January 23, 2015

Archdiocesan Catholics bid farewell to Bishop Coyne

Seminarian Michael Dedek, left, Father Todd Riebe and Father Patrick Beidelman joined the rest of the congregation at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis on Jan. 14 in giving a standing ovation to Bishop Christopher J. Coyne during an Evening Prayer liturgy in which Catholics across central and southern Indiana bid farewell to the former auxiliary bishop. Bishop Coyne will be formally installed on Jan. 29 as shepherd of the Diocese of Burlington, Vt.  (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Seminarian Michael Dedek, left, Father Todd Riebe and Father Patrick Beidelman joined the rest of the congregation at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis on Jan. 14 in giving a standing ovation to Bishop Christopher J. Coyne during an Evening Prayer liturgy in which Catholics across central and southern Indiana bid farewell to the former auxiliary bishop. Bishop Coyne will be formally installed on Jan. 29 as shepherd of the Diocese of Burlington, Vt. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

Priests, deacons, seminarians, men and women religious and lay faithful from across central and southern Indiana gathered at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis on Jan. 14 to pray with and bid farewell to Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, whom Pope Francis named on Dec. 22, 2014, to lead the Diocese of Burlington, Vt.

The Evening Prayer liturgy in the cathedral took place four years to the day that Pope Benedict XVI named then-Father Coyne of the Archdiocese of Boston to serve as an auxiliary bishop for the Church in central and southern Indiana. (Related: See a photo gallery from the event)

In remarks he made during the farewell liturgy, Bishop Coyne said he knew little about Indiana at the time of his appointment. He then listed several humorous things that he’s learned about the Hoosier state in the four years since then—such as that “green beans cooked with lard and bacon were health food.”

He concluded his list of the things he’s learned about Indiana on a more heartfelt note.

“I had no idea how healthy and faith-filled the Catholic community of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis is,” Bishop Coyne said, “how many good works of faith and charity you do every day, how you not only speak the Catholic faith but you live it, and how much hope there is for the future of this Catholic community. But I do know now. I do now because of all of you. Thank you.”

Bishop Coyne will be installed at 2 p.m. on Jan. 29 as the 10th bishop of Burlington at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral.

Father Todd Riebe, pastor of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, offered a homily during the liturgy in which he described Bishop Coyne as “a man who is immersed in God’s word, a man who ponders that word and then in plain-spoken and understandable ways invites us to walk together in living that word.”

He noted that soon after Bishop Coyne began his ministry in the archdiocese, he had to take on a much larger leadership role than expected after Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein suffered a stroke.

“Bishop Coyne provided us a sense of peace, confidence and tranquility during a time of uncertainty and change, and for that he will forever have the gratitude of the presbyterate and the people of our archdiocese,” Father Riebe said.

Toward the end of his homily, Father Riebe recalled the Scripture reading for the liturgy from the Letter of St. James in which the saint exhorted his readers to “be doers of the word and not hearers only” (Jas 1:22). He also shifted his focus from the archdiocese to the Catholics of Vermont, whom Bishop Coyne has now been called to lead.

“May he be a shepherd to them, as he has been to us, after the image and likeness of the One who is the Good Shepherd,” Father Riebe said. “ … We send Bishop Coyne forth with our gratitude for his being a ‘doer’ of the word among us, and asking God to equip him to be a good shepherd to all of the people of Vermont.”

Before concluding his homily, Father Riebe couldn’t help but mention Bishop Coyne’s devotion to the New England Patriots, who were to face the Indianapolis Colts in the American Football Conference Championship on Jan. 18 in Foxboro, Mass.

Father Riebe noted that Bishop Coyne would move to Burlington just before the game.

“God in his impeccable, perfect timing is … sending this good man, this good bishop, to be with the people of his diocese just in time to be a source of consolation and comfort to them following that very important game,” said Father Riebe, drawing loud laughter throughout the cathedral.

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin also mentioned the much-awaited football game in his remarks.

“We gather tonight to say, ‘Thank you,’ and to promise to pray for our brother,” Archbishop Tobin said. “Yes, we’ll pray that he’s able to accept the outcome of what’s going to happen on Sunday. But we also pray for his ministry in Vermont.”

Those prayers were in all likelihood answered, given that the Patriots defeated the Colts 45-7 in the game and will now face the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1 in Glendale, Ariz.

Archbishop Tobin noted that Bishop Coyne’s ministry will be challenging since Vermont has been shown in a recent survey to be the most unchurched state in the nation.

“Our brother is not going to have a whole lot of time for moonlight skiing,” Archbishop Tobin said. “He’s going to lead his people, the 128,000 members of the Diocese of Burlington, as missionary disciples in witnessing to the presence of God in our world, his saving love and the incredible hope we have in Jesus.”

Barb Ringwald was among the people who attended the liturgy and the reception that followed. The member of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Cambridge City said she was impressed with how Bishop Coyne connected with youths at the National Catholic Youth Conference, held in Indianapolis in 2011 and 2013. She has great hopes for him in his ministry in Vermont.

“I hope he’s met with open arms and kind of lights a spark,” said Ringwald, who has served her parish as its secretary and its youth minister. “It’s kind of despairing to hear that Vermont is one of the most unchurched states out there. If anyone can make a difference, I think he can. I think he’s got a very good chance and the willpower to do it.”

Carmelite Mother Anne Brackman, prioress of the Monastery of St. Joseph in Terre Haute, also attended the liturgy and reception along with several members of her community.

She promised that they would continue to pray for Bishop Coyne as he leaves the Church in central and southern Indiana for the Church in the Green Mountain State.

“Obviously, our prayers are going to follow him,” Mother Anne said. “We’re not going to abandon him, just because he’s moving. I think we’ve made a really deep friendship with him.” †

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