December 21, 2007

Immigration response tops local news stories for 2007

In a gesture symbolic of his promise of obedience, Deacon Rick Nagel places his hands in the hands of Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein of Indianapolis during a June 2 ordination Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. Deacons Thomas Kovatch and Randall Summers were also ordained during the liturgy. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

In a gesture symbolic of his promise of obedience, Deacon Rick Nagel places his hands in the hands of Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein of Indianapolis during a June 2 ordination Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. Deacons Thomas Kovatch and Randall Summers were also ordained during the liturgy. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Brandon A. Evans

The involvement of our local bishops in immigration reform was voted the top news story for the archdiocese this year, but it was far from being the only newsmaker.

Working in tandem with the custom of other news agencies, including Catholic News Service, The Criterion editorial staff votes each year for the top 10 local stories that appeared in our newspaper.

Many of the stories selected this year were actually made up of several individual articles, and you can read them all by checking out the companion to this story.

So, amid the more than 450 locally produced news stories this year, here is our top 10:

1. The bishops of Indiana release a pastoral letter on immigration

As the country continues to debate the issue of immigration, the five bishops of Indiana released a joint document in January titled “I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me: Meeting Christ in New Neighbors.”

It was the first such document released by the bishops in recent times and was our lead story in the first issue of 2007.

The story read, in part: “Typically, ­statements from the bishops are done through the Indiana Catholic Conference, the Church’s official public policy voice. However, the pastoral letter is a unique move by the bishops, giving the statement a distinctive teaching authority which carries more significance and weight—that of shepherds addressing the faithful.”

Calling Catholics to welcome the stranger as Christ himself, the bishops called for balance between “the right of a sovereign state to control its borders,” and “the right of human persons to migrate so that they can realize their God-given rights.”

The pastoral said that “the state may impose reasonable limits on immigration, but the common good is not served when the basic human rights of the individual are violated.”

The Criterion also covered an immigration march in May and the progress of immigration legislation as it was discussed throughout the United States.

2. Three men ordained to the priesthood

The ordination of priests always seems to end up as one of our top stories, in no small part because it marks the beginning of a long journey for these men, and for all of us who will cross paths with them in the years to come.

This year, three men were ordained on June 2 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral: Fathers Thomas Kovatch, Rick Nagel and Randall Summers.

“Today, you put yourself at Christ’s disposal,” Archbishop Buechlein told the three men during the ordination. “You offer yourselves to serve the people of our local Church, to do that in the person of Christ, the high priest and bridegroom of the Church. ”

Father Eric Johnson, archdiocesan vocations director, said that it was a happy day for the Church.

“We have three wonderful men that have come forward and said not only ‘yes’ to God’s call but, in doing that, are ­themselves kind of an image of faith for the rest of us,” he said.

Each one of the men has their own story of how God led them to the priesthood. You can log on to our Web site to read them.

3. St. Theodora honored at Masses across the archdiocese

Last year’s top story spilled over into 2007 in the form of celebration.

The October 2006 canonization of St. Theodora Guérin—foundress of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and Indiana’s first saint—kicked off a year of special Masses celebrated by Archbishop Buechlein in each of the archdiocese’s 11 deaneries.

The first Mass was celebrated on Dec. 8, 2006, at St. Joan of Arc Church in Indianapolis and the last was held at Our Lady of Providence Jr./Sr. High School in Clarksville on Oct. 3—St. Theodora’s new feast day.

“Many of us, myself included, were educated by the Sisters of Providence. … Our heritage goes back to this saint,” the archbishop said at the final Mass.

Throughout the year, The Criterion included coverage and photos of all the Masses as well as the details of a ­seminarian pilgrimage to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, the dedication of a portrait and a statue of the saint, other related ­celebrations and a hymn written by two monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey.

Links to all of those can be found in the online companion to this story.

4. Arson fire destroys St. Anne Church in New Castle

The timing couldn’t have been much worse for a Catholic parish: Hours before the celebration of the holiest liturgy of the year—the Easter vigil—a fire destroyed St. Anne Church in New Castle on April 7.

Senior reporter Mary Ann Wyand wrote that the fire “gutted the interior of the 83-year-old brick church, burned through the roof and melted stained-glass ­windows.”

“Visibly shaken,” Wyand wrote, “Sister Shirley [Gerth, the parish life coordinator] said the first Mass was celebrated in the church on Easter Sunday in 1924.”

Msgr. Joseph F. Schaedel, archdiocesan vicar general, said that he and Archbishop Buechlein were “very upset, very ­distraught, over the loss of St. Anne Church … but we’re thankful that nobody was injured in the fire.”

Five weeks after the fire, Henry County authorities arrested William L. Abbott, 33, of New Castle on felony charges of arson, burglary and theft.

Support for the parish has continued throughout the year, with parishes and individuals donating more than $144,000 (including about $700 raised through The Criterion’s Web site), and people ­continue to pray.

Even on the day of the fire, Sister Shirley kept her spirits up: “We’re going to celebrate new life tomorrow. We’re going to sing our Alleluias tomorrow. It’s Easter Sunday. It’s the feast of the Lord’s resurrection. … Surely we’ll grieve, but at the end of grief comes new life.”

5. Legacy for Our Mission campaign nears goal

The largest capital campaign in the ­history of the archdiocese continued to be a major focus of parishioners throughout central and southern Indiana.

