June 28, 2013

Archdiocan Pallium Pilgrimage Blog

‘Now, Indiana is home’

Archbishop Tobin views pallium trip to Rome as a journey of humility and faith

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin elevates the Eucharist during his installation Mass on Dec. 3, 2012, at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. He will receive his pallium from Pope Francis during a special Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on June 29. (File photo by Mary Ann Garber)

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin elevates the Eucharist during his installation Mass on Dec. 3, 2012, at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. He will receive his pallium from Pope Francis during a special Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on June 29. (File photo by Mary Ann Garber)

(Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part interview with Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin. Click here to read the second part.)

By John Shaughnessy

For most Catholics, a visit to Rome would be the trip of a lifetime.

For Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, his pilgrimage to the Eternal City this week symbolically marks a dramatic change in his life—and another historic moment in the life of the Church in central and southern Indiana.

As he kneels before Pope Francis during a special Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on June 29, the archbishop will receive one of the most special, humbling and uplifting symbols of the Church. (Follow the pilgrimage on our blog)

The pope will place a pallium—a circular band made from lamb’s wool—around the shoulders of Archbishop Tobin, who was installed as the leader of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis on Dec. 3, 2012.

Receiving the pallium on the feast day of Sts. Peter and Paul will symbolize the archbishop’s role as the shepherd of the archdiocese. It will also signify his communion with Pope Francis—one of the many people that Archbishop Tobin came to befriend during his 21 years of serving the Church in Rome.

It’s the city where he served as the superior general of the approximately 5,300 Redemptorists around the world. It’s also where he ministered as the secretary—the second in charge—in the Vatican’s Congregation for Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, helping to guide the life and ministry of 1 million men and women religious around the world.

And it’s where he earned a reputation for caring for the poor, the elderly and people with disabilities in Rome’s Primavalle neighborhood.

Yet while Archbishop Tobin’s return to Rome is part homecoming, he views his journey there this time as a faith-filled celebration of his new home—the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

“Rome is the longest address I’ve had in my life,” said Archbishop Tobin, who is 61. “For 20 years, I’d always be going home to Rome. But not this time. Now, Indiana is home.”

The archbishop shared those comments during an extensive interview before his trip to Rome—an interview in which he talked about the pilgrimage he is leading there this week, his thoughts on receiving the pallium from Pope Francis, and his first seven months as the leader of the archdiocese.

An edited version of the first half of the interview is shared here, focusing on the pope, the pallium and the pilgrimage from Indianapolis to Rome which started on June 25 and concludes on July 2.

Q. Made from the wool of lambs, a pallium is associated with the image of the archbishop becoming the shepherd of the people of the archdiocese, similar to Christ being the Good Shepherd of his people. Talk about the significance of that symbol for you.

A. “If you visit the catacombs, as I’m hoping my fellow pilgrims will have the chance to do, you’ll see the earliest images of Christ. For me, one of the great things about being a Catholic is this connection to an apostolic Church, to a Church that goes back to the Apostles, founded by Jesus Christ. So visiting the catacombs for me and seeing those first images of Christ has always been an emotional experience. And the most common image that you’ll see is the image of Jesus as a shepherd.

“The shepherd is not like some pictures you’ll see of Jesus in more contemporary art—with a staff and leading a little flock. He has a sheep on his shoulders. And that symbol of the shepherd, in this case the archbishop, is particularly interested in the one who is lost. It’s to accentuate the compassion and really the interest of one who’s responsible for the local Church, particularly the bishop. Not simply to be a welcoming Church where everything is ready when people show up, but also to be looking for people who don’t show up and trying to make them feel welcome.”

Q. You’ve met Pope Francis prior to his election as pope, including the 2005 Synod of Bishops when he was the archbishop of Buenos Aires and you sat next to each other for the better part of four weeks. Will receiving your pallium from him have extra meaning for you?

A. “Yes. I knew Pope Francis as Cardinal [Jorge Mario] Bergoglio when I shared a synod with him and corresponded with him off and on. So it will be exciting to see him again, to see him in his new role and to see some of the changes that have already been made.

“Francis has confirmed for me a lot about the pastoral dimension of a bishop, through his simplicity and especially in his homily at the chrism Mass this year when he talked about shepherds living with the smell of the sheep. If you want to see it in a more eloquent way, ‘Gaudium et Spes’ [‘Joy and Hope’], the ‘Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,’ says the Church shares the anxious questioning of men and women today.

“To my mind, that’s what the ‘smell of the sheep’ is. You are close enough to people that you know what those joys and sorrows, what those anxieties are. And you’re close enough to Christ and his word that, perhaps through you, the light of Christ can shine on those things and help show people where they fit into God’s plan. Francis has confirmed and challenged me to be aware of the joys and anxieties of the people of central and southern Indiana.”

