November 11, 2016

Local Church will miss caring shepherd and his ‘humble and joyful servant’s heart’

Cindy Clark, executive assistant for the archdiocesan Catholic Communications Center, left, Theresa Brydon, executive assistant to the archbishop, and Carolyn Noone, archdiocesan director of special events, watch a livestream of a Nov. 7 press conference in Newark, N.J., introducing Cardinal-designate Joseph W. Tobin as the new archbishop of Newark, N.J. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Cindy Clark, executive assistant for the archdiocesan Catholic Communications Center, left, Theresa Brydon, executive assistant to the archbishop, and Carolyn Noone, archdiocesan director of special events, watch a livestream of a Nov. 7 press conference in Newark, N.J., introducing Cardinal-designate Joseph W. Tobin as the new archbishop of Newark, N.J. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Natalie Hoefer

The word crept through the social media grapevine during the first weekend of November, rumors that Cardinal-designate Joseph W. Tobin was being reassigned to head the Archdiocese of Newark. N.J.

The rumors proved to be true. On the morning of Nov. 7, a statement from Cardinal-designate Tobin appeared on the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’ website confirming the news.

The Criterion reached out to Catholics throughout the Church in central and southern Indiana to gather reaction to the news: priests, religious, lay Catholics, and those who work closely with Cardinal-designate Tobin.

The responses run the gamut of emotions, but a common thread appeared: the Catholic community here is praying for Cardinal-designate Tobin in his new missionary field.

A ‘humble and joyful servant’s heart’

Moving into an archdiocese where Mass is celebrated in 20 languages, Cardinal-elect Tobin will be able to use the skills he’s developed in working with Catholics around the world, as well as those in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis who hail from numerous countries.

“I got to know the archbishop as being a really good supporter of the Intercultural Ministry, opening his heart to people not from this area,” says Sally Stovall, a leader of the African Catholic community in the archdiocese.

“He’s been there, been committed to not just the African community, but the Hispanic community, the Filipino community, the French-speaking community. I don’t think the pope would have selected him if he didn’t feel confident that he could handle that [appointment], but it is a loss for us.”

Stovall expressed her gratitude to Cardinal-designate Tobin, too, as a member of Holy Angels Parish in Indianapolis, a predominantly African-American parish which has been without a church building for several years.

“He supported us when everyone else said it wasn’t going to happen,” she says of his decision to allow the parish to build a new church. “We wish him well. Newark doesn’t know what they’re getting—they’re so blessed.”

Gabriela Ross, archdiocesan coordinator of catechetical resources, says she is grateful for Cardinal-designate Tobin’s “humble and joyful servant’s heart when it comes to serving the Spanish-speaking faithful, and I know that will be an ever bigger blessing in Newark, where there are even more Spanish speakers.”

Shortly after Cardinal-designate Tobin arrived in Indianapolis, Dabrice Bartet, a member of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis and also of the French-speaking Catholic community here, approached him about instituting a French-speaking Mass in the archdiocese.

“It’s amazing how open he is to other cultures and understands the need for people to worship taking their language and culture into consideration,” she says. “He worked to help all the [ethnic Catholic] communities come together and be integrated into the parishes.”

Bartet worked with Cardinal-designate Tobin as a member of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council that he reinstituted to stay informed of needs throughout central and southern Indiana. When she heard the news of his new appointment, she says she was sad but “knew it was coming at some point, just not so soon.

“We have been blessed to have him all these years,” she says. “Now it’s time for him to go serve another community who needs him. We will miss him, and I’m sure he’ll miss us.”

‘I’m going to miss my archbishop’

The Archdiocese of Newark may have more Catholics than the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, but its four counties are small in comparison to the geographical area Cardinal-designate Tobin traversed among the 39 counties of central and southern Indiana.

In Richmond, Rick Ruhl, principal of Seton Catholic Jr./Sr. High School, says the news came as a surprise to him.

“I was stunned at the news initially,” he says. “I’m extremely grateful for all Archbishop Tobin has done for Catholics throughout the archdiocese. I think he’s had a tremendous impact since his arrival. It’s a classic case of ‘our loss is their gain.’ ”

Patrick Byrne, a past president of the archdiocesan Catholic Community Foundation and member of St. Mary-of-the-Knobs Parish in Floyd County, says he too “was really surprised and [felt] an element of disappointment.”

He appreciated that when Cardinal-designate Tobin “came down to our area, he really wanted to meet everyone he could. There wasn’t a separation. He was really one of us.

“No doubt, I’m going to miss my archbishop. He had the ability to make everyone feel like they’re his friend. He’s really a jewel. We’re going to miss him, but I’m happy for New Jersey.”

Robert Rudolph says the move came as no surprise to him. The Criterion interviewed him after the 12:10 p.m. Mass on Nov. 7 at St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis.

“I was in a way saddened, but to me it was not unexpected,” he says. “I didn’t think Pope Francis would leave a cardinal here in Indianapolis, to tell you the truth.

“We’ve had three bishops in the last 10 years. I think it’s disconcerting. You want to have some continuity. But I’m sure whoever [the pope] sends next will be just as loved.”

