July 8, 2011

Centrality of the Eucharist is the key to living Christ-centered life, says new bishop of Evansville

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., ordains his former vicar general, Bishop Charles C. Thompson, as the fifth bishop of Evansville, Ind., on June 29 at Roberts Municipal Stadium in Evansville. Bishop Thompson succeeds Bishop Gerald A. Gettelfinger, who is seen over the shoulder of the archbishop. Also pictured is Father Patrick Beidelman, director of liturgy for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, who served as master of ceremonies. (Photo by Peewee Vasquez, The Message)

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., ordains his former vicar general, Bishop Charles C. Thompson, as the fifth bishop of Evansville, Ind., on June 29 at Roberts Municipal Stadium in Evansville. Bishop Thompson succeeds Bishop Gerald A. Gettelfinger, who is seen over the shoulder of the archbishop. Also pictured is Father Patrick Beidelman, director of liturgy for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, who served as master of ceremonies. (Photo by Peewee Vasquez, The Message)

By Mary Ann Hughes (The Message, Evansville)

EVANSVILLE, Ind.—In a June 29 liturgy filled with processions, pageantry and even a little humor, Bishop Charles C. Thompson was installed as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Evansville.

His motto is “Christ the Cornerstone,” and he reminded the 7,000-plus in attendance at his episcopal ordination at Roberts Municipal Stadium that “it must always be the voice of Jesus Christ who speaks through us. In his name, we speak and work on behalf of those in need.

“The centrality of the Eucharist is of vital importance for us. To remain Christ-centered in every fabric of our lives, relationships and missions, we must not lose sight of the very real presence of Jesus in our midst,” he said.

The new bishop, 50, succeeds Bishop Gerald A. Gettelfinger, 75, who led the diocese for 22 years. He comes to southwestern Indiana after serving in the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., as a pastor, high school chaplain and, most recently, vicar general.

More than 200 of the new bishop’s family members, including his parents, Coleman and Joyce Thompson, traveled from central Kentucky to Evansville for the liturgy. It began with a procession of Knights of St. John and fourth-degree Knights of Columbus, seminarians and deacons, priests from both the Louisville Archdiocese and the Evansville Diocese, and abbots, bishops and archbishops, who concelebrated the ordination Mass.

Msgr. Jean-Francois Lantheaume represented Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States. The priest is charge d’affairs at the apostolic nunciature in Washington.

The bishop-designate was escorted by two priests, Father R. Dale Cieslik, a cousin, and Father J. Mark Spalding, vicar general of the Louisville Archdiocese.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville was the principal ordaining bishop, and retired Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly of Louisville and Bishop Gettelfinger were co-ordaining bishops.

Before the ordination rite, Indianapolis Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein delivered the homily. The archbishop is a native of Jasper, Ind., and former monk of Saint Meinrad Archabbey. He began his homily by thanking the bishop-designate for saying “yes to the Holy Father.”

He noted that as a young child, in an interview with the Louisville

Courier-Journal, the young Chuck Thompson said he “might go to Saint Meinrad and give the seminary a try.”

Archbishop Buechlein, who served as the president-rector of Saint Meinrad at that time, said, “He embraced priestly formation with an open and full heart, and he completed the program with flying colors.”

He added, “I am sure he will make Louisville and Evansville proud.”

He told the bishop-designate that he would be a “servant of unity. By God’s grace, we build unity and communion in two ways, unity in the faith of the Church and unity in the charity of Christ. A bishop is a humble servant of unity in the Church.

“Without humility, one does not serve. Without humility, one does not build community.”

At the end of his homily, the archbishop jokingly offered a suggestion regarding the bishop-designate’s title. “If anyone slips and says ‘Bishop Chuck,’ I suggest they make a charitable contribution to the Little Sisters of the Poor.”

He then held up the bishop-designate’s ordination card. “I think you have a first Communion picture on the front,” he said. The congregation—and the bishop-designate—answered with sustained laughter and applause.

Archbishop Buechlein concluded his homily by telling those in attendance that “what our Church needs more than anything from us bishops and priests [are] integrity and holiness.

“The Church needs us to be no-nonsense, down to earth, holy, spiritual moral leaders who are who we claim to be.”

At the conclusion of the liturgy, the newly ordained Bishop Thompson said, “I have been reminded that this celebration is not so much about me as it is about the Church.

“I am reminded that while I may be the face of unity as bishop, it is truly the Holy Spirit binding us together as the one body of Christ, as holy people of God. In apostolic terms, this unity is particularly reflected in the shared solemnity of the princes of the Apostles, namely Sts. Peter and Paul. The source and summit of celebrating this unity, of course, is the Eucharist.”

Many of the people gathered were there to see their new bishop for the first time, and were excited for the future of the Evansville Diocese.

“He sounds like he’s down to earth and energetic,” said Martha Gray, a member of Holy Rosary Parish in Evansville. “I think his connection with the youth is important and our Catholic schools are important.”

Marilyn Welte, a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Daylight, Ind., noted Bishop Thompson’s personable disposition and said, “I hope he can bring people closer together.”

Jim Hook, a member of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Oakland City, Ind., praised his appointment and acknowledged Bishop Thompson’s rural roots. “We have a lot of farming and coal mining here. Evansville is not big. It’s a typical Midwestern city. With his background, it’s good to have him here.”

(Mary Ann Hughes is staff writer for The Message, newspaper of the Diocese of Evansville. Jessica Able, a reporter for The Record newspaper in the Archdiocese of Louisville, contributed to this story.)

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