November 25, 2016

‘Extended family’ for cardinal extends beyond Tobins, Redemptorists

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin is pictured with his sisters Sara Broderick, center, and Margo Tobin on Nov. 20 in Rome. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin is pictured with his sisters Sara Broderick, center, and Margo Tobin on Nov. 20 in Rome. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

ROME—If there’s one thing a brother in an Irish family learns quickly, it’s that a conversation with one of his sisters will often lead to some interesting and unexpected situations.

As proof, consider a conversation that Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin had with one of his sisters, Ann Levigne, earlier this fall—before Pope Francis announced on Oct. 9 that he would be one of 17 new cardinals for the Church.

“About two months ago, we were talking about Rome,” Ann says with a smile. “And I said, ‘Can you do something remotely notable so we can go back to Rome?’ ”

After a laugh, she added, “We’re certainly happy for Joe, but we’re happier for our Church. It’s bittersweet knowing he will hate to leave Indianapolis, but it’s great that we’re sharing this as a family, including his family from Indianapolis and his family in Rome.”

The reality for Cardinal Tobin is that his understanding of family extends far beyond his 93-year-old mother, his sisters, his brothers, his nieces, nephews and other relatives—a huge contingent that came to Rome to support him as he was installed as a cardinal by Pope Francis on Nov. 19 in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.

For Cardinal Tobin, his extended family also includes his friends who share with him the charism of the Redemptorist order. And the reality for everyone who has longtime friends is that these friends will often add a touch of humor to their serious thoughts of joy and affection for you.

So it is with Redemptorist Father John Steingraeber, who has known Cardinal Tobin since 1966, a time that has included the 12 years that Cardinal Tobin served as superior general of their order founded by St. Alphonsus Liguori.

“Joe was a freshman when I was a senior in high school seminary,” Father John says. “As one of his classmates once said about Joe, ‘I’ve thought many things of you over the years, but never as the successor of St. Alphonsus.’ ”

Turning serious, Father John said, “He’s proven to be a worthy successor. It’s such an honor. And we’re so proud of the attitude he has about being transferred to Newark. It shows the true missionary spirit he has as a Redemptorist.”

Cardinal Tobin’s “extended family” has also grown to include the Catholics of central and southern Indiana. One of those family members who has come to know him well during his four years as the spiritual leader of the archdiocese is Theresa Brydon, his executive assistant for 2 1/2 years.

“There are some people you feel you’ve known all your life, and that’s how this feels with him,” she said. “I have a feeling of joy for him, but I also feel I haven’t been with him enough.”

It’s a feeling shared by many people throughout central and southern Indiana. †

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