July 24, 2015

Archbishop Tobin blesses first of its kind Intercultural Pastoral Institute, praises local Church’s diversity

Archbishop William E. Lori laughs during a homily with members of his eighth-grade graduating class and their spouses during a July 18 Mass at a Knights of Columbus hall in New Albany. Archbishop Lori graduated from Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in New Albany in 1965. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin prays during the July 16 dedication of the Intercultural Pastoral Institute, including the St. Bernadette Oratory, in Indianapolis. Also pictured are master of ceremonies Loral Tansy, left, and altar server Julia Beh Meh, a native of Myanmar and a member of St Pius X Parish. (Photo by Victoria Arthur)

By Victoria Arthur (Special to The Criterion)

A diverse group of Catholics from across central and southern Indiana gathered on July 16 to witness the blessing of the new Intercultural Pastoral Institute in Indianapolis—and a new beginning for the building that it will call home.

The institute will offer programs that promote and celebrate the rich diversity within the Church and the archdiocese in particular. It is located at the former St. Bernadette Parish on the east side of Indianapolis. St. Bernadette merged in November with nearby Our Lady of Lourdes Parish as a result of the Connected in the Spirit planning process.

“This is a building for all of us,” said Franciscan Brother Moises Gutierrez, director of the archdiocesan Office of Intercultural Ministry, which developed the concept for and will operate the institute. “We can use our imagination because now we have a really good place as a platform for living out our call to communion in this diverse Church of ours.”

The institute’s facilities, located at 4838 Fletcher Ave. in Indianapolis, will host classes for the Office of Intercultural Ministry’s four ethnic pastoral formation programs and other cultural events.

An ethnic dinner series began on July 18, with an evening celebrating the food, culture and spirituality of Vietnam. Future evenings will focus on Korea, Mexico, the Philippines, Myanmar (formerly Burma), and Africa—all orchestrated by Catholics in the archdiocese with ties to those cultures. Ultimately, according to Brother Moises, the programming offered at the institute is intended to strengthen ministry and outreach to diverse cultural groups at the parish level.

The Intercultural Pastoral Institute is the first of its kind in the United States, he said, because of its all-encompassing scope.

“There are Hispanic institutes, but ours is the first pastoral institute serving multiple cultures,” he said. “This says a lot about the leadership of the archdiocese … that it is responding to the needs of the Church.”

Before blessing the new institute, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin compared the idea behind it to concepts set forth by Pope Francis in “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” his encyclical on protecting the environment. He noted that Pope Francis refers to care for our common home, the Earth—and respect for the diversity of life that dwells there.

“We must recognize the relationship that exists between us and the world around us,” Archbishop Tobin said. “We are all connected. We all must recognize the bonds of faith, hope and charity that unite us without erasing the diversity that is the Spirit’s gift to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.”

During the blessing in the sanctuary of the St. Bernadette Oratory, the archbishop dedicated the institute “to the formation of ministers to care for the faithful and to the evangelization of peoples. May it become a center where students and teachers, imbued with the words of truth, will search for the wisdom that guides the Christian life.”

At a festive, multiethnic reception that followed the blessing, Father Kenneth Taylor, pastor of Holy Angels and St. Rita parishes, both in Indianapolis, reflected on what the institute will mean for his largely black Catholic congregations.

“This will help our parishioners get a deeper sense of what it means to be a black Catholic, so they can be more engaged—not just in the life of the parish, but in the life of the Church,” he said.

Others who enthusiastically welcomed the new institute were longtime members of the former St. Bernadette Parish. Stephenie Paquette said she was overjoyed that the parish that was her spiritual home for more than 60 years has found a new purpose.

Paquette, a 1957 graduate of the former St. Bernadette School, raised six children who also attended the school before it closed in the 1980s due to declining enrollment. Her family sponsored a Vietnamese family in the parish for a time, so she said she understands the need for culturally sensitive outreach programs.

Sitting in the same front pew where she spent countless Masses through the decades, Paquette vividly recalled the final Mass held at St. Bernadette last November. Father Noah Casey, who was then pastor, asked her to serve as a lector during the liturgy.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” she recalled, brushing back tears. Father Casey’s funeral was celebrated at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral on July 16—the same day as the blessing of the Intercultural Pastoral Institute.

“I’m very happy about this use for the parish,” Paquette said. “I know that Father Noah was thrilled that this was going to happen. I’m just sorry he didn’t live to see this day.”

(Victoria Arthur is a freelance writer and a member of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg.)


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