovered firsthand that the Church in central and southern Indiana is blessed with gifted women and men who serve the needs of our people in many diverse ways.

One of the special moments of my first year was the publication of my pastoral letter, “We Are One in Christ: A Pastoral Letter on Fundamentals of Christian Anthropology.”

I think it’s safe to say that during my first year as archbishop, the world exploded with political and social issues that challenge us to respond as Christians. Racism, gun violence, abortion and the other life issues, our broken immigration system, poverty and the opioid crisis are not new, but over the past year they have grown in visibility and intensity. To remain silent is to become complicit in the forces of evil that threaten our humanity.

As I thought about these issues, I became convinced that not one of them is isolated from our understanding of who we are as members of God’s family and brothers and sisters to each other. The bottom line is that each of us has been made in the image and likeness of God and, as such, we are called to respect, defend and build up one another here and now regardless of differences of race, creed, ethnic origins, sexual orientation or economic and social status. We are one in Christ!

A year ago, I was still dealing with the surprise I felt six weeks earlier when I learned that Pope Francis had chosen me to serve as the seventh archbishop of Indianapolis. Although the initial shock has worn off, I still find myself amazed and overwhelmed at the immensity of the challenge and the enormity of the responsibility.

Please pray for me. I count on God’s grace, and your prayerful support, to help me serve as your archbishop with humility and joy. †

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