October 26, 2012

End of an era and new beginning mark change in leadership in archdiocese

Archbishop Emeritus Daniel M. Buechlein acknowledges the applause given to him from the people gathered at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis on Oct. 18 for the press conference at which Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin was introduced as the new shepherd of the Church in central and southern Indiana. Assisting Archbishop Buechlein is Don Mucci, left. Archdiocesan director of communications Greg Otolski, right, joins in the applause. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Archbishop Emeritus Daniel M. Buechlein acknowledges the applause given to him from the people gathered at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis on Oct. 18 for the press conference at which Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin was introduced as the new shepherd of the Church in central and southern Indiana. Assisting Archbishop Buechlein is Don Mucci, left. Archdiocesan director of communications Greg Otolski, right, joins in the applause. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Mary Ann Garber

A fond farewell and warm welcome were expressed by enthusiastic and extended applause during a press conference to announce the new archbishop of Indianapolis on Oct. 18 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

Archbishop Emeritus Daniel M. Buechlein, now living at Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, waved in acknowledgment as several hundred people at the press conference gratefully thanked him with heartfelt applause for his distinguished pastoral service to the Church in central and southern Indiana during the past 19 years.

Moments later, the people applauded at length again when Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, previously a Redemptorist priest who grew up in Detroit, was introduced by Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, apostolic administrator, as the sixth archbishop and 12th bishop to serve as the spiritual leader of the archdiocese. (See more stories and photos here)

Archbishop Tobin’s episcopal motto is “Gaudete in Domino,” which translates as “Rejoice in the Lord” and is taken from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (Phil 4:4). He reflected that joy during the press conference.

In a light-hearted moment at the conclusion of his prepared remarks, Archbishop Tobin smiled as he held up an Indianapolis Colts scarf given to him by Archbishop Buechlein then said he accepted this mantle gratefully and promised to support the National Football League team.

After putting the Colts scarf around his neck, Archbishop Tobin walked over to Archbishop Buechlein and thanked him for his gift as well as his exceptional leadership of the archdiocese for nearly two decades.

“I’m happy for him,” Archbishop Buechlein said after the press conference, which symbolized the start of the official “passing of the torch” from the Jasper, Ind., native and longtime shepherd of the Church in central and southern Indiana to a former Vatican official returning home from Rome to minister in the Midwest.

Smiles were plentiful among the archdiocesan employees, who were glad to see their beloved archbishop again and excited about the opportunity to serve with a new spiritual leader.

“It’s a most historic day,” archdiocesan chancellor Mickey Lentz said after the press conference. “It is very exciting. It’s one that many of us, myself especially, have waited for a long time. It’s a passing on—somewhat in a way bittersweet—but it’s for the most part a positive bittersweet. I think it’s helped Archbishop Buechlein bring closure to his reign. I think he’s been waiting for that for a long time.”

Archbishop Buechlein’s early retirement for health reasons on Sept. 21, 2011, following a bout with cancer then a stroke, temporarily elevated Bishop Christopher J. Coyne from auxiliary bishop and vicar general to apostolic administrator.

“I’m looking forward to working with this new archbishop, who seems to really love life,” Lentz said. “He brings a lot of energy. Meeting him yesterday and being able to share his faith journey—and also his educational background and love for Catholic education—really warmed my heart.”

Father Gerald Kirkhoff, archdiocesan vicar for advocacy for priests and pastor of Good Shepherd Parish in Indianapolis, also noted the “new beginning” for the archdiocese.

“I think Archbishop Buechlein is happy that he got to see the continuity in his successor,” Father Kirkhoff said, “and to be able to be here today, and meet him and talk with him.”

More than 30 of the archdiocese’s 95 active priests attended the press conference.

Father Thomas Kovatch, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington, was among the clergy who had been ordained to the priesthood by the archbishop emeritus.

“It’s always good to see Archbishop Daniel,” Father Kovatch said after the press conference. “He’s really been a father figure to me the whole time I’ve been in the seminary and as a priest. I’ve got a feeling that our new archbishop is going to be that same father figure for the seminarians and priests so I’m excited about that.

“For us as priests, it’s a joy to have an ordinary now because we really can’t function the way we should without an archbishop,” Father Kovatch said. “Bishop Coyne has done a great job in bridging that gap for us. We’re excited now and ready to move forward.

“My prayer for the new archbishop is the same as it is for any priest,” Father Kovatch said. “That we will allow God to guide us in everything we do each day and trust in that guidance.” †

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