September 19, 2014

‘The wider union that we share’: Archbishop Tobin says changes are steps to help archdiocesan faithful feel more closely connected

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, then-apostolic administrator, blesses members of the congregation at the conclusion of the March 25, 2012, Mass of Dedication at the new St. Mary-of-the-Knobs Church in Floyd County. Bishop Coyne will assume pastoral responsibility for the New Albany, Seymour and Tell City deaneries in the southern part of the archdiocese on Oct. 1. (Criterion file photo)

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, then-apostolic administrator, blesses members of the congregation at the conclusion of the March 25, 2012, Mass of Dedication at the new St. Mary-of-the-Knobs Church in Floyd County. Bishop Coyne will assume pastoral responsibility for the New Albany, Seymour and Tell City deaneries in the southern part of the archdiocese on Oct. 1. (Criterion file photo)

By Sean Gallagher

Hoping to strengthen the mission of the Church in central and southern Indiana, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin on Sept. 14 announced a dramatic change in the governance of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Effective on Oct. 1, Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, vicar general, will assume pastoral responsibility for the New Albany, Seymour and Tell City deaneries in the southern part of the archdiocese.

Archbishop Tobin explained his reasons for this change in a letter which was read in parishes across central and southern Indiana last weekend and is included in this issue of The Criterion. (Read the letter from Archbishop | En Espanol)

“We are fortunate to have two bishops to serve the Catholic communities of central and southern Indiana, and I would like to make the best use of our episcopal ministry,” Archbishop Tobin said in the letter. “It is my hope that this new appointment will contribute to advancing the mission of the Church and take advantage of Bishop Coyne’s many gifts.”

Bishop Coyne will reside in Jeffersonville and serve as the administrator of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and St. Augustine parishes. An associate pastor will be named to assist him with the sacramental and pastoral needs of the faith communities so that he will be more available to the clergy, religious and lay faithful across southern Indiana.

Since he was appointed an auxiliary bishop of the Church in central and southern Indiana in 2011, Bishop Coyne has dedicated much of his time to administrative ministry in Indianapolis after Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein suffered a stroke and was granted an early retirement in the fall of 2011.

Now Bishop Coyne looks forward to focusing his attention more on direct pastoral ministry.

“The best years of my priesthood before I was ordained a bishop were when I was a pastor,” he said. “And I hope to be able to mirror that in a similar and a greater way in my service to the Church in the southern part of the archdiocese.”

Also announced on Sept. 14 was the assignment of Msgr. William F. Stumpf as moderator of the curia.

In this position, Msgr. Stumpf will oversee the ministry of the staff of the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis.

He will also serve as an additional vicar general alongside Bishop Coyne.

The Church’s Code of Canon Law requires that each diocese have a vicar general to assist the local bishop in his governance. Canon #475 §2 allows for the appointment of multiple vicars general if “the size of the diocese [or] the number of inhabitants” makes such an arrangement helpful.

Currently, Msgr. Stumpf serves as pastor of St. Michael Parish in Greenfield. He will continue in that ministry through January 2015.

No stranger to the Archbishop O’Meara Catholic Center, Msgr. Stumpf served there from 1997-2007 as archdiocesan vicar for clergy and parish life coordinators, and in 2011 as moderator of the curia.

He sees this new ministry assignment as a way to allow Archbishop Tobin and Bishop Coyne to be among the faithful of central and southern Indiana more often.

“I’m there to assist them in their ministry,” Msgr. Stumpf said. “And really, if you think about it, that’s the whole understanding of the priesthood. You are a sharer in the bishop’s ministry. He shares his ministry with you.”

Although Bishop Coyne will have special care for the Church in the southern part of the archdiocese, Archbishop Tobin noted in his letter that he will still have ultimate responsibility for and will make periodic visits to the parishes and other agencies in the archdiocese.

Likewise, Bishop Coyne expects to return to Indianapolis regularly for meetings and other archdiocesan events.

In an interview with The Criterion, Archbishop Tobin reflected on his reasons for making this change in the governance of the archdiocese.

Since he was installed as archbishop on Dec. 8, 2012, Archbishop Tobin has experienced the “territorial vastness” of the archdiocese and “in a certain sense, the unfortunate configuration of the cathedral city” at the far northern end of it.

“So, those folks that are living in the suburbs of Cincinnati or Louisville can and have felt neglected,” he said. “The feeling was that everything rises and sets on Indianapolis.”

This change in governance, he hopes, will be one step to help the faithful across the archdiocese to feel more closely connected to each other.

Father Daniel Staublin, pastor of St. Ambrose Parish in Seymour, administrator of Our Lady of Providence Parish in Brownstown and dean of the Seymour Deanery, has firsthand experience of Catholics in the southern part of the archdiocese feeling that lack of connection to the faithful further north.

So he applauded the change.

“It’s hard for the archbishop and Bishop Coyne to be present throughout the archdiocese,” said Father Staublin, who also previously served as pastor of St. Paul Parish in Tell City. “But there will be that kind of presence now in a way that has never been before. I think it will be helpful to have the southern part of the archdiocese feel more connected.”

Archbishop Tobin hopes that nurturing the communion among all the faithful of central and southern Indiana through this change in governance will help the archdiocese be more effective as a whole in carrying out its mission.

“The archdiocese is not just the sum of its parts,” he said. “It’s the wider union that we share.”

Archbishop Tobin noted that this arrangement of having an auxiliary bishop help oversee a particular geographical part of a diocese is modeled after what is done in dioceses and archdioceses across the country that have one or more auxiliary bishops.

He said that in asking Bishop Coyne to help in the pastoral care of the southern part of the archdiocese he had a “desire to put in place a structure that is open to creativity, and will, I think, make a case eventually that an archdiocese like Indianapolis really needs an auxiliary, together with the archbishop.”

Archbishop Tobin also noted that this change is a way of responding in central and southern Indiana to “Pope Francis’ frequent exhortation to pastors to be close to their people.”

“I try to do that by getting around,” Archbishop Tobin said. “But we have this unique and golden opportunity as bishops to be even closer and on a more regular basis to people who could possibly feel distant because of the geography.” †

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