February 2, 2018

Archbishop’s focus on evangelization showed in commitment to The Criterion

By Mike Krokos

Mike KrokosAs I sat in Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein’s office trying to make myself comfortable, I inhaled and exhaled a few times, trying to overcome my nervousness, as I awaited his arrival.

He walked in a few moments later, and immediately put me at ease.

“I talked to Archbishop [Harry] Flynn [then-shepherd of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis] and asked him about you,” he said as he sat down at his desk across from me. “He spoke highly of you, and said you would be a welcome addition to our staff here.”

I breathed a sigh of relief and replied, “I was hoping you’d call him.” I had worked for Archbishop Flynn’s newspaper, The Catholic Spirit, for six years, and was hoping his affirming words might help in my quest to continue my career in the Catholic press.

That initial conversation in the fall of 2005 led to my hiring as the editor of The Criterion, and during that first meeting, I learned a lot about Daniel M. Buechlein.

He talked of his admiration for Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Pope John Paul II, and how both of them were great models for all who minister in the local and universal Church. Not surprisingly, both are now saints.

He mentioned how important an archdiocesan newspaper was to him as a tool of evangelization, including here for the Church in central and southern Indiana. He also talked about his column being translated to Spanish so he could connect with the archdiocese’s growing Hispanic population.

And he talked about the seed planted by Pope John Paul II when he appointed him bishop of Memphis, Tenn., in 1987 to emphasize his role as a teacher. That led to Archbishop Buechlein beginning to pen a weekly column for Commonsense, the newspaper of the Diocese of Memphis, and that practice continued for 19 years with his “Seeking the Face of the Lord” column while he served as the publisher of The Criterion.

As someone who has worked in the Catholic press for more than 20 years, I can tell you that Archbishop Buechlein’s commitment as a shepherd to writing a weekly column—without ever missing a deadline—was unmatched.

Conversations at Catholic press gatherings around the country revolved around my being asked what the secret was to having an archbishop pen a column on a weekly basis.

My answer was simple: Archbishop Buechlein knows the importance of having a column in the newspaper each week, I told them, and he views The Criterion as a catechetical tool that reaches nearly 70,000 Catholic households each week.

Our staff took great pride in knowing that our shepherd understood our mission of evangelization, and that he was 100 percent committed to being included on our pages each week.

A few months before Archbishop Buechlein retired in September of 2011 because of health reasons, he received one of the Catholic Press Association’s most prestigious honors, the Bishop John England Award. Presented annually, the award recognizes publishers in the Catholic press for the defense of First Amendment rights, such as freedom of the press and freedom of religion. The award also recognized Archbishop Buechlein for his longstanding commitment to his column published weekly in The Criterion.

There was no publisher more deserving of that award than Archbishop Buechlein.

I didn’t know it until later, but Bishop Christopher J. Coyne told me how much that recognition meant to the archbishop. He said as Archbishop Buechlein packed up his belongings in his office on his last day, he made sure he had the Bishop England award with him.

I believe it was affirmation that his writing was a ministry that had helped so many of us in our lives of faith.

I can vouch for me and hopefully, for many of you, that, indeed, it did.

Rest in peace, Archbishop Buechlein.

(Mike Krokos is editor of The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.)

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