January 13, 2006

2006 Religious Vocations Supplement

Priest shows leadership skills at young age

By Sean Gallagher

Father Patrick Beidelman grew up around priests.

He discerned his own priestly vocation at a relatively young age and has followed the example of his early priestly models. But it was his own gifts in leadership that placed him in some unique positions of responsibility from an early time in his priestly life.

Currently the pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral Parish in Indianapolis and the archdiocesan director of liturgy, Father Beidelman, 33, grew up as a member of Holy Spirit Parish on Indianapolis’ east side.

He counts several priests and religious sisters as relatives and got to know many of them in his youth.

But the priest he said had the biggest impact on him was Father James Sweeney, who died in 1990 when Father Beidelman was a senior at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis.

“Father Jim became a Christ figure for me,” Father Beidelman said, “a person who helped me understand and know Christ more fully through the person he was, and what he said and did and the good relationship he shared with me and so many.”

Benedictine Father Noah Casey, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, also was also a cousin of Father Sweeney and sees his influence on Father Beidelman.

“Pat is, by virtue of his personality, so outgoing, as was Father Jim, and he learned an awful lot just by watching him,” he said. “Father Jim was so well thought of and respected for his pastoral skills. I think that simply rubbed off a lot on Pat.”

Father Beidelman received Father Sweeney’s chalice as an ordination gift. It was given to him by Father Sweeney’s brother, Benedictine Father Timothy Sweeney, a former archabbot of Saint Meinrad Archabbey and currently the pastor of St. Paul Parish in Tell City.

“In a lot of ways, every time that I celebrate Mass, Father Jim is with me,” Father Beidelman said, “and I’m kind of connected to all the relatives who have passed on the faith to [me] and that I see as part of my job to continue to pass on to my own family, but especially my wider faith family.”

Father Beidelman’s first pastoral assignment following his ordination in 1998 gave him many opportunities to pass on the faith. He served as the part-time associate pastor of St. Monica Parish and the part-time chaplain of Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School, both in Indianapolis.

Msgr. Paul Koetter, the current pastor of St. Monica Parish and pastor at the time of Father Beidelman’s assignment there, was impressed with his young associate pastor, who was only 25 when he began to minister alongside him.

“I think the thing that impressed me with Father Pat from early on was the fact that he always had a fairly high sense of judgment and prudence,” Msgr. Koetter said, “that, even though he was quite young, I thought that there was a certain wisdom in him that was stronger than his years would have suggested.”

This wisdom was soon put to the test when Father Beidelman was asked a little over a year after his ordination to oversee the execution of the liturgical plan for the Celebration of the Spirit of Hope: The Great Jubilee, a massive eucharistic liturgy celebrated in the RCA Dome in Indianapolis on Sept. 16, 2000, attended by 30,000 Catholics and when 3,200 youth and adults were confirmed.

He worked closely in this project with Charles Gardner, archdiocesan executive director for spiritual life and worship, who is now Father Beidelman’s supervisor in the archdiocesan Office of Worship.

“He is actually very good at working with a group and in meetings, and in distributing his responsibilities,” Gardner said. “He was able to keep the whole picture in mind pretty well and he was able to stay very calm . . . even though it was a big job.”

On the day of the Mass, Father Beidelman arrived at the dome very early to complete final preparations. For the last hour and a half before the Mass, he was working behind the scenes and thus did not see the tens of thousands of people come together for worship. Walking onto the floor of the dome during the opening procession made a big impression on Father Beidelman.

“It was breathtaking to see that number of people gathered to celebrate the Jubilee year, to celebrate the 3,000 or so that would receive confirmation that day, to truly celebrate as a local Church,” he said. “It will be a moment and a celebration that I’ll never forget.”

Less than a year later, Father Beidelman was named the pastor of St. Michael Parish in Brookville and Holy Guardian Angels Parish in Cedar Grove. As a result, he was the pastoral leader of more than 900 families.

He followed this ministry four years later in his current assignment as pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral Parish and as the archdiocesan director of liturgy.

In his ministry at the cathedral, Father Beidelman has worked closely with Michael Davis, the president of the parish council.

Davis works for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and meets on a regular basis with the leaders of the state’s largest industries. Nevertheless, he thinks that Father Beidelman’s leadership skills are comparable with theirs.

“He has leadership qualities that can match or exceed so many of those fine individuals,” Davis said, “so anytime that you can spend quality time, lengthy periods of time, with an individual who has such strong leadership qualities is a


But whether he was charged to oversee an enormous liturgy, served as the pastor of a large and a small rural parish or asssigned to the archdiocese’s cathedral parish, Father Beidelman has never allowed his administrative duties to overtake the spiritual mission of his priestly life and ministry.

“I’m with people who in very good faith are yearning, striving, seeking God in just about everything that they’re about in the Church,” Father Beidelman said, “in either a sacramental celebration or in something as simple as a parish meeting.

“I get to see how they integrate their everyday ordinary lives, how they get to connect that to their faith. And the example of people connecting faith to their life—in all walks of life—of the people I’ve met has been inspiring, hands down.” †


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