September 30, 2011


Thank you, Archbishop Buechlein

Some have called him the education archbishop.

Other people mention his commitment to priestly formation and expanding young adult ministry.

When discussing his work in embracing the Church’s mission of helping brothers and sisters in need, his guidance in expanding social outreach ministries is what many people use as a reference.

Still, others remark about the strong example that he offers in his life of prayer.

Those sentiments—and so many more that could go beyond filling this space—accurately reflect Archbishop Emeritus Daniel M. Buechlein’s leadership not only during his 19 years as shepherd of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, but also as bishop of the Diocese of Memphis, president-rector of Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, and 47 years as a priest and man of God.

There were mixed emotions—including some tears—throughout the archdiocese on Sept. 21 when it was announced that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, had accepted Archbishop Buechlein’s resignation effective immediately because of health reasons.

As our Church family in central and southern Indiana knows, the archbishop has suffered serious health challenges in the last three years.

The most recent one, a stroke suffered in March, led to several months of intensive physical therapy with the hope that the archbishop would be able to return to ministering to his flock.

Despite what he termed “ruthless” physical therapy, Archbishop Buechlein found it difficult to get around without assistance, and his decline in health brought him to the realization that he could no longer serve as our shepherd.

The Holy Father appointed Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, our auxiliary bishop, as apostolic administrator to oversee governance of the archdiocese until a new archbishop is appointed.

As Archbishop Buechlein said during a press conference announcing the change in leadership, Bishop Coyne will do well in his new role.

“I’m here to say thank you to all of you,” Archbishop Buechlein said to the people gathered during the Sept. 21 press conference in Assembly Hall at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis.

“It has been a joy for me as archbishop,” he said. “Nineteen years ago, I was introduced across the street in the cathedral [of SS. Peter and Paul]. I want to thank all you clergy, religious, and archdiocesan staff, and all you good people for the wonderful support you have given me over the years. You truly have been a blessing to me. With your help and the help of God, we’ve accomplished much together.”

Bishop Coyne voiced what so many of the faithful no doubt were thinking when he pointed to the leadership over the past two decades which has placed the archdiocese “in excellent financial, pastoral and spiritual shape because of the fine ministry of its shepherd, Archbishop Buechlein.”

When you examine how successful stewardship appeals and capital campaigns were brought to fruition, how the Catholic Community Foundation has grown to a value of nearly $170 million and almost 400 endowments, how Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary was opened, how the permanent diaconate program was established, how archdiocesan Catholic schools are consistently recognized with national Blue Ribbon excellence awards, and how so many other archdiocesan ministries serve the Church’s mission so well, there is one constant—Archbishop Buechlein.

Many seeds of faith planted during Archbishop Buechlein’s years of leadership in the Church bore fruit. And he was and is a priest who loved serving the people of God.

“It was emotional when I left Memphis 19 years ago, and it’s the same here,” he said, choking back tears. “I leave with fond memories.”

The archbishop promised to keep the people of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in his heart, and prayers, as he returns to his roots and moves back to Saint Meinrad Archabbey, where his vocation as a Benedictine monk and priest was nurtured.

“I’ll be praying up a storm,” he said.

We keep Archbishop Buechlein in prayer as he begins this new chapter in his vocation.

As Bishop Coyne said at the end of his remarks during the press conference, “Ad multos annos”—many years—for Archbishop Buechlein.

We, too, pray that God’s grace stays with him as he continues his mission in retirement as a humble servant of Christ.

—Mike Krokos

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