December 22, 2017

The naming of a new archbishop tops local news stories

By Brandon A. Evans

Year in front pages photoThe appointment of Archbishop Charles C. Thompson as the seventh archbishop of Indianapolis was voted the top local news story of 2017, followed by the archdiocese’s hosting of the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) and the efforts of the local Church to aid immigrants and refugees.

Other stories of note included the spring meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) held in Indianapolis in June, the ordination of 21 men as permanent deacons and the first graduating class of Marian University’s new medical school.

Following the tradition of other news agencies, The Criterion editorial staff votes each year for the top 10 local stories that were published in our newspaper.

Many of the top stories selected this year were covered in multiple articles. Read this article online to browse the links to all the original coverage.

Among the hundreds of locally produced news stories during 2017, here is our “Top 10” list:

1. Archbishop Charles C. Thompson appointed the seventh archbishop of Indianapolis.

Last year’s news surrounding former Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin—namely, his being made a cardinal, then weeks later being appointed to lead the Church in Newark, N.J.—left the archdiocese to start 2017 without an archbishop.

For five months, Msgr. William F. Stumpf, formerly the vicar general, led Catholics of central and southern Indiana as the archdiocesan administrator.

Then on June 13, news broke that Pope Francis had appointed Bishop Charles C. Thompson of Evansville as the seventh archbishop of Indianapolis.

“I pledge to dedicate myself to you without hesitation or reservation,” said Archbishop-designate Thompson during an introductory press conference. “Together, we will build on the incredible foundation that already exists, striving to discern the signs of the times and make every effort to participate in framing the essential questions of faith and life, in order to promote a shared vision rooted in word, sacrament and service that enables us to respond rather than react to opportunities and challenges.”

On July 28, the Kentucky native—and former student of Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad—was installed as the new archbishop.

“Far too often, we are being confronted with an either/or mentality,” Archbishop Thompson said in his homily. “We must dare to counter the growing polarization, division and radical individualism that breed fear, distrust, hatred, indifference, prejudice, selfishness, despair, violence and radical ideology.

“Our role as people of faith—I especially hold myself accountable as bishop—is to be willing to stand in the breach of the divide, drawing people back from the ledges of extremism in self-indulgence and self-righteousness by serving as bridges of unity, ambassadors of hope and instruments of peace.”

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2. Archdiocese hosts 20,000 young people for the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC).

Indianapolis has hosted the biennial NCYC every time it has occurred since 2011.

The massive event on Nov. 16-18 drew more than 20,000 young Catholics from around the U.S.

The young people spend three days at the event getting to know each other, listening to dynamic speakers, attending Mass, making confessions, worshipping at eucharistic adoration and visiting with bishops, priests and religious.

But the scope of the event goes beyond just those who attend. A critical component is the volunteer force of generous people from around the archdiocese.

“We deploy over 1,000 volunteers, and people love it,” said Scott Williams, the director of youth ministry for the archdiocese who also led the local steering committee for NCYC. “Our vocations office, our liturgy office and our youth ministry office have all worked on this seamlessly for the past several years. … It’s not something we just do; it’s something that we’re really passionate about.”

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3. The local Church works to aid immigrants and refugees.

The local Church continued its work in welcoming and aiding immigrants and refugees this year, becoming more noteworthy because of the external difficulties it faced.

Both the U.S. bishops and the bishops of Indiana asked Catholics earlier this year to pray for a just and compassionate resolution to immigration issues.

A February event on justice for immigrants filled the gym of St. Philip Neri Parish. Father Christopher Wadelton, the parish’s pastor, estimated the turnout to be between 1,500 and 2,000 people, including immigrants, leaders of many congregations, Catholics, Muslims, Christians and Jews.

“It was overwhelming to see the response,” he said. “It spoke to a new level of anxiety in our immigrant community. … What it highlighted for me is our families are scared and want to hear some consoling word.”

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4. Spring meeting of the U.S. bishops is held in Indianapolis.

Each year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) meets twice to discuss matters of importance, vote on various statements and elect new committee leaders. Their fall meeting is always in Baltimore, home of the first diocese erected on U.S. soil, but their spring meeting moves to a different city.

While in Indianapolis in June, the bishops discussed a variety of topics, among them:

Discussing the upcoming worldwide synod on youth and vocations.

Reiterating the Church’s commitment to the fundamental right to health care.

Hearing a report on worldwide religious persecution.

Reflection on immigration issues.

Remembering the continuing sorrow they must feel for the tragedy of abuse.

Making religious liberty concerns into a permanent committee.

