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On Dec. 3, 2012, then-Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin said that he and the faithful of central and southern Indiana were “under an obligation of love” to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
He said this in the Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis during which he was installed as the sixth archbishop of Indianapolis. (See photos from the Mass)
Four years later to the day, looking back on his time of ministry to and with the Catholics in central and southern Indiana, he said during another liturgy at the cathedral that “we fell in love then, and we remain that way today.” (Watch the whole Mass here)
This Mass was originally planned as a celebration of Archbishop Tobin being inducted into the College of Cardinals on Nov. 19.
But when it was announced on Nov. 7 that Pope Francis had appointed Archbishop Tobin to lead the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., the Dec. 3 liturgy became a bittersweet farewell for Cardinal Tobin and the 1,000 Catholics from across central and southern Indiana who gathered in the cathedral to worship with him, and offer him their heartfelt prayers as he goes forward to lead the Church in northern New Jersey.
Both Masses four years apart were celebrated on the feast of St. Francis Xavier, the 16th-century Jesuit missionary to Asia who is the principal patron of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
In his closing remarks at the end of the Mass, Cardinal Tobin, his voice filled with emotion, made his own the words of St. Paul in his First Letter to the Thessalonians to describe his love for the Catholics of central and southern Indiana, and the mission he was given in ministering to and with them. (Watch his closing remarks)
“ ‘With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the Gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so beloved have you become to us’ ” (1 Thes 2:8), Cardinal Tobin said.
That emotion was shared by many people present in the cathedral.
Harold Back, 80, a member of St. Michael Parish in Brookville, also attended the installation Mass in 2012. During the past four years, Back has grown to love Cardinal Tobin and was sad to see him go.
“He hit our hearts,” Back said with emotion. “And when he hits your heart, he makes you cry.
“There’s joy today, but there’s also sadness. It’s been a wonderful four years of knowing Cardinal Joseph Tobin. He has meant so much to so many people in the archdiocese. It’s awesome.”
Harold and his wife Donna hope to travel to Newark for Cardinal Tobin’s Jan. 6 installation Mass there.
“We’re very sad to see him leave,” Donna said. “He’s just a very special person. I think the whole archdiocese is sad. I really do.”
Over the course of their lives, the Backs have experienced the leadership of many shepherds of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. All of them served as archbishop for many years. At nine years, from 1970-79, Archbishop George J. Biskup had the shortest time as archbishop of Indianapolis prior to Cardinal Tobin, who led the archdiocese for four years.
But the love Cardinal Tobin elicited from the faithful who gathered in the cathedral on Dec. 3 was palpable.
“I love this man,” said Benedictine Sister Harriet Woehler, a member of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove.
Like the Backs, she has seen archbishops come and go. She professed vows as a sister in 1949 at Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand, Ind., in the Evansville Diocese and is a founding member of Our Lady of Grace, which was established about a decade later. Cardinal Tobin made an impression on her.
“What he’s done in these four years is unbelievable for me,” Sister Harriet said. “He reminds me of the Holy Father—what he’s done for the world, and what this guy has done for our archdiocese.”
For his part, Cardinal Tobin expressed amazement in his homily at seeing all that Catholics across central and southern Indiana have done over the past four years to witness effectively to the Gospel. (Watch the homily here)
“I have been privileged to see witnesses across the 39 counties of this archdiocese, people who quietly bear witness, give testimony to Jesus Christ in prisons, in hospitals, on college campuses, in CCD classes, in our Catholic grade and high schools,” he said. “I’ve seen the witnesses of this archdiocese in the food kitchens, in the shelters, the outreach of Catholic Charities and the welcoming of refugees and strangers.
“I’ve seen the witness, and I think it’s no accident that for the four years that I’ve presided over Easter Vigils here in the archdiocese, we’ve welcomed 1,000 or more new Catholics, men and women who saw the action of the disciples of Jesus and came to believe.”
Retired Father James Bonke, a longtime priest of the archdiocese, shares a high assessment of Cardinal Tobin’s influence on the Church in central and southern Indiana. Father Bonke became a seminarian for the archdiocese under Archbishop Paul C. Schulte and was ordained in 1970 by Archbishop Biskup.
He attributed Cardinal Tobin’s significant impact on the Church in central and southern Indiana to “his personality and the obvious depth of his faith and love for the Church.
“That includes his love for his priests, and especially the people overall who are the Church of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis,” Father Bonke said. “He showed that in so many ways. He reached out to so many.”
The people that Cardinal Tobin reached out to included the members of parishes troubled by his decisions to merge them with nearby faith communities as part of the “Connected in the Spirit” archdiocesan planning process during the past four years.
Jeanne Huntzinger was a member of one such parish—the former St. Rose of Lima Parish in Knightstown, which was merged with St. Anne Parish in New Castle earlier this year.
Despite being saddened by seeing her parish merged, Huntzinger respected Cardinal Tobin.
“Being the personal leader that he is, having so much intelligence about what needs to be done and how it needs to be done made him the better person to make these choices,” said Huntzinger, who came to the cathedral for the Dec. 3 Mass and waited in a long line to greet Cardinal Tobin during a reception that followed.
Her respect only grew when he visited the state prison in New Castle earlier this year to celebrate Mass with inmates. Huntzinger participates in a ministry program at the prison.
“I care about this man,” she said while waiting to speak with him. “He is a beautiful, caring man. I want him to know how I, as a person, care for and will never forget him.”
Huntzinger joined the rest of the 1,000 worshippers in the cathedral at the end of the Mass in praying for Cardinal Tobin.
During the prayer, he stood in front of the cathedral’s altar with his eyes closed in prayer while a group of people representing the congregation stood around him and placed their hands on him.
One of those people was his mother, 93-year-old Marie Tobin, who was joined at the liturgy by 10 of her 13 children, including Cardinal Tobin.
“To be with my son when he offers Mass is the epitome of my life, the high point forever,” Tobin said. “But to be surrounded by all this love for four years—I am just so grateful. I would like to be a Hoosier myself.”
At the end of his homily during the farewell Mass, Cardinal Tobin recalled the story of a group of Anglican religious brothers in the Solomon Islands, who died for their faith in 2000 during peacemaking efforts in the island nation divided by ethnic strife.
In reflecting on the deaths of the fellow members of the community, one member of it said, “We know where we stand [and] who we belong to.”
Cardinal Tobin used these words to draw out the deeper meaning of the call for him, the faithful of central and southern Indiana, and the broader Church to be witnesses to the Gospel in word and deed.
“Beyond all the history of confusion and betrayal that surrounds a lot of the Church’s history, beyond the power games that we still can play in the churches, beyond the terrible scandals that have lacerated the body of Christ,” he said, “this one rocklike conviction remains, the conviction that drove the writing of every word of the New Testament.
“It has nothing to do with conspiracies, opinion polls or the agenda of the powerful. It has everything to do with how the powerless, praying, risking their lives for the sake of Christ and his peace, are the ones who understand the word of God. They are witnesses.
“And to accept that is not to sign up to the agenda of some sort of troubled, fussy human society of worried prelates and squabbling factions. It is not to enroll in a fraternity or sorority and begin paying dues. To be a witness in the Church and for the world is to choose to belong to the life-giver, Jesus Christ. To him be glory, now and forever.”
He then said, “Let the Church say,” and the congregation responded with a resounding, “Amen!” †