December 2, 2016

Bishops reflect on legacy of Cardinal Tobin for Hoosier Catholics

The bishops of Indiana pose during a May 14, 2015, meeting of the Indiana Catholic Conference in Evansville, Ind. They are, from left in the front row, Bishops Dale J. Melczek, retired bishop of Gary, Charles C. Thompson of Evansville, Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, and William L. Higi, retired bishop of Lafayette. In the second row, from left, are Bishops Donald J. Hying of Gary, Timothy L. Doherty of Lafayette, Gerald A. Gettelfinger, retired bishop of Evansville, and Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin. (Submitted photo)

The bishops of Indiana pose during a May 14, 2015, meeting of the Indiana Catholic Conference in Evansville, Ind. They are, from left in the front row, Bishops Dale J. Melczek, retired bishop of Gary, Charles C. Thompson of Evansville, Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, and William L. Higi, retired bishop of Lafayette. In the second row, from left, are Bishops Donald J. Hying of Gary, Timothy L. Doherty of Lafayette, Gerald A. Gettelfinger, retired bishop of Evansville, and Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin. (Submitted photo)

By Sean Gallagher

Like many Hoosier Catholics, bishops across Indiana were overjoyed to learn on Oct. 9 that Pope Francis had chosen Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin as a member of the College of Cardinals.

About a month later, these leaders of the Church in Indiana also shared in Hoosier Catholics’ sadness at seeing Cardinal Tobin appointed to lead the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J.

Bishop Charles C. Thompson, shepherd of the Diocese of Evansville, Ind., said that Cardinal Tobin’s “legacy of leadership is ultimately about leaving the footprint of Pope Francis on the Church in Indiana.

“His example of servant-leadership is marked with a humble spirit, gracious hospitality, a keen intellect and prayerful presence,” said Bishop Thompson, who was appointed to lead the Church in southwest Indiana in 2011. “His calm and gentle way allows all to feel welcome and valued in his presence. Remaining Christ-centered in all situations, he is able to avoid getting pulled into any particular ideology.

“Having served with him these past four years, I consider him a bishop’s bishop, a brother and friend. Like Pope Francis for the universal Church, Cardinal Tobin has enabled the local Church to expand its horizons in its focus on the Kingdom of God at hand.”

Bishop Thompson said the faithful in Indiana can carry on Cardinal Tobin’s example by “imitating his humility, hospitality, gentleness, prayerfulness and gracious attitude.”

Bishop Donald J. Hying of the Diocese of Gary, Ind., said he values Cardinal Tobin’s “joyful humanity in radiating love and goodness.

“I’m sure Pope Francis saw these qualities in him, and elevating him to the College of Cardinals is an affirmation of Cardinal Tobin’s faith and service to God’s people,” said Bishop Hying, who was appointed to lead the Church in northwest Indiana in 2014. “Our prayers go with him as God calls Cardinal Tobin to now serve the people of our Church in Newark.”

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., Diocese said Cardinal Tobin “has been an exemplary witness of the bishop’s vocation to be a witness to Christ, the Good Shepherd.

“When I think about Cardinal Tobin’s legacy here, what immediately comes to mind is the priority he has given to loving outreach to the poor, to immigrants and to the marginalized, to all those who are struggling in life,” said Bishop Rhoades, who has led his diocese since 2009. “I think, for example, of the cardinal’s spearheading the pastoral letter of the Indiana bishops on poverty in Indiana. I expect that this essential part of the Church’s mission will continue as a priority here, thanks to the vision of Cardinal Tobin.”

Bishop Rhoades hopes Hoosier Catholics will benefit from Cardinal Tobin’s example in the future.

“In many ways, Cardinal Tobin exemplifies the priorities and approach of Pope Francis,” he said. “I think we can continue Cardinal Tobin’s legacy by our attentiveness to the teachings of Pope Francis and his call to be a Church of and for the poor. I also think we can carry his legacy forward by following his example of evangelization that attracts people to the Church through our example of goodness, charity and mercy toward all.”

Bishop Timothy L. Doherty, who has led the Lafayette, Ind., Diocese since 2010, said Cardinal Tobin has been a leader for Catholics across the state “by his personal thoughtfulness and not authority.

“Cardinal Tobin is effective because he is a believer and accepts Christ’s saving action in his life,” Bishop Doherty said. “This is what gave energy to his life as a missionary, and it is something we all can feel when he is around.”

He also pointed to the Indiana bishops’ pastoral letter on poverty as an important legacy that Cardinal Tobin leaves behind as he prepares for ministry in northern New Jersey.

“I think that the key word is ‘cooperation,’ ” Bishop Doherty said. “The lesson flows from our baptism when we are charged to share … with Christ in acting as priest, prophet and king. Holy relations with God, teaching by word and action, leadership infused with wisdom and mercy.

“It was Cardinal Tobin, working as part of a larger group, who suggested the main structure to the Indiana bishops’ pastoral letter ‘Poverty at the Crossroads.’ That structure is ‘see, judge, act.’ Each piece is like one part of a three-period hockey game. If we fail to show up for any one period, we cannot succeed.” †

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