October 26, 2012


Welcome, Archbishop Tobin

“Thank you for saying ‘yes.’ ”

With those simple, yet heartfelt words, Archbishop Emeritus Daniel M. Buechlein greeted his successor, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, on Oct. 18 when they met at the chancery shortly before a news conference at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral, where the new shepherd of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis was formally introduced to his flock in southern and central Indiana.

We gladly echo the sentiments of Archbishop Buechlein as we warmly welcome a Midwesterner back home.

We think you’re going to like Archbishop Tobin, 60, a native of Detroit.

The oldest of 13 children, our new shepherd talks lovingly of his family, speaks fluent Spanish, Italian, French and Portuguese, has a keen sense of humor and, just as important, as Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, our apostolic administrator put it, is a bishop with a “missionary’s heart.”

Ordained a priest in the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer—known as the Redemptorists—34 years ago, Archbishop Tobin was most recently secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. Before working at the Vatican, he was general consultor of the Redemptorists from 1991 to 1997 and superior general from 1997 to 2009. He was appointed by Pope John Paul II to the world Synod of Bishops in 1998, 1999 and 2001, and by Pope Benedict to the synods in 2005 and 2008.

But our new archbishop has plenty of experience in parishes, too. Before going to Rome, then-Father Tobin was a parish priest in the inner city in Detroit and Chicago. As associate pastor of Holy Redeemer Parish in Detroit from 1979 to 1984, Father Tobin was responsible for ministering to the Hispanic community. He was pastor of Holy Redeemer from 1984 to 1990, then was pastor of St. Alphonsus Parish in Chicago from July 1990 until October 1991.

His fluency in Spanish was evident during the press conference as he greeted and spoke to our Latino brothers and sisters in their native language, then offered several of them a blessing in Spanish as they greeted our new shepherd afterward.

Because of Archbishop Buechlein’s vision and leadership, our new archbishop is coming into “a thriving and healthy Catholic community that serves not only our people, but so many of the greater community of central and southern Indiana,” Bishop Coyne noted.

Archbishop Tobin is a strong proponent of Catholic education, and he noted how our archdiocesan schools have been consistently recognized for their excellence. Many of our other ministries are also repeatedly recognized by their peers and nationally for their outreach to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Archbishop Tobin poignantly remembered the nearly two decades that Archbishop Buechlein led the archdiocese, and thanked his predecessor, who was granted early retirement by Pope Benedict XVI in September 2011 after a series of health issues, including a bout with cancer and a stroke, “for what you did for this Church for 19 years, for your example as a bishop, first in Memphis, then in Indianapolis and now in retirement.

“Like Pope John Paul II, you showed us the dignity and the acceptance of the Cross, and that suffering doesn’t have the final word,” Archbishop Tobin said.

The new archbishop described his appointment to lead the archdiocese as “a wonderful and daunting mission,” but later talked about faith as “the capacity to be surprised by God.

“Together, we accept this mission. In the eyes of faith, we allow God to surprise us because we know that God is faithful,” he said. “In all of my life as a priest and as a religious, I’ve been surprised by God. Sometimes I’ve said [to God], ‘Are you sure you know what you’re doing?’ I’ve learned to just walk by faith, not always by sight.”

As shepherd of our archdiocese, Archbishop Tobin will minister to nearly 228,000 Catholics in 147 parishes in 39 counties in central and southern Indiana, which covers 13,757 square miles.

A daunting mission, indeed.

“I’m coming with a missionary’s heart to learn where God is opening a door for the Catholic Church in central and southern Indiana,” Archbishop Tobin said.

We, like Bishop Coyne said, “are all very pleased you [Archbishop Tobin] have been missioned to this great archdiocese.”

We, too, hope and pray that Archbishop Tobin’s ministry here, like that of his predecessor, Archbishop Buechlein, bears much fruit.

And we also pray that this humble servant of the Church helps us all grow in holiness as we walk by faith with him on our journey as people of God.

—Mike Krokos

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