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Over the course of his 53 years of ministry as a priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Msgr. Joseph Riedman baptized thousands of babies.
At least one of them now wants to follow his example.
He is seminarian Benjamin Syberg, a member of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood, where Msgr. Riedman served as pastor from 1980-93.
Syberg was only a toddler when Msgr. Riedman left his Indianapolis South Deanery faith community to become the pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Indianapolis, but he looks up to him as a role model of priestly life and ministry.
“Not too long ago, I sent him a card when I found out that he baptized me,” said Syberg, who is in his second year of formation at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad. “I said, ‘Thank you, Father, from one of the thousands of people you’ve baptized in your life. You may not know me very well. But I’m very excited to follow in your footsteps.’ ”
The formation of future priests like Syberg and the care of retired priests like Msgr. Riedman are supported through contributions made to the “Christ Our Hope: Compassion in Community” annual appeal made by Catholics across central and southern Indiana.
Msgr. Riedman was 80 when he retired in 2009, 10 years beyond the age when priests can ordinarily request to retire. And although he no longer has a ministry assignment at a parish, he still offers sacramental assistance at parishes across the archdiocese on most weekends.
“It’s a source of joy for me that I’m able to help out,” Msgr. Riedman said. “I’ve gone as far away as Brazil [Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish] two or three times. Brazil is almost to Terre Haute. I’m excited by it.”
He is also excited by young priests and seminarians like Syberg, who want to carry on the ministry that he has dedicated himself to since his ordination in 1956.
“It’s exciting and humbling,” Msgr. Riedman said. “I know several of the seminarians [and younger priests] because I also taught their parents.”
For his part, Syberg hopes that he and his brother seminarians can eventually carry forward the torch that Msgr. Riedman and other retired priests have run with for so long.
“I’m happy to do what I’m doing to give him the opportunity to take a well-earned break, and have some freedom to rest and pray,” Syberg said. “I’d be honored, in a way, to follow after someone like Msgr. Riedman.”
Msgr. Riedman can live on his own and be flexible to give sacramental assistance during his retirement in large part because of the health insurance and pension that he receives from the archdiocese—benefits supported through Christ Our Hope.
“Without that, I’d really be in trouble,” he said. “I think that what the archdiocese is doing for them [retired priests] gives them a little independence in retirement and freedom to still continue to help [at parishes].”
Syberg is also grateful for the support that he receives through Christ Our Hope, support that allows him to focus his time entirely on his priestly formation and discernment.
“That’s always a kind of reminder to me when things are hard in the seminary that I’m not here just for myself,” he said, “and that I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for all of the support from so many people. It really helps me to stay on task.”
Deacon candidate Tom Hill has been on task in the archdiocese’s deacon formation program for five years now. He and his 15 classmates hope to be ordained as the archdiocese’s second class of permanent deacons on June 23, 2012.
“There’s a real sense of peace, a real sense of mission and excitement. I’m ready to go,” said Hill, who ministers at St. Joseph Parish in Shelbyville. “I’ve played a lot of baseball. And it’s kind of like we’re rounding third [base] and heading for home.”
The deacon formation program, which is supported by Christ Our Hope, involves monthly weekend courses taken by the deacon candidates in retreat facilities across the archdiocese that are also often attended by their wives.
Hill appreciates the support that he and his fellow deacon candidates have received over the past five years, and says that he is looking forward to showing his gratitude in his ministry once he is ordained a permanent deacon.
“It’s humbling. There’s a deep sense of gratitude,” he said. “We’ll get to live out that gratitude. They talk about paying it forward. We’re called to pay it forward.”
(For more information about “Christ Our Hope: Compassion in Community,” log on to www.archindy.org/ChristOurHope.) †