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5. Marian University’s new medical school graduates its first class.

Of the 134 students enrolled in Marian University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine in Indianapolis, six of them became part of a group that earned its place in both the histories of Catholic colleges and medical education in Indiana.

As the first graduating class, the story that those two women and four men are now part of is “how Marian’s program is the nation’s first osteopathic medical school at a Catholic university, and how it became, in 2013, the first medical school in Indiana to open in 110 years,” reported a story in The Criterion.

The approach of osteopathic medicine is something that connects to the Catholic faith, said Katie Fiori, one of the school’s graduates and also a 2007 graduate of Roncalli High School in Indianapolis.

“The osteopathic philosophy is to try to get to the root cause,” Fiori said. “Looking at the person as a whole and trying to understand their emotions and feelings is part of what lends itself to the Catholic faith—of seeing people deeper.”

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6. 21 men across the archdiocese are ordained permanent deacons.

On June 24, then Archbishop-designate Thompson ordained 21 men of diverse backgrounds as permanent deacons for the archdiocese.

“It was only the third such ordination of permanent deacons in the history of the archdiocese,” said a story in The Criterion.

“In the Church’s worship, they will baptize, witness marriages and preside over funeral services,” the story noted. “At Mass, they will be able to proclaim the Gospel and preach, but may not serve as celebrant or consecrate the Eucharist. In the ministry of the word, deacons teach the faith and serve as pastoral counselors. Their ministry, however, is focused on charity.”

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7. The archdiocese deepens its commitment to prison ministry.

Former Archbishop Tobin desired to place special emphasis on, among other things, ministry to those in prison. He set in motion a ministry that continues now under the support of Archbishop Thompson.

Lynne Weisenbach, coordinator of corrections ministry for the archdiocese, said that she views it as “a magnetic force” that changes the lives of everyone involved in it.

“Some of the misunderstanding is that if you help in prisons, it devalues or undermines what happens to the victim,” Weisenbach said. “But this isn’t about not respecting or not honoring the victims. We do. This is about God’s mercy for these people. It’s about mercy and redemption.”

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8. A record $7.1 million raised as annual event celebrates Catholic education.

Each year, the archdiocese hosts a formal event to not only celebrate the vital role of Catholic education, but to honor those who have lived out their Catholic education with Celebrating Catholic School Values Awards.

During the 2017 event, hosted in February for more than 600 people, it was announced that in the past year $7.1 million had be raised to benefit children attending Catholic schools.

Most of that record amount came through contributions to the Indiana Tax Credit Scholarship program. A Tax Credit Scholarship of at least $500 per child, given for one year, allows an income-eligible student to receive an Indiana school voucher the following year and for up to 12 years of education in a Catholic school—a potential of $60,000 in state voucher assistance.

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9. Listening and sharing are highlights of the local V Encuentro event.

In an effort to breathe the spirit of St. John Paul II’s “new evangelization” into Hispanic ministry, the U.S. bishops have started a four‑year process called V Encuentro, or Fifth Encounter. There have been four previous Encuentros, dating back to 1972.

The Criterion reported that a fact sheet from the national V Encuentro process organizers describes the effort as “a four‑year process of ecclesial reflection and action that invites all Catholics in the United States to intense missionary activity, consultation, leadership development and identification of best ministerial practices in the spirit of the New Evangelization.”

Oscar Castellanos, director of the archdiocesan Office of Intercultural Ministry, spoke about the need for this process:

“It’s important [for the archdiocese to participate] because we are following an initiative of the bishops who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, have summoned every diocese in the country to live this Encuentro process. It’s important because it will give an opportunity to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to reach out to those living in the periphery through the missionary process of evangelization and consultation of the V Encuentro.”

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10. Local events join worldwide celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions in Fatima.

One hundred years ago, the Mother of Jesus appeared to three children in Fatima, Portugal, on the 13th day of each month from May through October.

Her message repentance and prayer—particularly a call to pray the rosary—as well as three now-published “secrets” and the spectacular miracle of the sun, witnessed by thousands of people, have made the apparitions a hallmark of 20th-century Catholicism.

People around the world celebrated the anniversary, and so did the Catholics of central and southern Indiana. In addition to individuals and various small, private celebrations, parishes offered organized events.

The archdiocese culminated the celebration with a “Morning with Mary” gathering in mid-October at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral.

The event, highlighted by the praying of the rosary, featured the testimony of Benedictine Sister Nicolette Etienne of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove and of Heather Renshaw, creator of the blog.

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