February 2, 2018

Archbishop Buechlein’s life always pointed to Christ and the Church

Then-Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein elevates the Eucharist during a Sept. 16, 2000, Mass in the RCA Dome in Indianapolis to celebrate the jubilee year. More than 30,000 Catholics participated in the Mass. (File photo)

Then-Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein elevates the Eucharist during a Sept. 16, 2000, Mass in the RCA Dome in Indianapolis to celebrate the jubilee year. More than 30,000 Catholics participated in the Mass. (File photo)

By Sean Gallagher

Archbishop Emeritus Daniel M. Buechlein died on Jan. 25 in the infirmary of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad where he had lived since 2011. He was 79.

During his 19 years of serving as shepherd of the Church in central and southern Indiana, he did what his episcopal motto proclaimed, “Seek the face of the Lord,” through his constant life of prayer and encouragement of others to pray, and in his promotion of Catholic education, vocations and stewardship as an integral part of the life of faith of all Catholics.

(See more stories covering the life of Archbishop Buechlein)

The funeral Mass was celebrated on Jan. 31 at 11 a.m. at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. Archbishop Charles C. Thompson was the principal celebrant of the Mass. Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, archbishop of Neward, N.J., and Archbishop Buechlein’s successor as shepherd of the Church in central and southern Indiana, was the homilist.

Internment followed on Feb. 1 at the cemetery of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad.

Archbishop Buechlein served as the fifth archbishop of Indianapolis from 1992 until his retirement in 2011. He was the 10th successor of the Servant of God Bishop Simon Bruté, who was appointed to lead the Diocese of Vincennes when it was created in 1834. It later became the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Archbishop Thompson, who received his priestly formation at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad in the 1980s when Archbishop Buechlein was its president‑rector, spoke about his predecessor’s death.

“Though he will be greatly missed, Archbishop Daniel’s legacy of always pointing to Jesus Christ will continue among us,” Archbishop Thompson said. “He was a faithful monk, priest, rector and bishop. Like so many, I will certainly miss him. He was such a tremendous model of prayerfulness, holiness and leadership. I also feel deeply blessed to have many wonderful memories of him.

“It is most humbling to follow in his footsteps as archbishop of Indianapolis. My thoughts and prayers are with our archdiocesan family, Saint Meinrad Archabbey and Seminary and the Buechlein family. Through the mercy of God, may Archbishop Daniel and all the faithful departed rest in peace.”

A life of prayer and decisive action

After retiring from leading the archdiocese in 2011, Archbishop Buechlein moved to Saint Meinrad Archabbey to live in its infirmary.

Benedictine Archabbot Kurt Stasiak of Saint Meinrad Archabbey commented on the death of Archbishop Buechlein, who was a monk of Saint Meinrad before becoming a bishop in 1987. He returned to his monastic roots in 2011.

“We are saddened at the death of our confrere, Archbishop Emeritus Daniel, but we’re grateful for the tremendous witness of his life as a Benedictine monk, as a priest and as a bishop,” Archabbot Kurt said. “We’re also very pleased that, after 25 years of service as a bishop, he returned to the monastery, where we were able to care for him during the last years of his life.”

In the 19 years that he led the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Archbishop Buechlein had a constant life of faith and prayer which served as the foundation for decisive action to strengthen the Church in central and southern Indiana to carry out its threefold mission of celebrating the sacraments, proclaiming the word of God and exercising the ministry of charity.

He focused his pastoral leadership especially on Catholic education, which he identified as one of his top priorities during the Sept. 21, 2011, press conference at which his retirement was announced.

During Archbishop Buechlein’s leadership of the archdiocese, enrollment in Catholic schools in central and southern Indiana increased by 30 percent to more than 25,000 students, and 26 parish schools in the archdiocese were honored by the U.S. Department of Education as Blue Ribbon Schools.

He also was committed to maintaining Catholic schools in the Indianapolis center city, spearheading the construction of Holy Angels School in 1999, the first center city Catholic school built in the country in 40 years.

Strengthened the Church’s commitment to young people, immigrants, the poor

Archbishop Buechlein also took steps to strengthen the archdiocese’s ministry to youths, young adults and to a growing ethnically diverse community of believers, especially Hispanic Catholics whose presence grew in the archdiocese dramatically during his tenure.

In 2003, Archbishop Buechlein established the first permanent deacon formation program in the history of the archdiocese, ordaining the first class of permanent deacons for the Church in central and southern Indiana in 2008.

In 2004, the former seminary rector founded Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in cooperation with Marian University, both in Indianapolis. The seminary quickly grew, with an enrollment now of nearly 50 seminarians from 10 dioceses and one religious community.

Under Archbishop Buechlein’s leadership, archdiocesan Catholic Charities increased its outreach to people in need across central and southern Indiana, which now serves nearly 200,000 people annually. A new 30,000-square-foot Holy Family Shelter for homeless families was opened in Indianapolis in 2009.

Many of these efforts at strengthening the Church in central and southern Indiana were supported by his decisive financial leadership and promotion of stewardship as an integral part of the life of faith of all Catholics. During Archbishop Buechlein’s tenure, more than $300 million was raised through capital campaigns and annual stewardship appeals to support the mission of the archdiocese.

He also oversaw a robust growth of the archdiocesan Catholic Community Foundation, which manages endowments that support ministries in archdiocesan parishes, schools and agencies, with 337 endowments with a value of nearly $109 million established under his leadership.

‘A love for Christ and his Church’

Other Church, religious and civic leaders spoke of the significance of Archbishop Buechlein.

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, archbishop of Newark, N.J., succeeded Archbishop Buechlein as shepherd of the Church in central and southern Indiana. He noted in an e-mail to The Criterion that Archbishop Buechlein’s strong leadership and attraction of capable people to serve with him “allowed me to take his vision further.”

