January 13, 2017

Reflection / Daniel Conway

Festive, familial spirit marks Cardinal Tobin’s installation

Festivities for the installation of Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin as the sixth archbishop of Newark on Jan. 6 began with an elegant buffet luncheon at Nanina’s in the Park. Hundreds of the cardinal’s family and friends, along with the apostolic nuncio and a large delegation of cardinals, archbishops, bishops and priests attended.

The presence of Cardinal Tobin’s mother, Marie Terese, and so many members of his large family made the celebration seem more like a family gathering than a formal occasion. The Tobins are like that. They are warm, outgoing and welcoming. Even when they are guests, not the hosts, they go out of their way to make sure that everyone feels at home.

It’s unlikely that Cardinal Tobin had time to enjoy Nanina’s sumptuous buffet. He was too busy going from table to table during the meal greeting family, friends, priests, bishops and cardinals. As always, his warmth and gracious hospitality made everyone feel welcome, and as he engaged in brief conversations with literally hundreds of people, each one was made to feel as though he or she was the only person in the room.

Priests from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis who travelled to Newark for the installation joked that the security guards posted in every corner of the grand hall were there to prevent the guests from Indianapolis from kidnapping the cardinal, and bringing him “home” to Indiana in an extra large suitcase! But that was the only hint of the Hoosier delegation’s lingering bittersweet feeling. The evident joy expressed by everyone in Newark who hosted the gathering made the occasion a genuine opportunity to experience Cardinal Tobin’s episcopal motto: “Gaudete in Domino” (“Rejoice in the Lord”).

The installation liturgy which followed the luncheon was extraordinarily beautiful and inspiring. The Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart is unquestionably one of the most spectacular churches in North America. Still filled with what seemed like thousands of poinsettias, magnificent Christmas wreaths and other floral decorations, the basilica’s gothic splendor was “warmed” by the Christmas spirit and made especially inviting.

No one does “pomp and circumstance” quite like the Catholic Church, and the liturgy of installation was an exceptionally festive ceremony. Once the trumpets sounded and the organ filled the church with majestic beauty, the grand procession began. Hundreds of priests, bishops, archbishops and cardinals were joined by ecumenical and interreligious representatives, knights and ladies of various Catholic fraternal orders and other dignitaries in solemn procession through the basilica, whose 2,000 seats were filled to overflowing.

As soon as all were assembled, the formal reception of the new archbishop took place at the front doors of his cathedral church. As Cardinal Tobin kissed a crucifix and sprinkled those nearby with holy water, the cathedral choir sang a

15th-century canticle, Gaudete in Domino, in celebration of their new shepherd.

Once in the sanctuary, the cardinal was welcomed by his predecessor, Archbishop John J. Meyers, now Emeritus Archbishop of Newark. He was then officially installed by the pope’s representative, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. The nuncio read the formal proclamation signed by Pope Francis on Nov. 7, 2016, transferring Cardinal Tobin from Indianapolis to Newark.

Afterward, as is customary, the cardinal showed the proclamation to Archbishop Myers and to all present—walking the entire length of the Cathedral Basilica with the document held high for all to see.

It was a powerful moment. A humble priest and bishop, a missionary from a large Catholic family, a dear friend to brothers and sisters from many different corners of the globe, Cardinal Tobin showed all present the proof of the assignment he has received from the successor of St. Peter to love the 1.5 million Catholics in the Archdiocese of Newark, and to proclaim the joy of the Gospel to all its diverse peoples and cultures.

Later, in his homily, the cardinal spoke of the chasm that exists between faith and life that threatens our Church, more than all the “hot-button issues” that are discussed incessantly both inside and outside Church circles. Bringing faith and life together is the greatest challenge we face as missionary disciples of Jesus Christ, the cardinal said. It is not an insurmountable burden, but a great gift that should be undertaken with gratitude for the grace we have received from the one who has given us everything.

“I am comforted by the words Paul wrote to his beloved friends in Philippi,” Cardinal Tobin said. “Rejoice in the Lord always, I say it again, rejoice! … Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God” (Phil 4:4-7).

The installation of Cardinal Tobin was a grand day of rejoicing. It was a festive, familial celebration with prayers recited and sung in English, Spanish, Korean, Polish, Creole, Ibo, Portuguese, Tagalog and Italian. It was a formal occasion made warm and welcoming by the humility and humor of the man who was himself being welcomed and initiated as the 11th bishop and sixth archbishop of Newark.

May God bless Cardinal Tobin and grant him great joy!

(Daniel Conway is a member of The Criterion’s editorial committee.)


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