August 4, 2017

Emotions flow as archbishop offers touching tribute to his dad

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson shares a smile and a hug with his father Coleman Thompson as family members presented the offertory gifts to the archbishop during his installation Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis on July 28. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson shares a smile and a hug with his father Coleman Thompson as family members presented the offertory gifts to the archbishop during his installation Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis on July 28. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By John Shaughnessy

There are times when the emotions of a special moment lead a son or daughter to share their deepest feelings for their father or mother.

Sometimes, it happens on a graduation day or during a wedding celebration. For Archbishop Charles C. Thompson, the moment came during his personal remarks near the end of his installation Mass on July 28 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

The emotion began to flow when the new archbishop shared with the people in the packed cathedral how much it meant to him to have his parents, Coleman and Joyce Thompson, there for him.

“It’s a great blessing when a priest can have a parent, even both parents, at his ordination,” Archbishop Thompson said, his voice cracking momentarily. “Even more so as a bishop and now as an archbishop, to have both my parents here.”

And his emotions swelled when he focused on his father at the end of his tribute to many of the people who have influenced his life and his faith.

“My dad suffered a stroke in October of 2015,” Archbishop Thompson told the congregation, which included a large contingent of cardinals, archbishops and bishops sitting behind the altar. “So to have him here today is especially marvelous for me.

“My dad knows how much I admire so many of the bishops behind me. He knows so many of these other guys. He’s heard me talk about them all the time with such great admiration and respect. But I have to tell you, as great as these men are—men of God—Dad, you are the greatest example of faith, hope and charity of any man I know. And if I bear your spirit as I bear your name, this Archdiocese of Indianapolis will be blessed.”

Archbishop Thompson’s salute to his parents framed an emotional day for his large extended family—which includes 90 first cousins—that he credits with providing the values and the Catholic faith that have shaped his life.

So many members of that extended family traveled to Indianapolis for his installation Mass, which led the archbishop’s sister Lori Wilson to note, “There are way too many to count. We have aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins. We’re a close family.”

In his personal remarks, the archbishop acknowledged the presence and the influence of his extended family, saluting the “Thompsons and Thomases all over the Holy Land of Kentucky”—the rural stronghold of the Catholic faith where he grew up.

The archbishop even added a touch of humor to show just how pervasive the Catholic faith and his family were in his childhood.

“I tell the story of how we moved to Louisville when I was 12, and somebody tried to ‘save’ me,” he said with a smile. “And my mom had to explain to me that there was something other than Catholics and relatives.”

The story drew great laughter throughout the cathedral, almost matching the overwhelming joy and pride that family members have for Archbishop Thompson.

“It meant the world to me to be here for my brother,” his sister said. “It’s been a wonderful day—family, friends, everything.”

That sentiment was shared by the archbishop’s brother, Kenny Thompson.

“I always like good things to happen to family. I’m honored for him,” said Kenny, who had recently returned from a two-week vacation through the American West with his wife Sue Ann and the archbishop. “He’s always been a good brother. We’ve always been brought up that family is close, that family means a lot.”

That foundation of family and faith is the one that Coleman and Joyce Thompson put foremost for their three children, a foundation that led to another special moment in their family’s history on July 28.

“It was great,” the archbishop’s mother said about the installation Mass before turning her thoughts to the archbishop’s emotional tribute to his father. “He’s always been proud of his dad.”

What made that moment even more special to the archbishop’s father was that it wasn’t the first time he had heard that praise from his oldest child.

“He’s told me that before,” his father said. “We’ve tried to support him in every way we could. We do the same for our other children, too. That’s just the way our family is.”

He paused for a moment before his love for the archbishop led him to share one more thought for the people of the archdiocese.

“I just hope people realize that he’ll be a real good archbishop to them—and he’ll do his very best. He doesn’t do anything short. He’s genuine. That’s just the way he is.” †

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