Q. Any thoughts on what you will say to him when you meet?

A. “I know we’ll have a moment when he gives me the pallium. At least that happened in the past when I was a spectator and I saw the pope usually had something to say to archbishops as he bestowed that symbol. If I have more of a chance to speak with him, I will congratulate him and give him the love of the people I minister to and minister with. I might ask him as a former archbishop of a diocese if he has any tips. I’d think he’d be happy to give them.

“When I speak with him, I won’t speak in Italian. I’ll speak in Spanish. That will be different from the other two popes I dealt with [Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI]. Spanish will be his native tongue. I was in the Spanish-speaking working group with him at the synod. We’ve never talked in any other language. I suppose if you can speak somebody’s language, it does open possibilities.”

Q. Pope Francis has displayed humility, empathy and care for the poor and people in need during his first three months as pope. You were also known for those qualities during your two decades in Rome, an approach that continues as archbishop. Talk about the importance of those qualities in the Church at this time.

A. “They’re important at any time in the Church’s life. Are they more important now? There must be a case for that because you can see the attention that these simple gestures of Francis get. Maybe it’s because there have been caricatures of bishops or popes. Personally knowing the last two popes, they were very compassionate men. Maybe it didn’t translate as easy in some of their gestures.

“I always felt knowing Benedict that he was a very holy man, very close to God, very humble before God, asking for God’s guidance. But I also think that he was at heart a professor. He was most comfortable in a teaching mode. You could sense it in his audiences. People really listened to Pope Benedict as he spoke.

“Francis, being a Latin American of Italian descent, there’s a certain warmth that is maybe more natural for him because of the culture he was raised in. I think Francis, in a certain sense, carries out something that Pope Paul VI wrote in 1975. One of the great statements on evangelization was the post-synodal document of the 1974 synod on evangelization. Paul VI said the world today needs witnesses even more than it needs teachers. And if it listens to a teacher, it will be because he or she is also a witness.

“In public parlance, it’s the ability to walk the talk. And I suspect that Francis is doing that. Rather than beginning with great doctrinal announcements, maybe he has this visceral sense that he is witnessing to something, and once he has the confidence to establish a dialogue with people, then he can expand upon it. And because he’s witnessing to the fundamental choices Jesus made, it will make whatever he says more credible.”

Q. What does it mean to you to have people from across the archdiocese be with you on a pilgrimage as your receive your pallium?

A. “It’s important for me to have people from the archdiocese there even though I’m conscious that it’s a great expense. In a certain sense, I would prefer maybe if Francis would FedEx it or something.

“The pallium is very geographically specific. In fact, an archbishop can’t wear his pallium outside the ecclesiastical province—even if the bishop of the place invites him to wear it. It’s a symbol of service and authority in a very given area. So having people from the archdiocese there, in a very visible way, embodies the mandate that I receive, which calls me to be responsible here in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and also the ecclesiastical province of Indiana, which would be the other four dioceses in the state as well.”

Q. You spent 21 years in Rome serving the Church. What are your thoughts as you return there?

A. “I was blessed in my two decades in Rome to have a lot of friends. A lot of them are still there in different walks of life—not only priests and religious but lay people, musicians, poets, food workers. I hope to see them again, but I’m not sure how much time I’ll have. I’d love to be able to bilocate, but that’s not in the skill set yet.”

Q. Of your family, who’s coming to Rome and what will that mean to you to have them there?

A. “My family has always been a great support to me. We’ve been there for each other. I’m pretty sure my mother is not going to be able to go. Mom has had some health issues recently, and she’s got 90 spring times under her belt. We talked and she said, ‘I want to be there for you.’ I said, ‘You’ll be there for me by taking care of yourself because then you can be there for all of us.’

“People will ask her, ‘You must be really proud of Joe.’ She answers with great sincerity, ‘I’m proud of all my children.’ I think that even more than seeing her son get the pallium, being able to share an experience with a number of her children—that was the attraction for her. I think that’s what she’ll miss. She’s been to St. Peter’s. Like most mothers, it’s all about being with her kids.

“Three or four of my sisters are going to be there and a couple of nieces and a couple of cousins are coming along. So there will be a representation. They’ll be able to go home and augment tales.”

(Archbishop Tobin’s thoughts on his time so far as the leader of the archdiocese will appear in the July 5th issue of The Criterion.)


Related stories: Archbishop Tobin will receive a rich symbol of faith from Pope Francis on June 29 | Prayer intentions for 2013 archdiocesan pallium pilgrimage

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