December 22, 2006

Canonization of Indiana’s first saint tops local news in 2006

Members of the Catholics Returning Home team in the New Albany Deanery are shown in front of one of the many signs they display in the area to attract participants. They are, from left, Tony Aemmer, Harold Beebe, Karen Jordan and Ann Marie Camarata. (Submitted photo)

Photo caption: This collage of staff photos from 2006 illustrates some of the key moments for Catholics in central and southern Indiana over the past year.

By Brandon A. Evans

(Listen to the author read this story)

Each December, media outlets look back at the passing year and recall the stories that have earned a special place in our memory.

For the Catholic press, this is no different, and it’s the same for the editorial staff of The Criterion, who recently put their heads together to come up with the top 10 local news stories of 2006. (GET LINKS TO ALL OUR TOP STORIES)

The following are the stories that made our top 10 list:

1. The canonization of St. Theodora Guérin

As one of the top American Catholic news stories as well as one of the top Indiana news stories, this was the obvious top choice for our staff.

The pace with which this story developed was almost dizzying: A Cause of Canonization had been started in 1909 and it took until 1998 to see the beatification of Blessed Mother Theodore Guérin.

By last year, we learned that a second miraculous healing attributed to Blessed Mother Theodore had “been unanimously recognized by a five-person medical commission as a cure unexplainable by medical science.” The signs in 2005 of the Cause moving forward were clearly readable.

Then, within the span of a single year, the news broke that the “path to sainthood had been cleared.”

Vatican leaders met, the pope got involved and by mid-summer the State of Indiana and the world knew that Blessed Mother Theodore Guérin was to be proclaimed as St. Theodora in October.

Both the Sisters of Providence and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis began preparations for massive pilgrimages, and news coverage from outside the Catholic world began to ramp up.

All of it culminated in the Canonization Mass held at St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 15, which was covered in a special keepsake edition of The Criterion.

The archdiocese, and certainly the Sisters of Providence, will continue to absorb the blessing of this canonization. In the waning months of 2006, this newspaper has continued to cover St. Theodora, in particular by noting an ongoing series of deanery Masses over the next year and the official proclamation of St. Theodora as patroness of the archdiocese.

2. Thousands participate in march for immigration reform

Especially being a mid-term election year, virtually every political issue was featured strongly in national news.

But one of the leading stories was immigration reform, and one of the defining moments of that debate took place on April 10 as people around the United States took part in a “Day of Action for Immigration Justice.”

Leaving from St. Mary Church in Indianapolis, about 20,000 people marched through the downtown.

Not only was the rally the largest such organized event in Indianapolis history, but the prominent presence of Catholic clergy left no doubt that this was an issue that was intrinsically tied to our faith.

3. Hundreds turn out for funeral of slain family

Indianapolis residents were numbed by another record in 2006, but this time it was a tragic and heartbreaking one.

On June 1, seven people were murdered in their home in the worst mass killing in Indianapolis history. The funeral for six of the residents—a Hispanic family that included three children—was held at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

A somber Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein incensed the six caskets during the bilingual Mass, and Father Michael O’Mara delivered the homily.

“May our response not be hate or the desire for more death—even for those who have carried out this violence—but the desire to build the kingdom of God here on this Earth, in this world, in this city,” Father O’Mara urged those present.

4. Youths lead by example as archdiocese continues to help hurricane victims recover

The utter devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 could not help but overflow into the next calendar year.

The effort to restore the livelihood and well-being of the peoples of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana is still in full swing, and will be for some time.

Not once, but twice the leadership for youth ministry in the archdiocese endeavored this past year to take dozens of young people right into the heart of the devastation—Biloxi, Miss.—to dig their hands into the mess and help to bring about needed healing for the region.

Our special correspondent, Katie Berger, wrote: “In Pascagoula and Biloxi, the youths spent their days working on jobs that ranged from removing debris from yards and beaches to helping with homes that hadn’t been touched since the hurricane.”

5. Six Catholic schools named as Blue Ribbon Schools

The archdiocese continued its track record of excellence in education this year as it saw six more of its schools honored by the U.S. Department of Education as “No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence.”

The six schools earning that honor are Christ the King School in Indianapolis, Father Michael Shawe Memorial Jr./Sr. High School in Madison, St. Bartholomew School in Columbus, St. Lawrence School in Indianapolis, St. Lawrence School in Lawrenceburg and St. Monica School in Indianapolis.

It is a distinction for schools who either achieve in the top 10 percent of the nation or who have “at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds that dramatically improve student performance on state tests.”

In the past four years, 21 different schools in the archdiocese have earned the Blue Ribbon distinction. No other diocese in the United States has matched that distinction.

6. Legacy for Our Mission campaign moves into full gear

The archdiocese is now in the middle of a three-year $100 million capital campaign that is coming to parishes in waves.

The year 2006 saw not only the successful conclusion of the “pilot wave,” but also the beginning of the campaign in more than dozens of other parishes—and its conclusion in some parishes.

The funds raised in the campaign “will benefit both the parishes that have raised the funds as well as the archdiocese’s shared ministries and home missions, which include the formation of seminarians and the support of retired priests,” wrote reporter Sean Gallagher.

“The Legacy for Our Mission: For Our Children and the Future Campaign is intended to help all 150 archdiocesan parishes and the archdiocese as a whole [carry out their mission] by involving as many Catholic households in central and southern Indiana as possible,” he wrote.

7. First class graduates from Richmond’s Seton Catholic High School

Eleven seniors got the exciting chance to make history this year when they became the first to graduate from Seton Catholic High School in Richmond—a new school opened in 2002.

The students were the first class to graduate from a Catholic high school in Richmond in 70 years. (The former St. Andrew High School closed in 1936).

8. St. Vincent Health celebrates 125 years

A major milestone for Catholic health care in Indiana was also the chance to recall humble roots and a “legacy of integrity.”

St. Vincent Health, started in 1881 as a handful of religious sisters, celebrated 125 years of providing health care and continuing a mission to serve Jesus Christ in the poor.

“The four Daughters of Charity came with just $34.77 and a dream of taking care of the city’s sick and underserved,” wrote assistant editor John Shaughnessy. “As they worked to convert an abandoned seminary into a downtown Indianapolis hospital, the sisters never imagined that they were starting what has become one of the largest healthcare systems in Indiana—16 hospitals serving 45 counties under the name of St. Vincent Health.”

9. Scott Nobbe is ordained to the priesthood

An event that is always a celebration for the archdiocese—and a high note for the year—is the ordination of one or more men into the lifelong service of the priesthood—a service dedicated to bringing the saving grace of the sacraments to the people of central and southern Indiana.

This year, Scott Nobbe was ordained a priest at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral during a June 24 Mass that reporter Sean Gallagher described as “a liturgy imbued with rich symbols, the love of his family and friends, and the fellowship of Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein and his new brother priests.”

10. Local coverage of Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, “God is Love”

The inclusion of this last top news story was a matter of some debate in the newsroom, as it is really an international story that didn’t originate in our archdiocese.

While the encyclical Deus Caritas Est (“God is Love”) was certainly covered by a broad range of media, it was a document that was discussed for its local implications in a two-part series written by reporter Sean Gallagher.

“Catholics across the archdiocese have been reading the pope’s words and considering their meaning for their everyday lives of faith,” Gallagher wrote.

The encyclical covered a lot of ground, from a discussion on married love to charitable work to the connection of love to the Eucharist.

(To read more about these 10 stories, including links to all our original Criterion news coverage in 2006, log on to our Web site at †

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