Like Rudolph, Benedictine Sister Carol Faulkner of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove says she has “sadness in my heart when thinking about Cardinal-elect Tobin moving from our archdiocese. He has been an outstanding pastoral leader. He is a gifted and generous person. … I have learned much from his sincerity and compassion. ”

Sister Carol also serves on the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council.

“Serving on the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council has been a privilege for me. Cardinal-elect Tobin genuinely appreciated the advice and council that was given at these meetings. I am sorry that he will not be the one to see the Pastoral Plan developed and implemented, but I trust that his successor will also desire input from all sectors of the archdiocese.”

‘A marvelous servant to priests’

Cardinal-designate Tobin was “a very faithful priest and a faithful bishop,” not just to the lay Catholics of the archdiocese but also to its priests, says retired Father Michael Welch.

“He’s just been a marvelous servant to the priests, taking care of his priests,” he says.

“I was thinking that the archbishop would probably be leaving us. I think a lot of us in the archdiocese thought that, but were hoping it was not so soon.

“I was watching the feed [from the Newark press conference] this morning, and I think I sensed a little bit of sadness and a little bit of anxiety. But also, as he said in his letter to us, that’s the challenge of faithfully following Christ and following where he needs to go, because he’s very faithful.”

Father Jonathan Meyer, pastor of All Saints Parish in Dearborn County, says his “heart goes out to [Cardinal-designate Tobin]. I know what it’s like to have to change an assignment very abruptly.”

Two-and-a-half years ago, he was asked to leave three parishes in Jennings County that he had led for five years to become the pastor of All Saints Parish in Dearborn County.

Father Meyer recognizes the Archdiocese of Newark as having “a lot of turmoil. They need a healer, and I think he has a healer’s heart. … Newark is going to see a tremendous grace and blessing because of the obedience of his call there, but also because of the gifts that he has.”

Retired Msgr. Frederick Easton acknowledges that he will miss Cardinal-designate Tobin as a “model to emulate.”

“He gives us priests an example of true pastoral ministry, of reaching out to people. And he does it with such ease,” he says. “He’s a living example of being a shepherd, a living example of being a Christian.”

While some may question why the decision to move Cardinal-designate Tobin was made, Msgr. Easton notes that [Cardinal-designate Tobin] “sees beyond the human in the Church to the working of the Holy Spirit within it, despite the human elements. He always rises above the Church political stuff and teaches us to do the same. We need to let go of that and know that we will get through it all.”

Conventual Franciscan Father Mark Weaver, pastor of St. Joseph University Parish in Terre Haute, agrees.

“I had no doubt that the pope would ask Archbishop Tobin to take on greater challenges, but I hoped it would not happen so soon,” he says. “I am sad to see him go. The Lord needs him to serve others, but the Lord will certainly take care of us in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis as well.”

‘I will miss him immensely’

At the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis, the archdiocesan employees who worked in close proximity with the cardinal-designate watched the livestream feed of the press conference from Newark together in the center’s assembly hall on Nov. 7. Between them and the large screen with the live feed stood the empty podium from which Cardinal-designate Tobin usually addressed them.

“I truly believe he’s going to where he is needed the most,” says Ann Tully, who serves in the archdiocesan Metropolitan Tribunal and watched the live stream. “I think he has brought a gift of joy to us. I just want to be able to support him and let him know that we have deeply felt that gift he’s given to us, and that he will always be in our hearts and in our prayers.”

Archdiocesan chancellor Annette “Mickey” Lentz says she will miss Cardinal-designate Tobin “immensely.”

“I have been privileged to walk this journey of leadership alongside Archbishop Tobin, not working for but with [him],” she says. “He has been both a treasured colleague and friend.”

She says that he made an impact “not only on our Church community, but on those involved in the Church elsewhere. Whether at a Notre Dame football game, a parade featuring him as ‘Irish Man of the Year’ or at the lovely Church events in rural Indiana, the result was the same. People recognize what a good man he is—holistic in his thinking and serving God with a generous heart and good spirit.

“We owe our love, prayers and support to Archbishop Tobin as he begins his new journey in Newark, and we thank God for the wonderfully awesome memories he has left for us.”

Msgr. William F. Stumpf, archdiocesan vicar general under Cardinal-designate Tobin and moderator of the curia, says Cardinal-designate Tobin came to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis at a needed time, following the retirement of Archbishop Emeritus Daniel M. Buechlein.

Through no fault of his own, says Msgr. Stumpf, “Archbishop Daniel’s declining health had an impact on him and also the archdiocese,” he says. “[Cardinal-designate Tobin] just reinvigorated everybody. His love of God is just so real, and his humility and humanness have been so captivating for every one of us.”

Msgr. Stumpf cites the cardinal-designate as “the first bishop I’ve ever known that’s really caused us to start thinking about what is our contribution globally,” and that “he’s so aware of those who are marginalized and those who are in need. We’ve always been aware of that, but he’s helped bring that more to the forefront for us, that it’s core to the Gospel. …

“Ultimately, we need to continue to be the people he has continually called us to be. He’s called us to be humble. He’s called us to be joyful. He’s called us to be real people of prayer.

“I think if we can each try to keep doing those things, too, we’re going to find better ways to look at the Church, not only in our backyard but around the world.”

(Sean Gallagher and John Shaughnessy contributed to this article.)

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