March 16, 2018

Smiles, selfies and diversity on display as archbishop visits St. Paul Catholic Center in Bloomington

Indiana University students crowd in for a photograph with Archbishop Charles C. Thompson at St. Paul Catholic Center in Bloomington on Feb. 25. This was the archbishop’s first visit to the parish as leader of the archdiocese. (Photo by Katie Rutter)

Indiana University students crowd in for a photograph with Archbishop Charles C. Thompson at St. Paul Catholic Center in Bloomington on Feb. 25. This was the archbishop’s first visit to the parish as leader of the archdiocese. (Photo by Katie Rutter)

By Katie Rutter (Special to The Criterion)

BLOOMINGTON—A group of 11 young people crowded around Archbishop Charles C. Thompson and attempted to fit together in the small screen of a cell phone. One member of the group held the device at arm’s length. Everyone smiled and the photo was snapped, a “selfie” destined to make rounds on social media.

“He seems like a really nice guy,” said Nick Faletti, a junior at Indiana University who had just met Archbishop Thompson for the first time.

“It’s definitely not something you get to experience a lot, to just have the archbishop here,” explained the member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Peoria, Ill. “I think it shows that the focus really has turned to the students.”

A Mass and dinner on Feb. 25 celebrated Archbishop Thompson’s first visit as the leader of the archdiocese to St. Paul Catholic Center in Bloomington. Located on the campus of Indiana University, the parish was founded to minister to the tens of thousands of young people that attend the college.

“We have students from all over the archdiocese that come here for four years, and not only from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, but also from around the world,” explained Dominican Father John Meany, the parish’s pastor.

“We really have a heart for the students,” said Dominican Father Patrick Hyde, who serves as an associate pastor and campus minister. He hoped that, by seeing the parish’s outreach, the archbishop would see how St. Paul impacts the whole archdiocese. (Related story: Growing IU campus ministry initiatives help to strengthen the faith of Millennials)

“He knows that if he meets someone that has a son or daughter at IU that we are making every effort we can to serve them,” Father Hyde said.

The parish offers two of the latest Sunday Masses in the archdiocese, 5:30 p.m. and 9 p.m., both scheduled to accommodate students’ busy lives.

In order to meet the young parishioners of St. Paul, Archbishop Thompson celebrated the earlier of these evening Masses on Feb. 25. He began by assuring those in the pews, more than 400 students and other residents of the university town, that he was fully committed to their community.

“I want to promise I’m not wearing anything of Purdue,” the archbishop said, referring to an enduring rival of Indiana University. “I don’t even own anything of Purdue.”

The archbishop took special care to acknowledge the other groups that make up the unique community at St. Paul, including hundreds of families as well as Spanish-speaking and Korean parishioners. Mass readings and hymns comprised all three languages spoken regularly at the parish. The archbishop insisted that he added a fourth.

“You had the first reading, Spanish, and the second reading, Korean, the Gospel in English, now you get a Kentucky homily,” he said, prompting more laughter.

Archbishop Thompson, however, turned to more serious matters in the homily as he explained the Gospel reading of the transfiguration of Christ. He reflected that the disciples wanted to stay on the mountain, living in the glory of heaven and avoiding the crucifixion. He said that, for the disciples and for Christians today, suffering must come before glory.

“We understand in our lives, when we have a goal we have to make sacrifices to get to it,” said Archbishop Thompson. “We suffer with [Christ] in order to rise with him.”

“He’s very down-to-earth,” said Bart Upart, a sophomore who is a member of St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago, “but not in a watered-down type of way, leveling with everyone, [but] still presenting challenges in the homily.”

Following the Mass, Archbishop Thompson extended his visit by more than two hours and attended another outreach that was created to attract students. Each Sunday that the university is in session, St. Paul hosts a free dinner following the 5:30 p.m. Mass.

A full Mexican buffet was on the menu, but Archbishop Thompson hardly touched the food. The young people swarmed him to talk with him one-on-one and take photos together.

Matt Henry, a senior who is a member of St. Jude Parish in South Bend, Ind., waited in line to speak with Archbishop Thompson because he was curious about the archbishop’s pectoral cross, a symbol that all bishops wear as a sign of their office.

“I’ve actually heard a lot of bishops have relics in the crosses on their [chains around their necks], so I was asking him about that and he mentioned that he got it from a priest back in Indianapolis,” Henry explained.

Archbishop Thompson also offered Henry another explanation of a different symbol of his pastoral authority: his crosier, or shepherd’s staff. Henry related that the archbishop preferred to use a simple wood staff over the ornamented metal staffs carried by other bishops.

“He said he likes to keep things pretty simple,” said Henry. “I like him a lot. I enjoyed his homily. I think he’s a very smart guy and very close to God.”

Beginning at his installation as archbishop of Indianapolis, Archbishop Thompson has continually emphasized the need to build up young people in the faith. He said that outreach such as the Mass and dinner at St. Paul serve this purpose by connecting the university students with one another and creating a community of faith.

“Jesus didn’t say ‘I came to save one individual.’ He said, ‘I came to build my Church,’ ” Archbishop Thompson explained.

“Jesus’ own way of bringing about salvation was through a Church, through a community,” he added.

“Being at St. Paul’s gives us this opportunity to be part of such a vibrant group of young Catholic people who are so on fire for their faith,” added Corinne Maue, a sophomore and a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Indianapolis.

“Having the opportunity to have the bishop who so ardently supports young people in our faith is just an honor and a blessing,” she added.

During the archbishop’s visit, the students and staff at St. Paul also took steps to make the new leader of the archdiocese an official member of their community.

At the end of the Mass, Father Hyde retold a humorous story that Archbishop Thompson shared during his July 2017 installation Mass. The archbishop had gone running in Indianapolis while wearing a University of Kentucky T-shirt and, realizing that college rivalries ran deep, said that he feared for his life.

“He’s from Kentucky. We won’t hold that against him,” Father Patrick said before the whole assembly. “But a bishop has a spousal relationship with his diocese, and as the flagship state university here in Indiana, we would like to reconcile that, to make sure when you go around Indiana that you have university gear.”

As the students presented Archbishop Thompson with the gift of an Indiana University T-shirt and two Indiana University sweatshirts, Father Hyde summarized, “Now you’ll be safe running around Indiana.”

(Katie Rutter is a freelance writer and member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington.)


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