November 11, 2016

‘God’s will’ leads Cardinal-designate Tobin to new post in Newark, N.J.

Cardinal-designate Joseph W. Tobin prays in the chapel at the Archdiocesan Center in Newark, N.J., before addressing the media on Nov. 7, the day he was introduced as the new shepherd of the Archdiocese of Newark. (Photo by Deacon Al Frank, Archdiocese of Newark)

Cardinal-designate Joseph W. Tobin prays in the chapel at the Archdiocesan Center in Newark, N.J., before addressing the media on Nov. 7, the day he was introduced as the new shepherd of the Archdiocese of Newark. (Photo by Deacon Al Frank, Archdiocese of Newark)

By John Shaughnessy

Referring to “my beloved Archdiocese of Indianapolis,” Cardinal-designate Joseph W. Tobin continued to express his love and gratitude for the people of central and southern Indiana even while he noted that he believes “God’s will” has led him to become the new archbishop of the Archdiocese of Newark.

Cardinal-designate Tobin’s emotions were captured in remarks he made at the beginning of a press conference at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Newark on Nov. 7. That was the day he was officially announced as the new spiritual leader of the archdiocese which is in northern New Jersey.

“The news of my appointment to the Archdiocese of Newark evoked both shock and sadness,” Cardinal-designate Tobin said.

“I recently marked four years as the Archbishop of Indianapolis and had come to love deeply the people of central and southern Indiana. It is gut-wrenching to think of leaving the wonderful clergy, religious and faithful of that local Church, as well as the many friends I have among people of other faiths and those of no faith.”

At the same time, the 64-year-old cardinal designate accepted his assignment to Newark as God’s plan for him.

“I have understood that God has called me to live my baptism as a missionary disciple: one who is called by Jesus to be with him and to be sent forth to preach and to heal,” he said. “I accept this assignment to Newark and understand it as God’s will for me. God’s grace has sustained me so far, and I trust I will have what I need to serve well the people of God in this great archdiocese.”

The press conference was part of the whirlwind that has been Cardinal-designate Tobin’s life since he was named as one of 17 new cardinals by Pope Francis on

Oct. 9. Thirteen days later, he was told he was being reassigned from the Indianapolis archdiocese to the Newark archdiocese. He will be installed as a cardinal by Pope Francis on Nov. 19 at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.

While it’s been a time marked by “gut-wrenching” emotion, Cardinal-designate Tobin also displayed his self-effacing Irish humor at one point during the press conference when he recalled the events of the past month.

“I am not sure my central nervous system can take much more news,” he said with a smile. “So you will forgive me the occasional stutter or facial tick.”

Before appointing Cardinal-designate Tobin, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Archbishop John J. Myers, who has served as Newark’s spiritual leader since 2001. Archbishop Myers is 75, the age at which canon law requires bishops to submit their resignations to the pope.

Cardinal-designate Tobin is only the second archbishop in the history of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to be reassigned to another archdiocese. Archbishop Joseph E. Ritter, born in New Albany, was appointed to lead the Archdiocese of St. Louis in 1946 after having led the Church in central and southern Indiana since 1934.

The demographic differences between the archdioceses of Indianapolis and Newark are dramatic.

Cardinal-designate Tobin is moving from an archdiocese that has about 224,000 Catholics in 39 counties to an archdiocese that has 1.5 million Catholics in four counties.

Catholics in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis account for about 11 percent of all people in central and southern Indiana, while Catholics in the Archdiocese of Newark surpass 50 percent of the area’s total population.

The Archdiocese of Newark also is home to an extensively diverse population, a thread that has weaved through Cardinal-designate Tobin’s ministry since he was ordained as a Redemptorist priest in 1978.

“My service of the Church obliged me to live many years in cultures different from the Irish-American ambient of my family,” he noted. “So I am excited to lead an archdiocese where each Sunday the Eucharist is celebrated in 20 languages.”

Cardinal-designate Tobin is fluent in five languages—English, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. He displayed his proficiency in Spanish during the press conference when he was asked a question in that language and provided a fluent answer comfortably, mentioning his previous involvement with Hispanic communities, which he has served in Detroit, Chicago and Indianapolis.

The cardinal-designate said he didn’t have a vision for the Archdiocese of Newark “right now, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will have one.” He did share his conviction that the vision will partly follow Pope Francis’ “image of a field hospital dedicated to healing the wounds of human hearts.”

“In describing the mission of the Church, the Holy Father outlines the tasks of the Archdiocese of Newark: to heal the wounded hearts, to open doors, to free people, to say that God is good, that God forgives all, that God is our Father, that God is tender, that God is always waiting for us.”

Later, he noted, “I invite the bishops, priests, deacons, religious and faithful of the Archdiocese of Newark to pray for me, that in my service to you, I might speak the Good News with such authenticity that you may recognize in my words the voice of the Good Shepherd.”

It’s a message he delivered—and lived—consistently for four years as the spiritual leader of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

He also mentioned the Archdiocese of Indianapolis consistently throughout the press conference, often using the word, “we” in his comments. He also answered one question about his reassignment by saying affectionately, “I thought the Archdiocese of Indianapolis was a pretty good place.”

To another question, he noted with pride that 1,000 to 1,100 people became new Catholics each year at the Easter Vigil during the four years he led the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Near the end of his prepared remarks at the press conference, Cardinal-designate Tobin made one more reference to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, expressing his gratitude for his four years of leading the Church in central and southern Indiana:

“I am grateful to my beloved Archdiocese of Indianapolis, her clergy, religious and faithful: in thanksgiving for all we have been able to do together, for the love and respect we share, for the unity that we will continue to enjoy in the communion of saints and the breaking of the bread.” †


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