Reporter Sean Gallagher wrote that, “When it was launched in 2004, the Legacy for Our Mission: For Our Children and the Future campaign had an ambitious goal of raising $100 million.

“By accomplishing this goal, the ­archdiocese hopes its parishes, shared ­ministries and home missions will be set on firm ground for years to come.”

Each parish keeps part of the money raised toward their goal, while part goes to help the archdiocese support not only struggling parish communities, but also to fund shared ministries, such as the training of new priests and the work of Catholic Charities and Catholic education.

As of late October, nearly $90 million had been pledged through the campaign. These pledges came from more than 25,000 participants from 115 archdiocesan parishes.

Throughout the year, The Criterion ­featured stories about how parishes have been affected by the campaign, and what they are planning to do with the money they have raised. For all these parish updates, be sure to check our Web site.

6. Archbishop Buechlein celebrates 20 years as a bishop

While coverage was limited to a single news story and a photo essay, it was of no small mention that Archbishop Buechlein celebrated his 15th anniversary as shepherd of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and the 20th anniversary of his episcopal ordination in the same year.

Editor Mike Krokos wrote that “To ­celebrate his 20 years as a bishop, Archbishop Buechlein recently went on a personal retreat to reflect on his time as a shepherd of the Church in Memphis and Indianapolis.

“While on retreat, he responded to a series of questions from The Criterion that afforded him the opportunity to share his thoughts on his 20 years of ministry as a bishop.”

You can read the entire question-and-answer interview on our Web site, but here is an excerpt from a question about what the archbishop looks to in the future:

“God has not let me down in the past and present, so I am confident that his Providence will care for me in my evening years.

“With God’s blessing and the help of good priests and people, I don’t plan to carry on my ministry ‘by looking in the rear-view mirror,’ as the saying goes.

“I look forward to our celebration of our 175th anniversary [as an archdiocese] in 2009.”

7. Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts

The Indianapolis Colts’ victory over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI on Feb. 4 was one of the major secular news stories in Indiana in 2007.

The hype and excitement was also reported in our newspaper as our staff took a closer look at one of the more low-key members of the franchise: its volunteer chaplain, Father Peter Gallagher, who also is chaplain of Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School in Indianapolis.

“I’m fortunate to have been asked to be a part of this organization and what I’m doing to promote our Catholic faith,” Father Gallagher told The Criterion.

This fall, the newspaper also featured a front-page story about the Catholic faith of Colts players.

Other Colts-related coverage included the ­renaming of the now Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St. Vincent in Indianapolis, and a story about a Colts Fitness Camp at St. Anthony of Padua School in Clarksville.

8. Deacon Chlopecki becomes first ­archdiocesan permanent deacon

On May 1, a little piece of history occurred in the archdiocese.

It was, according to Sean Gallagher, “the day on which the incardination process was completed whereby Deacon John Chlopecki went from being a deacon of the Archdiocese of Chicago—for which he was ordained in 1991—to being a ­deacon of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.”

Thus, Deacon Chlopecki became the archdiocese’ first permanent deacon. The diaconate will grow in numbers next spring when 25 men will be ordained permanent ­deacons after four years of formation.

Deacon Chlopecki served on the ­committee that, starting in 2002, helped develop the current archdiocesan deacon formation program.

“When I first moved down to the ­archdiocese, I prayed that there would be a diaconate someday,” Deacon Chlopecki said. “And I prayed, ‘Dear God, please let me be a part of it. Let me help bring this to fruition.’ And the good Lord gave me exactly what I prayed for, and more so than I ever thought it would be.”

9. Local Catholics observe the 10th anniversary of Mother Teresa’s death

The 10th anniversary of the death of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta was marked all over the world, including in our ­archdiocese in which several sisters of her order, the Missionaries of Charity, now minister to the poor.

Members of that order, along with women and children from an emergency shelter that the sisters operate and about 100 other people, gathered for Mass with Archbishop Buechlein at the cathedral on Sept. 5.

The Criterion also wrote a special story that shared the thoughts of a variety of local Catholics on their memories of Mother Teresa.

“Catholics throughout central and southern Indiana are drawn to this woman unlike nearly any other spiritual figure of our time,” wrote Sean Gallagher.

“Some of them are leaders in the faith or notable television personalities. Others are average people in the pews.

“No matter who they are, Blessed Teresa has a special place in their heart.”

10. SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral celebrates its centennial year

To celebrate the centenary of its ­dedication on Dec. 21, 1906, by Bishop Francis Silas Chatard, the staff and members of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral Parish in Indianapolis planned a year’s worth of special events.

Those events included a ­speakers series, concerts, liturgies and a banquet after the closing centennial Mass.

Archbishop Buechlein presided over the June 29 Mass that closed the year of ­celebration, and recalled “not so much the glory of the cathedral church, but of the worship given to God in it by scores of Catholics during the past 100 years.

“The cathedral has been an important place for many people throughout the ­archdiocese.”

Nearly 5,800 weddings have taken place there and 124 men have been ordained to the priesthood.

Father Patrick Beidelman, the rector and pastor of the parish, remarked on the parish’s future at the June 29 Mass.

“As we remember the past today, let us look forward to a future full of hope,” Father Beidelman said, “knowing that God will guide us on a path of profound change as he fashions us into the image of his only Son, our Lord.” †

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