October 26, 2018

Legal professionals called to service during annual Red Mass

Judges worship during the Oct. 1 Red Mass of the St. Thomas More Society of Central Indiana celebrated at St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis. The judges are, from left, Marion County Superior Court Judge Clark Rogers; Chief Judge Robyn Moberly of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court; Indiana Supreme Court Justices Mark Massa (partially obscured) and Geoffrey Slaughter; Marion County Magistrate David Hooper (partially obscured); Marion County Superior Court Judge Calvin Hawkins; and U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Judges worship during the Oct. 1 Red Mass of the St. Thomas More Society of Central Indiana celebrated at St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis. The judges are, from left, Marion County Superior Court Judge Clark Rogers; Chief Judge Robyn Moberly of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court; Indiana Supreme Court Justices Mark Massa (partially obscured) and Geoffrey Slaughter; Marion County Magistrate David Hooper (partially obscured); Marion County Superior Court Judge Calvin Hawkins; and U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

Judges, lawyers and law students from across central Indiana gathered on Oct. 1 at St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis to continue a centuries-old tradition of praying for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their work as a new judicial session begins.

They worshipped together at the annual Red Mass of the St. Thomas More Society of Central Indiana, an organization of area Catholic legal professionals. The liturgy, which has been celebrated since the 13th century, is called a “Red Mass” because of the red vestments used during it, which symbolize the Holy Spirit.

As time-honored as the Red Mass is, the dinner that took place afterward focused on a contemporary problem facing society: the opioid crisis.

Jim McClelland, Indiana’s executive director for drug prevention, treatment and enforcement, delivered a keynote address on the crisis that has seen a sharp spike in overdose deaths and other negative social effects during the past several years.

The dinner also featured the bestowing of the St. Thomas More Society’s annual “Man for All Seasons Award,” which this year was given posthumously to Tom Spencer, a member of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, who died on Feb. 23.

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson was the principal celebrant of the Red Mass. In his homily, he praised the legal professionals at the Mass for embracing “a noble vocation of service to others, providing for order and right conduct amid the various intricacies of relations between individuals, groups and society.”

He later encouraged his listeners to place service at the heart of their work.

“Our gifts and talents, cultivated through study and hard work—and God knows, judges have had many years of study and hard work—are meant to be used in service to others, including those who have trouble with the law,” Archbishop Thompson said.

“Recalling the Church’s long-standing option for the poor and vulnerable beckons to keep in mind that we should be especially attentive to the needs of the unborn, uneducated, undocumented, elderly, refugee, abused and victims of human trafficking and, as we know in these last weeks of the great trials of our Church, especially children, those who are so unprotected and those who continue to be the most vulnerable among us.”

During the dinner that followed, Spencer was praised as one who served the Church and broader community and promoted the common good through his support of numerous organizations, including his parish, the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Indianapolis Serra Club and Right to Life of Indianapolis.

“Tom is a role model,” said Patrick Olmstead, president of the St. Thomas More Society. “He inspires those around him, even when he is gone. He is one of the best men I have ever known.”

In his keynote address, McClelland called on the service of the broader community to address the large challenges facing society in the opioid crisis.

In introducing McClelland, Olmstead noted that 72,000 people in the U.S. died in 2017 from drug overdose, most of them related to opioid drugs.

McClelland, who, before being appointed to his current position by Gov. Eric Holcomb in 2017, served for 41 years as president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana, said that drug overdose has been the primary factor in the decline of the average American lifespan during the past two years.

“It’s no question that it’s a public health crisis,” McClelland said. “But we also have to remember that every public health crisis is both a medical issue and a social issue. This epidemic is in cities, suburbs, small towns and rural areas. It cuts across all socioeconomic lines.”

He explained how the crisis came about through an increasingly wide use of highly addictive prescription pain killers, with users later switching to OxyContin and heroin, and the pain relievers and heroin being spiked with powerful—and illegal—synthetic opioids.

McClelland also encouraged his listeners to view addictions as a medical disorder.

“Regardless of the path that leads to the development of an opioid use disorder, once you have it, you have a chronically relapsing disease that changes the brain’s structure and function at the molecular and cellular levels,” he said. “The good news is that it’s treatable and recovery is possible.”

Progress has been made, he said, in treating and preventing opioid abuse during the past 18 months through effective use of medical-assisted treatment and behavioral therapy.

Drug courts, in which drug-related offenders are given help to enter into recovery, have also contributed to the progress.

So have support groups for people in recovery, which are often sponsored by churches and other faith-based organizations.

“That’s an area where churches and other faith-based organizations can often play a significant role,” McClelland noted.

Despite the progress made, McClelland told his listeners that “I must emphasize … that we have not yet turned a corner. There are still far, far too many overdosing and dying. But we are on the right track, with a lot of work yet to do.”

He argued that the most important area of work is in supporting young people and families at risk of being drawn into the opioid crisis, and for the efforts of governmental agencies and not-for-profit organizations, including churches, to focus and combine their work.

“There are a lot of really good services and resources out there,” McClelland said.

“But, in general, we haven’t done a really good job connecting them. And that’s what we need to be doing.

“Perhaps above all, as we address substance abuse, particularly the opioid crisis and the people who are affected by it, we need more compassion and less judgment. Wherever possible, we need to do all that we can to replace despair with hope.”
 

(For more information on the St. Thomas More Society of Central Indiana, go to www.stmsindy.org. For more information on recovery from substance abuse and Substance Abuse Ministry in the archdiocese, go to bit.ly/2NHI3mQ [case sensitive] or contact Brie Anne Eichhorn at beichhorn@archindy.org.)

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