March 29, 2013

Archbishop shares witness of ‘silent’ saint at Solemnity of St. Joseph Mass

Conventual Franciscan Father Edmund Goldbach, pastor of St. Benedict Parish in Terre Haute, proclaims the Gospel to a full church on March 19 during the Mass for the Solemnity of St. Joseph at St. Joseph University Parish in Terre Haute. (Submitted photo by Amy Miranda)

Conventual Franciscan Father Edmund Goldbach, pastor of St. Benedict Parish in Terre Haute, proclaims the Gospel to a full church on March 19 during the Mass for the Solemnity of St. Joseph at St. Joseph University Parish in Terre Haute. (Submitted photo by Amy Miranda)

By Natalie Hoefer

TERRE HAUTE—Through the hovering incense, the image of St. Joseph silently watched while Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin reflected upon the silent witness of the actual man and saint.

“In all of scripture, St. Joseph is silent. But he speaks so eloquently without saying a word,” the archbishop said, gesturing at the painting of the saint in the apse of St. Joseph University Church in Terre Haute.

The archbishop spoke to the congregation on March 19 during a Mass for the Solemnity of St. Joseph, the parish’s patron. The Mass concluded a year of events celebrating the 175th anniversary of the parish’s founding.

Archbishop Tobin emphasized the importance of witnesses to the new evangelization. He cited Pope Paul VI’s 1975 apostolic exhortation, “On Evangelization in the Modern World.”

“[In the letter] he said, ‘Modern men and women listen more to witnesses than they listen to teachers. And if they listen to teachers, it’s because they’re also witnesses.’

“Now I think our Church has seen the power in the last week or so of a witness. Just think of the excitement that has been generated by Pope Francis,” the archbishop said. “Not for what he said but for some of these gestures … carrying his suitcase, riding on the bus with the other cardinals.”

Yet Archbishop Tobin cautioned that Pope Francis cannot be the “single, sole witness of our Church. … The Lord is counting on us as individuals and as parishes to witness to God’s presence in the world, to God’s dream.”

He described Renaissance paintings portraying the Holy Family with Mary and the Christ Child in the foreground.

“And where’s the foster father? He’s off to the side, usually like this,” said the archbishop, placing his head on his hand with his eyes closed, feigning sleep. “And I realized … it showed Joseph dreaming because that’s when God spoke to him, and that’s when Joseph decided to obey, to walk the way that God chose for him. And fundamentally, that’s our witness as a parish, as St. Joseph’s Parish or any other parish in the archdiocese—an openness to God, an openness to walk the way God shows us.”

To celebrate the archbishop’s presence on his and the parish’s feast day, and to close the celebration of the parish’s 175th anniversary year, Conventual Franciscan Father Mark Weaver, pastor of St. Joseph University Parish, invited everyone in attendance to a soup supper following the Mass.

On the chilly evening, the line stretched between the church and the next building where the soup dinner was served.

While college students appreciated the free meal, their main reasons for attending the Mass that evening were spiritual.

“St. Joseph is my confirmation patron, so I wanted to go to Mass,” said David Bertschinger, a second-year graduate student studying optical engineering at nearby Rose-Hulman Institute for Technology. “As a studier of St. Joseph, I appreciated that the archbishop humanized him quite a bit. Instead of a mythical figure or an abstract figure, he made him a man, into someone we can relate to.”

Kelsey Foi, a sophomore at Indiana State University who is studying special education and elementary education, connected with the archbishop’s reference to evangelizing through witnessing.

“To show Christianity, you have to be a witness,” Foi said. “You can’t just go and tell people about it, you have to live it, too, and that in and of itself will teach people and show people what Christianity is.”

Cheryl Rader is proof of the effectiveness of witnessing.

“Everyone has been so welcoming to me, even though I’m not Catholic,” said Rader about members of St. Joseph University Parish.

“A friend invited me to RCIA [Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults], and I haven’t left since. I love the Church. I love the order of worship, and the traditions of the Church and how everyone is so welcoming.”

Rader was there for Archbishop Tobin’s final blessing and prayer:

“I pray that you may witness as Joseph did to an openness to God, to God’s love for you and for this world,” he said. “And like Joseph, you will obey and walk the way that God shows you.” †

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!