June 16, 2017


Welcome, Archbishop Thompson

Pope Francis didn’t have to look very far to find Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin’s successor as shepherd of the Church in central and southern Indiana.

Archbishop-designate Charles C. Thompson, formerly the bishop of the Evansville, Ind., Diocese, was introduced as the new Archbishop of Indianapolis on June 13 at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis.

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After listening to Archbishop-designate Thompson’s opening remarks, seeing him thoughtfully answer questions during a press conference attended by approximately 300 people in the Assembly Hall, and hearing him reflect on his 30 years of priestly life and ministry in an interview with The Criterion shortly thereafter, one thing is clear to us: We believe you’re going to like our new shepherd.

His episcopal motto, “Christ the Cornerstone,” signifies how it is his “first and foremost prayer that we be Christ-centered in all aspects of our identity, mission and witness in proclaiming the joy of the Gospel.”

Faith, humility and humor were evident as he discussed how his vocational journey that began as a teenager in Kentucky led him to

Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad, where he was formed for the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Louisville.

There at Saint Meinrad, he was mentored by Archbishop-Emeritus Daniel M. Buechlein of Indianapolis, who served as the president-rector of the seminary at the time. They have maintained their friendship, and Archbishop-designate Thompson still regularly visits Archbishop Buechlein, who has resided in the infirmary of Saint Meinrad Archabbey since he retired because of health concerns in 2011.

“He’s such a witness to me, even still,” the new archbishop said of Archbishop-Emeritus Buechlein, who continues to live out his ordained ministry in the infirmary.

He also spoke fondly of his predecessor, Cardinal Tobin, whom he also called a “mentor,” adding “following [him] is more than a daunting task.”

The oldest of three children, Archbishop-designate Thompson has a large extended family, and his parents have been married for 57 years. His mother Joyce is one of 16 children, and his dad Coleman is one of 13 children. He has 90 first cousins, and the archbishop also points to his family when discussing his vocational journey.

“I’m from a very Catholic family,” he said. “Growing up, it never dawned on me to miss Mass. … They [my parents] just live their faith day by day. We prayed the rosary every night together. We said grace at all meals. It was just natural. It was like breathing for me.”

After receiving a standing ovation at the beginning of the June 13 press conference, the new archbishop joked, “I hope you feel that way when I retire.”

Like his predecessors, Archbishop-designate Thompson brings many gifts to his new ministry.

Before being named to lead the Diocese of Evansville in 2011, he was vicar general in the Archdiocese of Louisville. His ministry assignments there also included serving as vicar judicial and director of the archdiocesan tribunal, and as a pastor of parishes—both large and small—in his ministry. Archbishop-designate Thompson was also a visiting professor of canon law at Saint Meinrad.

While ministering in the Archdiocese of Louisville, Archbishop-designate Thompson was priest-chaplain for a time at three Catholic high schools. The young people “always energized me,” he noted.

Youths, he said, “are the young Church of today,” who need to be involved in the dialogue and vision of the Church as it moves forward. “They [young people] need to be willing to be engaged,” Archbishop-designate Thompson added.

During the press conference, our new shepherd also shared words of greeting in Spanish with the local Church’s growing Latino community.

When asked about immigrants and refugees and how they continue to be a concern for many, Archbishop-designate Thompson talked about our roles as Catholics to welcome our brothers and sisters in Christ and later added, “How do we let them touch us?”

He noted the “rich culture” and strong sense of family that so many groups, including Hispanics, bring to our community, and said, “I think it’s important for us to not only recognize them, but to embrace them and learn from them and reach out to them as well.”

One thing that Archbishop-designate made clear was that he is not perfect. “I plead for prayers and patience. I will make mistakes, and hopefully, I have the ability to recognize them at some point and reconcile them and move forward.”

Our new spiritual leader can be assured that we will keep him in prayer as he begins his new ministry of shepherding the 129 parishes and 69 schools spread over nearly 14,000 square miles in 39 counties that comprise the Church in central and southern Indiana.

We pray that his time here bears much fruit, and most importantly, that this humble servant of God helps us all grow in our lives of faith.

—Mike Krokos

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