“His background as an educator and seminary rector prepared him to make significant contributions,” Cardinal Tobin said. “One of the three ‘munera,’ or duties, of a bishop is that of teaching in the name of the Church. Archbishop Buechlein fulfilled that responsibility in an exemplary way at the diocesan and national level.”

Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Anchorage, Alaska, was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in 1992 shortly before Archbishop Buechlein was appointed to lead it. He was appointed bishop of Cheyenne, Wyo., in 2009. Archbishop Buechlein was one of the three bishops to ordain him to the episcopate.

“At the heart of his ministry was a love for Christ and His Church, a love for the Gospel and God’s people,” Archbishop Etienne said. “As a priest, I always admired and respected him, especially his deep commitment to prayer and priesthood. He had a love for and a fierce dedication to the Church. He once told me, ‘Always stay with Peter, and you will never go wrong.’

“I am so grateful for his leadership and the relationship we shared as priest to bishop, and in these last years, of being able to call him ... a brother bishop. I will miss him and our conversations.”

Msgr. Joseph Schaedel, pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, served as archdiocesan vicar general during most of Archbishop Buechlein’s 19-year tenure of leadership of the archdiocese.

“Without a doubt, he was the most influential priest in my life,” Msgr. Schaedel said. “I learned many lessons in terms of leadership from him: how to listen, but how to make a decision without wasting time. I also learned from him how to pay attention to everyone. Everyone mattered. But he could make a decision once all the evidence was in.”

‘It was all about his faith life’

Although known for his skillful management of the archdiocese, prayer always accompanied all that Archbishop Buechlein did in shepherding the Church in central and southern Indiana.

“No matter where you were, you knew of his prayer life. You felt it. You sensed it,” said archdiocesan chancellor Annette “Mickey” Lentz, who worked closely with Archbishop Buechlein throughout his 19 years of leadership.

In the months leading up to his 2011 retirement, after he had suffered a stroke, Lentz continued to see the importance of prayer in the life of Archbishop Buechlein.

“I witnessed his faith,” she said. “Every day, I’d go out to his house and see the suffering he was enduring, and yet we prayed the rosary. We had Mass. It was all about his faith life, his journey. I admire him for that.”

In a 2014 interview with The Criterion, Cardinal Tobin reflected on the significance of the numerous health challenges faced by Archbishop Buechlein over many years.

“Like [St.] John Paul II, I think that Archbishop Daniel’s acceptance of physical weakness and suffering inspires all of us as he has shown us how to pick up our own cross and follow the Lord.”

A teacher ‘who believed our oneness as Christians’

Dr. Robert Welsh is a former president of the Council on Christian Unity of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which is based in Indianapolis. He worked with Archbishop Buechlein frequently in Vatican‑sponsored ecumenical dialogues and in ecumenical prayer services in Indianapolis.

“To me, Archbishop Buechlein was a scholar and a teacher who believed our oneness as Christians must be founded upon the truth,” Welsh said, “and he was rigorous in pursuing that truth in a spirit of openness to other Christians and their gifts and graces from different histories.”

In the broader Indianapolis community, Archbishop Buechlein worked closely with Stephen Goldsmith, who served as mayor of the city from 1992-2000. They especially collaborated in strengthening Catholic schools in the center city of Indianapolis, which serve many children in poverty who are not Catholic.

“He was such an important person in the greater Indianapolis community in what he represented in terms of character, outreach, inclusivity and a mission to the poor,” said Goldsmith, who now serves as the Daniel Paul Professor of the Practice of Government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. “I think those wonderful qualities, plus his active participation in broader community issues, made his contributions truly remarkable.”

The archbishop’s path of faith

Marcus George Buechlein was born on April 20, 1938 in Jasper, Ind., to Carl and Rose Buechlein. After graduating from the eighth grade at St. Joseph School in Jasper, he enrolled in 1952 as a high school seminarian at the former Saint Meinrad High School in St. Meinrad.

Archbishop Buechlein was invested as a novice in Saint Meinrad Archabbey in 1958. He professed simple vows on Aug. 15, 1959, at which time he was given the religious name Daniel, and solemn vows on Aug. 15, 1963. Archbishop Paul C. Schulte ordained him a priest on May 3, 1964, in the Archabbey Church of Our Lady of Einseideln in St. Meinrad.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at the former Saint Meinrad College and a licentiate in sacred liturgy from the Pontifical University of Sant’ Anselmo in Rome in 1966.

Archbishop Buechlein then returned to Saint Meinrad where he taught a variety of subjects in Saint Meinrad College and School of Theology, including Latin, philosophy, systematic theology and canon law. He was appointed president‑rector of Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in 1971. In 1982, he took on the additional role of president-rector of Saint Meinrad College.

St. John Paul II appointed him the third bishop of Memphis, Tenn., on Jan. 20, 1987. He was ordained and installed as the shepherd of the Church in western Tennessee on March 2, 1987.

Five years later, on July 14, 1992, St. John Paul appointed him the fifth archbishop of Indianapolis. He was installed in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral on Sept. 9, 1992.

Surviving is a brother, Charles Buechlein of Jasper.

Memorial gifts may be sent in lieu of flowers to the Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary Endowment Fund, managed by the archdiocesan Catholic Community Foundation, 1400 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46202-2367, or to Saint Meinrad Archabbey, 200 Hill Dr., St. Meinrad, IN 47577-1301.

Click here to make a memorial gift to Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary Endowment Fund in honor of Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein

(For more information about Archbishop Emeritus Daniel M. Buechlein, visit archindy.org/archbishop/buechlein.) †

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