July 28, 2017

Archbishop’s motto promotes being ‘Christ-centered in all we do’

By Natalie Hoefer

When a priest becomes a bishop, he chooses for himself a motto—a phrase or Scripture verse that will appear on his coat of arms and will serve as a cornerstone for his ministry as an episcopal shepherd.

When he was selected to lead the Evansville Diocese in 2011, then-Bishop Charles C. Thompson literally selected a “cornerstone” as his episcopal motto: “Christ the Cornerstone.”

“I chose the motto from a couple of different places [in Scripture],” Archbishop Thompson explained. “In addition to Ephesians [2:20], the reference is also made in Psalm 118 [verse 22] and a psalm prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours.”

A historical definition of the term “cornerstone” was offered by Father Terry Bradshaw, a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville who served as ministry supervisor for then-transitional Deacon Thompson before he was ordained a priest in 1987.

“The cornerstone, when you build something, especially back in the day, finding the corner and establishing that—you line everything up to the cornerstone,” he explained. “Everything is directed in relation to the cornerstone. It’s where you measure the angles from.”

Archbishop Thompson explained his motto in answer to a question during a press conference at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis on June 13.

He explained it as “that whole notion of being rooted and founded in Christ, being Christ-centered in all we do. For me, it means trying to keep [that notion] before me.

“We have to be Christ-centered, not self-centered [or] ego-centered, to not be driven by my agenda, but be driven by God’s will, the mission of Jesus Christ and the grace of the Holy Spirit.”

He expounded upon that definition in an interview with The Criterion, noting that the motto is about “all encountering the person of Jesus Christ, leading others to this encounter and keeping before [them] that the Church is the Body of Christ.”

He referred several times during the June 13 press conference to the archdiocese as “Christ’s Church, not my Church.”

Archbishop Thompson said the idea of being rooted in Christ has long been a driving force in his life.

“The need to be Christ-centered has always been something that I have tried to keep in mind and live,” he said. “It is the essence of being eucharistic people.”

He sees in the motto a means to keep priorities straight in life.

“When we keep Christ as the cornerstone, all else falls into place,” he said. “When we fail to do so—placing ourselves, ego, pride, material possessions, ideologies, agenda, popularity, etc. [ahead of Christ]—everything falls apart.

“This is the way of the world as well. Keeping Christ as the cornerstone, we are able to keep before us the poor, the vulnerable, those in need and those on the margins. Rather than judge them as problems, we embrace them as persons, brothers and sisters in Christ the cornerstone.”

In a written statement during the June 13 press conference, Archbishop Thompson drew upon his “Christ the Cornerstone” episcopal motto, saying 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.”

In his interview with The Criterion, he stated that, not just for members of the archdiocese, but for all Christians, “particularly Catholics,” that it is essential to “embrace what it means to be people of God, the body of Christ and part of the eucharistic community of believers.

“To carry out our baptismal calling of missionary discipleship, we must be Christ-centered in and through word, sacrament and service,” he said.

“To be Christ-centered, intimately bound to the person of Jesus Christ the cornerstone, we must necessarily be rooted in prayer, both individually and communally.

“This is how we make a difference in a wounded world, bringing out peace, healing, reconciliation, justice and mercy.” †

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