December 2, 2016

Religious order leaders express thanks for Cardinal Tobin

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin poses with the Discalced Carmelite nuns of the Monastary of St. Joseph in Terre Haute on Oct. 10, 2015, after celebrating a Mass with them in honor of the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Teresa of Avila, the foundress of the their religious order. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin poses with the Discalced Carmelite nuns of the Monastary of St. Joseph in Terre Haute on Oct. 10, 2015, after celebrating a Mass with them in honor of the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Teresa of Avila, the foundress of the their religious order. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin has a soft spot in his heart for the men and women who have dedicated themselves to God and the Church in religious life.

He himself did this as a young man when he joined the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists), later served as the superior general of that worldwide order, then helped guide the life and ministry of the Church’s more than 1 million religious as the secretary (second in authority) of the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

So it’s not surprising that the leaders of religious communities based in central and southern Indiana were grateful for Cardinal Tobin’s leadership in the archdiocese over the past four years, elated to learn that Pope Francis had selected him as a cardinal and sad when they heard that he had been appointed to leave the Hoosier state to lead the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J.

“Cardinal Tobin is truly a good man,” said Providence Sister Dawn Tomaszewski, who was elected the new general superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods in July. “I feel like he has been a wonderful pastor for all of us. And certainly in terms of religious women, he has been so supportive of the work we do and the ministries in which we’re involved.”

She saw this support on display in the first visit that Cardinal Tobin made to her community’s motherhouse, which is northwest of Terre Haute.

“The first day that he came, he went from table to table in our dining room, greeting people,” said Sister Dawn. “I don’t even know if the man got to eat that day. Then he went and visited our sisters in health care. His pastoral attention has really been exquisite.”

She understands the choice of Pope Francis to have him lead the Church in northern New Jersey, but is sad about it, too.

“We’re going to miss him,” said Sister Dawn. “There’s no two ways about it. I want to try to say I’m happy for Newark, but I’m certainly sad for us. I understand the ways of the Church. The needs of the Newark Archdiocese are significant. And yet, it’s been wonderful to have a man like this with us, even for a few years.”

Cardinal Tobin took a retreat at Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad shortly before he was installed as archbishop of Indianapolis on Dec. 3, 2012, and was at the monastery when he learned via Twitter on Oct. 9 that Pope Francis had selected him as a cardinal.

Benedictine Archabbot Kurt Stasiak, elected the leader of the archabbey in June, appreciated Cardinal Tobin’s close connection with his community.

“He has always been a vocal supporter of our prayer and work here at Saint Meinrad, for which we are grateful and by which we are inspired,” Archabbot Kurt said. “I believe Cardinal Tobin leaves a legacy of genuine care for his people. He was a great promoter of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, as he was also one who encouraged the participation and leadership of women in the Church.”

Franciscan Sister Maureen Irvin, congregational minister of the Oldenburg-based Sisters of St. Francis, valued Cardinal Tobin’s connecting of faith to care for the environment, a priority shared by her community.

“We were especially pleased with Cardinal Tobin’s promotion of Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” she said. “I think he challenged the Catholics of central and southern Indiana to live our faith and values by recognizing climate change and its impact on those living in poverty and on Earth, our common home.”

Sister Maureen also sees a message in Cardinal Tobin’s acceptance of God’s will in his own life, even when it presents difficult, unwanted challenges.

“I think we need to remember Cardinal Tobin’s open response to the many changes required of him in recent years, from his being named an archbishop, to coming to Indianapolis, to being named a cardinal and then being appointed to the Newark Archdiocese,” she said. “He saw each of these changes as the will of God, and responded with a generous heart and spirit.”

Discalced Carmelite Mother Anne Brackman, prioress of the Monastery of St. Joseph in Terre Haute, leads a small community of cloistered nuns dedicated to a hidden life of prayer for the Church and the world.

As active as Cardinal Tobin has been in serving the faithful in central and southern Indiana and the broader Church around the world, she said she and her community feel shaped in their life and prayer by the witness of Cardinal Tobin.

In explaining this close connection, Mother Anne quoted the 20th-century philosopher Max Scheler who, in distinguishing a leader from a model, said “to leaders we submit, but models we love and in loving, become akin to them.”

Mother Anne added that Cardinal Tobin for her community is “a man who inspires us to be welcoming and accepting, to look beyond our local Church to the world and its needs, especially now as the world grapples with the millions of refugees and immigrants.

“His giftedness is so rich that we knew that he would be needed in more critical areas of the Church in the U.S.,” she said. “It was a privilege to have him among us for four years. His presence, guidance and witness will be deeply missed by our community.”

Conventual Franciscan Father James Kent, leader of the Mount St. Francis-based Province of Our Lady of Consolation, recalled with joy the many times that Cardinal Tobin visited him and his friars in southern Indiana.

One was a Franciscan brother who had taught as a lay Catholic at Holy Redeemer School in Detroit when Cardinal Tobin served as associate pastor of the parish.

“It was obvious he treasured those years in pastoral ministry,” Father James said. “The way he would light up recalling with fondness the neighbors he had served 35 years ago, and how he learned so much from them, illumined his pastoral nature that is, at its core, the heart of a shepherd.”

While losing an archbishop with such an approach to pastoral leadership is not easy, Father James is focusing on gratitude for Cardinal Tobin’s four years leading the Church in central and southern Indiana.

“What a gift this shepherd has been to so many,” he said. “His legacy is rooted in the seeds he planted that will bear fruit well into the future, all at the service of the Lord.

“It was a blessing that he ministered in our archdiocese, something for which I am deeply grateful. He will most certainly be a blessing to the Archdiocese of Newark, and a gift to the Church universal in his role as a cardinal.”

Benedictine Sister Jennifer Mechtild Horner was elected prioress of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in 2015. She, too, is grateful for Cardinal Tobin’s valuing of the life and ministry of women religious and the time he spent with her community.

“Open to dialogue, Cardinal Tobin was more than willing to talk about issues facing women religious in the Church today,” she said. “He was easy to be with, and he had a way of being present to each person in a very special way. His humor and his ability to not take himself too seriously is a great gift. We felt comfortable in his presence because he seemed comfortable in ours.”

Sister Jennifer said that following Cardinal Tobin’s leadership and witness of faith will be a challenge for the faithful of central and southern Indiana, but one that can be achieved with God’s help.

“Cardinal Tobin leaves a great legacy, and we must ask for the grace to carry it forward,” she said. “Called to reach out to the poor, we will need to continue to look for ways to serve the poor so that no one is excluded or left without what they need.

“We will need to look for ways to continue his call to dialogue as we look to build bridges that will allow those with differing opinions to talk with one another. We will need to call each other to a way of acting that is different than the world’s way.

“If we can welcome Christ in all people, we will have begun to live the legacy that Cardinal Tobin leaves us.” †

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