December 2, 2016

Retired bishop, former archdiocesan priest, values Cardinal Tobin’s humility

By Sean Gallagher

Bishop Gerald A. GettelfingerBishop Gerald A. Gettelfinger has the most longstanding ties with the Church in Indiana of any of the bishops in the state. Born in 1935, he grew up as a member of St. Bernard Parish in Frenchtown in the New Albany Deanery.

He was ordained a priest for the Church in central and southern Indiana in 1961, served in many archdiocesan leadership positions and was appointed bishop of Evansville in 1989.

Although he retired in 2011, a year before Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin was appointed archbishop of Indianapolis, Bishop Gettelfinger has spent enough time with him to have a great appreciation for him and a pride that he is leading the archdiocese in which he grew up and served as a priest.

“Cardinal Tobin is a man of faith,” said Bishop Gettelfinger. “He is most humble. He is not one seeking honors, not a climber with ambitions of grandeur. He is even somewhat embarrassed by his appointment [as a cardinal].

“He is Joe to us bishops in Indiana, and does not stand on ceremony. He is as common as an old shoe. He is one to whom I relate as a close and younger brother—but also a competent leader.”

Bishop Gettelfinger first met Cardinal Tobin while the cardinal was serving as the secretary (second in authority) of the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, a position he held from 2010-12. The impression of Cardinal Tobin’s approach to ministry, Bishop Gettelfinger said, has been confirmed over the past four years.

“I have been most impressed by his incredible talent to listen to the other person with utmost respect and patience,” Bishop Gettelfinger said. “Then he has the great talent to synthesize in a few words the substance of the other person’s idea. That is a legacy he leaves for us bishops as well as all leadership in the Church of Indiana.”

At 81, Bishop Gettelfinger has given himself to ordained ministry in Indiana for 55 years. From that perspective of age and experience, he was encouraged to see the care Cardinal Tobin gave to retired priests. This was embodied, he said, when he celebrated the Mass of Christian Burial for Father Hilary Meny, the longest serving priest in the history of the archdiocese, who died on Oct. 7 at 101.

The funeral took place on Oct. 12, just days after Pope Francis had announced his selection of Cardinal Tobin to the College of Cardinals.

“That act alone epitomizes his love for all his priests and those who care for us,” Bishop Gettelfinger said. “Cardinal Tobin’s gift of presence erases the feeling of some retired priests feeling abandoned and [shows] gratitude to those who care for us.” †

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