July 28, 2017

Religious communities express support for Archbishop Thompson

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson is the shepherd not only for the clergy and lay faithful in parishes across central and southern Indiana.

He is also a pastoral leader for the men and women religious in the archdiocese, especially those whose communities are based here.

Leaders of these religious communities recently shared with The Criterion their reaction to the appointment of Archbishop Thompson, and their hopes for his future leadership of the archdiocese.

Benedictine Archabbot Kurt Stasiak, the leader of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, was especially delighted at the news of the appointment since Archbishop Thompson received his priestly formation at his community’s seminary and later served on its faculty.

“Because he is an alumnus, we at Saint Meinrad believe we contributed to his priestly formation, a formation which has resulted in a gracious, effective, and happy priest and then bishop—and now archbishop,” said Archabbot Kurt, who taught Archbishop Thompson in a course on sacramental theology. “We are ‘humbly proud’ of our support of the Archbishop-designate over the years.”

Franciscan Sister Maureen Irvin, congregational minister for the Congregation of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis in Oldenburg, and other religious order leaders in the archdiocese have already come to know Archbishop Thompson through yearly meetings they have had with bishops from across the state.

She hopes that Archbishop Thompson will do much to build on the pastoral leadership of his predecessor, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, N.J.

“Being a pastoral leader who calls Catholics to respond

to the social justice issues of our time, including poverty, immigration, the death penalty, climate change, human trafficking and the sanctity of all life would surely

challenge and enrich the Church of central and southern Indiana,” Sister Maureen said. “Perhaps he can find ways to reach out to young Catholics, and help them to feel more a part of the archdiocese and the Church. I anticipate that he will be a strong spiritual and pastoral leader.”

She also noted that many religious communities, including her own, are currently living through times of change and decision making about the future.

“We anticipate that Archbishop Thompson will be sensitive to all that is happening for vowed religious, and supportive of the major decisions that congregations are having to make,” Sister Maureen said. “As Sisters of St. Francis, we will be planning for the future of some of our ministries. The fact that he is a canon lawyer will be very helpful.”

Providence Sister Dawn Tomaszewski, general superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, appreciates Archbishop Thompson’s pastoral leadership and expressed her expectation that her community will assist him in ministering to the Church in central and southern Indiana.

“Bishop Thompson led the Diocese of Evansville through a highly inclusive pastoral planning process,” she said. “He will bring those gifts to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

“I certainly hope Archbishop-designate Thompson would find us willing collaborators in continuing the mission of Jesus in whatever ways that might be helpful or fruitful. The Sisters of Providence have long been dedicated to the Church in Indiana, and wish to continue the legacy begun by our foundress St. Mother Theodore Guérin.”

Conventual Franciscan Father James Kent, provincial of his order’s Province of Our Lady of Consolation based in Mount St. Francis, said he looks forward to the leadership that Archbishop Thompson can show in this time marked by many divisions in society.

“The Archbishop-designate has said he most often finds the truth in the center,” said Father James. “In a culture so fractured and with such apparent little interest in overcoming the divide, my hope is Archbishop Thompson can shepherd the people of central and southern Indiana to pastures that serve the common good, rooted in the truth of the Gospel, and which unites our diversity through the grace of Jesus Christ’s self-sacrificing love.”

Benedictine Sister Jennifer Mechtild Horner, prioress of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, hopes that her community can help Archbishop Thompson give support to people in need in the archdiocese.

“It is important that we reach out to the poor, immigrants, refugees and anyone else in need,” she said. “As our shepherd, Archbishop Thompson can take the lead in calling the clergy, religious and all the faithful to reach out to all people bringing them the good news of Jesus Christ.”

While various religious communities across the archdiocese foresee collaborating with Archbishop Thompson in actively accomplishing the mission of the Church in central and southern Indiana, the Discalced Carmelite nuns of the Monastery of St. Joseph in Terre Haute plan on supporting Archbishop Thompson much as they have his predecessors—through a hidden life of prayer in their cloistered community.

“Each archbishop in the history of our community has always held a special relationship with us, as our life is dedicated to the spiritual support of the local Church and its shepherd,” said Mother Anne Brackmann, the monastery’s prioress. “It is our hope that this mutual enrichment will continue. It is our privilege to support him with our life of contemplative prayer, and our efforts to live the Gospel in our particular vocation in the Church.” †

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