August 11, 2017

Archbishop notes wisdom, understanding needed to ‘proclaim the kingdom together’

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson shakes hands with Tommy Steiner while the youth’s parents, Bob and Ann, look on. The Steiners, members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in New Albany, greeted the archbishop at a reception after he celebrated Mass at their parish on July 30. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson shakes hands with Tommy Steiner while the youth’s parents, Bob and Ann, look on. The Steiners, members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in New Albany, greeted the archbishop at a reception after he celebrated Mass at their parish on July 30. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

NEW ALBANY—The subject of the first reading on July 30 led to Archbishop Charles C. Thompson preaching about the young King Solomon’s request of God for “an understanding heart … to govern this vast people of yours” (1 Kgs 3:9).

The timing of the subject seemed fitting, given the archbishop’s installation just two days prior as the youngest archbishop in the United States and the new shepherd of more than 221,000 Catholics in central and southern Indiana.

“Wisdom and understanding, two of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit received in the sacrament of confirmation, enabled King Solomon to be unmatched in his rule of service,” Archbishop Thompson told a congregation of about 500 during his first Mass in an archdiocesan parish, which he celebrated at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in New Albany.

(Related coverage: Photo Gallery)

During his homily, Archbishop Thompson reflected on receiving his pallium—the woolen cloth he wears over his shoulders signifying his being yoked to the pope in shepherding the Church—in Rome on June 29. Receiving instructions in Italian on how to lead the procession—when he didn’t speak Italian—left him “a nervous wreck,” he said.

“But I want to tell you what settled me. Throughout that liturgy, I was struck by the pallium that Pope Francis wears. … Throughout the liturgy, and especially when I went up to receive this pallium from his hands, he had the most beautiful, serene smile.

“As I looked at his pallium, and he’s carrying the weight of the Church throughout the world on his shoulders, and he can still smile, it was as if [he was] telling me, ‘You can do it.’ But also as if to say, ‘We’re in this together.’ And not just Pope Francis and I, but each and every one of us.

“This wisdom and understanding that King Solomon received, that is something we seek and receive together to bear the weight of the Gospel, the weight of proclaiming the kingdom together, as Pope Francis seemed to intimate to me in that moment.”

To do this, he said, “We must dare to go beyond our comfort zones, our facades of security, surrendering ourselves to the wisdom and understanding of God.”

More than 500 Catholics worship with Archbishop Charles C. Thompson at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in New Albany on July 30 during his first Mass in an archdiocesan parish. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

More than 500 Catholics worship with Archbishop Charles C. Thompson at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in New Albany on July 30 during his first Mass in an archdiocesan parish. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Before the close of the Mass, Archbishop Thompson relayed words of thanks to concelebrants retired Father William Ernst and Father Eric Johnson, Our Lady of Perpetual Help’s pastor, as well as Deacon Jeffrey Powell, who assisted with the Mass, and the choir.

“I was humbled to hear [his compliment],” said parish music director Katelyn Stumler at a reception following the Mass. “It’s always wonderful to know when someone appreciates what you do, and for all those hard-working choir members, I know that meant so much to them.”

Stumler also sang in the archdiocesan choir for the installation Mass, and led practices for other archdiocesan choir members who live in the New Albany area.

“No matter how far away parts of the archdiocese are, we are all connected,” she said. “I feel like we’re all part of the body of Christ together, and that’s pretty incredible.

“And the fact that he was able to come down here was just such a privilege.”

Father Johnson agreed, saying that “we feel very blessed for him to come to this part of the archdiocese to celebrate. I think the community feels very honored by it.”

Among those greeting Archbishop Thompson at the reception were people who knew him and people meeting him for the first time.

“He seems very down-to-earth, and I’m looking forward to his leadership,” said Our Lady of Perpetual Help parishioner Mary Zahler, who had just met the archbishop. “I was very surprised and flattered [that he chose New Albany for his first Mass]. Sometimes southern Indiana feels left out of the circle, and it’s nice for him to start down here. I was very thrilled.”

Greeting the archbishop was a bit of a reunion for Jack Richards. Although a member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Richards serves as principal of Holy Trinity School, a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade parochial school in Louisville.

“He took a chance on me as a young principal,” said Richards, who was hired by then-Holy Trinity pastor Father Charles Thompson 12 years ago. “I’ve been blessed he’s been a mentor of mine for many years. We have stayed in contact throughout the years when he was bishop of Evansville and now archbishop of Indianapolis. I continue to admire his holiness, his intelligence and the way he interacts with people on a really personal level.”

He noted the archbishop is “really good with kids,” greeting them each day in the cafeteria when he was pastor of Holy Trinity Parish, and “making sure they knew he was praying for them.”

Our Lady of Perpetual Help parishioner Ann Steiner said the archbishop will have her prayers.

“We’re looking forward to his ministry, and whatever we can do to help him and pray for him, we’ll do that,” she said.

And that is precisely what Archbishop Thompson requested.

“Please, please pray for me,” he asked of the congregation at the end of the Mass. “If you like me, pray for me, and if you don’t like me, pray even harder for me.” †

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!