October 14, 2016

Cardinal-designate Tobin reflects on role of Mary in his life

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin offers a reflection on Mary during the archdiocesan Marian Jubilee for the Holy Year of Mercy on Oct. 8 at St. Bartholomew Church in Columbus. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin offers a reflection on Mary during the archdiocesan Marian Jubilee for the Holy Year of Mercy on Oct. 8 at St. Bartholomew Church in Columbus. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

By Sean Gallagher

COLUMBUS—Less than a day before Pope Francis surprised many people around the world by naming Cardinal-designate Joseph W. Tobin, archbishop of Indianapolis, to the College of Cardinals, he paid tribute to the Blessed Virgin Mary during a reflection given at the archdiocesan Marian Jubilee for the Holy Year of Mercy.

The event on Oct. 8 drew some 800 Catholics from across central and southern Indiana to St. Bartholomew Church in Columbus.

In his remarks, Cardinal-designate Tobin considered the teachings on mercy of Pope Francis, the role that Mary has played in his own life, and how he has witnessed the power of Mary in drawing people around the world to Christ and the Church.

In light of his historic appointment the following day, his remarks suggest how Cardinal-designate Tobin perhaps fits the profile with his soon-to-be fellow cardinals of a close collaborator with Pope Francis and how the Mother of God prepared him for his increased service to the universal Church.

At the same time, Archbishop Tobin demonstrated his continued closeness to the faithful in central and southern Indiana.

“We are really privileged to be the community of the archdiocese at prayer,” Cardinal-designate Tobin said to the jubilee attendees, who prayed the rosary together during the event.

Quoting Pope Francis’ letter that announced the Holy Year of Mercy, he explained the connection it had to the archdiocesan Marian celebration.

“How fitting it is that the main jubilee [of mercy] event in our archdiocese is one in which we honor our mother Mary, who is the Mother of Mercy, who prays constantly that each one of us will accept God’s gifts of mercy and salvation,” Cardinal-designate Tobin said. “ ‘Her entire life was patterned after the presence of mercy made flesh. The mother of the Crucified and Risen One has entered the sanctuary of divine mercy because she participated intimately in the mystery of this love.’ ”

Cardinal-designate Tobin noted that he came to know Mary “at a very early age” as he grew up in the 1950s and early 1960s “in a Marian world” in southwest Detroit.

He watched his relatives pause to pray the Angelus together and gathered in the evening with his parents and siblings to pray the rosary.

“We prayed to the Mother of God, and it felt quite natural, for we knew that she was our mother as well,” Cardinal-designate Tobin said.

Adding his memory of his father praying at the end of the nightly rosary in gratitude for any possible vocation to the priesthood or religious life among his children, Cardinal-designate Tobin, the eldest of 13, said, “I felt the first stirrings in my heart, and I asked Jesus that, if I was being called, I would respond with the generosity of his mother.”

Pope Francis, who has called Archbishop Tobin to be a cardinal, is known for his love of the poor and his call for the Church to reach out in mercy to people on the margins of society.

Archbishop Tobin explained how an image of Mary as Our Lady of Perpetual Help at his home parish in Detroit led him to an awareness of people in need at a young age.

The image of Mary, he said, was set amidst a mosaic that, on one side, portrayed “the powerful of the world” in the Church and secular society, and on the other side pictured “the poor, people from different continents, the handicapped, the forgotten, all coming to the Mother of God.”

At 14, Archbishop Tobin enrolled in a high school seminary in Wisconsin operated by the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (commonly known as the Redemptorists) that he would later join.

His devotion to Mary increased there and has been vital to him since his priestly ordination in 1978.

“Throughout 38 years of priesthood, Mary has been by my side, helping me bring her Son to those whom I’ve served, and allowing those whom I’ve served to teach me a greater love for Mary,” Cardinal-designate Tobin reflected.

In 1997, his fellow Redemptorists chose him to lead the worldwide order. And for the next 12 years, Cardinal-designate Tobin visited more than 70 countries around the world where members of the order minister.

These experiences may serve him well as he works with cardinals from around the world in helping Pope Francis lead the Church. So may the experiences he gained in the two years he spent as second in leadership at the Vatican’s Congregation for Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life before being appointed archbishop of Indianapolis.

In his travels, Cardinal-designate Tobin witnessed how Mary “is an instrument of evangelization today. This came home to me in a very strong way in Asia.”

In Mumbai, Manilla and Saigon, he saw tens of thousands of people gather to pray to Mary at Redemptorist-operated churches.

It was his experience in Singapore, though, that really caught his attention. There, thousands of Muslims, Buddhists and adherents of traditional Chinese religions would gather with Catholics in devotion to Mary.

“I asked these people, these non-Christian people, ‘Why are you here?’ ” Archbishop Tobin recalled. “And they would look at me with a little bit of surprise and would say, ‘We have to speak with the merciful lady.’ ”

He added that the archbishop of Singapore told him that more adults are baptized at what is commonly called in the city the “Novena Church” than in any other church there.

“The merciful lady drew them and then introduced them to mercy itself,” Cardinal-designate Tobin said.

He later joked that he may have become a bishop “because I behaved very badly.”

“I rely on Mary’s love,” Archbishop Tobin said. “I call on her protection more than ever.

“Mary is the mother of a billion some Catholics across the world today—Mary, who is honored in temples and poor homes and is still calling people to know the source of mercy, her son Jesus, dead and risen for us.”

While serving Pope Francis and the universal Church as a member of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal-designate Tobin will remain the shepherd of the faithful in central and southern Indiana, to whom he said during the Marian jubilee that he feels a close connection to in praying the rosary.

“It ties me to my mom and dad,” he said. “It ties me to the prisoners in Terre Haute with whom I pray the rosary. It ties me with all of you to the Mother of God, who is the Mother of Mercy.”

(To view a video of Cardinal-designate Joseph W. Tobin’s reflection during the Oct. 8 Marian jubilee at St. Bartholomew Church in Columbus, visit www.archindy.org/holyyearofmercy/videos.html.)

 

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