June 16, 2017

Reactions confirm Archbishop-designate Thompson as ‘perfect fit’

Msgr. William F. Stumpf, archdiocesan administrator, center, and archdiocesan chancellor Annette “Mickey” Lentz applaud Archbishop-designate Charles C. Thompson after his press conference in the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis on June 13. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Msgr. William F. Stumpf, archdiocesan administrator, center, and archdiocesan chancellor Annette “Mickey” Lentz applaud Archbishop-designate Charles C. Thompson after his press conference in the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis on June 13. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

The crowd may have numbered around 300, but the reaction seemed unanimous: new Archbishop-designate Charles C. Thompson will be a “perfect fit” as the new spiritual leader of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

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From lay persons, priests and staff members of the Diocese of Evansville, Ind., to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, reaction to the news of the new archbishop-designate was positive and hopeful.

‘He’s a total package’

“I was very happy, very excited,” says archdiocesan chancellor Annette “Mickey” Lentz. “I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Bishop Thompson since Archbishop-Emeritus Daniel [M. Buechlein’s] days. I think he’s a perfect fit.”

According to comments in an earlier interview with The Criterion, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, former archbishop of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, agrees that Archbishop-designate Thompson has an advantage “being from this area of the country, and having worked in Indiana. As a canonist, he assisted Archbishop Buechlein in a lot of ways. So he has some knowledge of the face of the archdiocese.”

Cardinal Tobin says the archbishop-designate “combines a very warm style with a keen intelligence and some real spiritual values. He has a sense of humor, and he has a lot of energy, and all of that will serve him well.”

Cardinal Tobin also notes that Archbishop-designate Thompson is “a man of dialogue.” He found evidence of this in the 56-year-old leader’s handling of a process in the Evansville Diocese similar to the archdiocese’s Connected in the Spirit planning process, which examined ways in which the local Church could best serve its communities in changing times.

“One difference was there were no appeals from it, even though people could appeal—which I found significant at the time,” says Cardinal Tobin. “That meant he prepared the people, he listened to them, and he could make a coherent argument for these difficult decisions that he had to make.”

While Cardinal Tobin’s acquaintance with the new archbishop-designate extends four years, Msgr. Frederick Easton, Metropolitan Tribunal adjunct vicar judicial, says he and Archbishop-designate Thompson “go way back” through their shared background in canon law.

“I think he will fit in with our longstanding culture,” he says. “I think he’ll be a good combination of a continuance [of Cardinal Tobin’s direction] but with a new perspective. I think he’ll be sympathetic to a lot of our concerns here, and he’ll be a person who makes decisions that need to be made.”

Msgr. Easton says he was “delighted” when he heard the name of the archbishop-designate.

“I thought it was a good choice,” he says.

So did Glenn Tebbe. As executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference, Tebbe has worked with Archbishop-designate Thompson since he was appointed bishop of Evansville in 2011.

“This is good news,” he says. “He’s a total package, a very faithful man. He listens and is able to bring the essence of what needs to be done to the forefront and makes good decisions. I think he’ll be a strong shepherd for the archdiocese.”

‘A wonderful gift from Evansville’

Tim McGuire, chancellor and chief operating officer of the Evansville Diocese, attests to Archbishop-designate Thompson’s ability to shepherd a diocese.

“He’s very pastoral in his approach, whether it’s with the diocesan staff, whether it’s with the priests, lay people,” McGuire says. “He’s always concerned with what would Jesus do, how would Jesus approach this. … He has probably the best mix of skills I’ve seen as far as someone being pastoral, but also able to administer a diocese.

“We in Evansville are very sad to lose him, but we’re very happy he’s staying in Indiana, and we’re very happy for him as a person.”

So is Bishop Emeritus Gerald A. Gettelfinger, shepherd of the Diocese of Evansville prior to Bishop Thompson and previously a priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

“He’ll be a great leader and a wonderful gift from Evansville to Indianapolis and to the state of Indiana,” says Bishop Gettelfinger.

In witnessing then-Bishop Thompson take over leadership in the Diocese of Evansville, the retired bishop says he’s found the younger man to be “a great listener, a collaborator. He’s not a dictator.”

The reassignment of the Evansville shepherd does continue the gap of leadership within the dioceses of Indiana, says Bishop Timothy L. Doherty, shepherd of the Diocese of Lafayette, Ind.

Nevertheless, he says, he is “wonderfully sure that Pope Francis has made the right choice. I’m personally tickled. He’s a very good priest, a very good bishop and a very thoughtful leader.

“I’m pleased for the archdiocese and for the people of the state of Indiana,” he adds. “We’ve needed the archdiocese to continue its leadership in serving areas that affect everyone in the state, not just Catholics.”

In the southwest region of the state, not far from the Diocese of Evansville, is Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, where Archbishop-designate Thompson both received his priestly formation and served as a visiting professor of canon law.

Mary Jeanne Schumacher, director of communications for Saint Meinrad, has become familiar with Archbishop-designate Thompson during his visits there.

“I think the people of the archdiocese are going to be very happy to have someone leading them who is very much of the people, is very comfortable being in both a rural and urban area,” she says.

‘This man is in solidarity’ with us

Norbert Krapf can relate. The member of St. Mary Parish in Indianapolis grew up in the Diocese of Evansville. Sadly, he experienced sexual abuse from a priest there in the 1950s.

Years later, after writing a book of poems and a memoir to help in his own healing and that of other abuse victims, he was invited by then-Bishop Thompson to read from his work to the staff of the Evansville Diocese’s chancery.

He found the young shepherd to be a “hospitable, kind, understanding and congenial” man who “relates to people on their level, does not present himself as above them, but is also a fine leader. …

“I hear nothing but positive opinions about him from Jasper relatives and friends [in the Diocese of Evansville].”

Krapf says that he and his wife Katherine “have even said to one another about a successor to Cardinal Tobin, ‘Wouldn’t we all be lucky if it could be Bishop Thompson?’ We are extremely delighted.”

Unlike Krapf, Dabrice Bartet met Archbishop-designate Thompson for the first time after the press conference at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis on June 13.

“He is very humble,” says the member of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis and a French-speaking native of the African nation of Togo. “He’s just open. It’s another blessing to us. We waited [seven] months, but we’ve got another good one.”

Also present at the press conference was Casey Foley, a member of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral Parish in Indianapolis.

Foley addressed Archbishop-designate Thompson during the press conference, and later met him in person.

The new archdiocesan leader made a great impression on him.

“He is very charismatic and engaging,” says Foley. “There’s something magnetic about his personality and his demeanor. He’s very approachable and unassuming.”

Foley admits he was “totally nervous in meeting him, but he put me at ease. He is so reassuring and so human.

“The idea came to me that this man is in solidarity with me. He felt like a companion, like we are on a journey together.

“He’s about as friendly a companion as I could imagine.”

(Criterion reporter Sean Gallagher contributed to this story.)

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