July 29, 2022

Graduates celebrate and embrace Christ’s invitation to serve with love

(En Espanol)

By John Shaughnessy

The morning had been filled with joy for the graduates, a time of celebration with family and friends—an occasion that also included the celebration of the Mass with Archbishop Charles C. Thompson.

Before and after that liturgy on June 24, the archbishop had spent time informally talking with the 17 recent graduates of the archdiocesan Intercultural Pastoral Institute, which forms pastoral and spiritual leaders within the various ethnic communities in the archdiocese and the Lafayette Diocese.

Those informal moments had led to smiles and laughs between the archbishop and the graduates. And that connection continued during the Mass as the archbishop shared, in Spanish, his three hopes for the graduates on the feast day of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

“May you never grow tired of trusting and celebrating God’s unconditional love and abounding mercy as made available to us through the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus,” the archbishop said in his homily during the Mass at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis.

“May you be instruments of that divine love and mercy through your ministry in spiritual direction and as pastoral leaders, especially in seeking out those who have strayed or are lost.

“And may you never lose your way to the altar of the Lord, drawing strength and nourishment from the eucharistic banquet of the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ—to enable you to remain Christ-centered in your witness to the abundance that flows from his Sacred Heart for all people.”

An invitation from Christ

After the Mass, Archbishop Thompson posed for group and individual photos with the graduates. And the celebration at the retreat center continued with a graduation ceremony—a ceremony in which the coordinator of the Intercultural Pastoral Institute shared her hopes for the 10th graduating class of the two-year formation program.

“The Church, our Church, is walking with all of us as we are walking along with her,” said Carmen Hernandez to the graduates. “There are many important scenarios where the Church needs leaders like you, particularly in social challenges and especially in the preferential option for the poor.”

She noted how she believes that Pope Francis’ homilies during the COVID-19 pandemic have intensified in their mentions of the poor.

“In one of those homilies, he pointed out, ‘When Jesus says about the poor, ‘You will always have them with you,’ he means, ‘I am always with you in the poor.’

“This places the poor in a theological place—in a place of encounter with God. Then the active participation of you pastoral leaders, in the encounter with God through the poor, is fundamental to make our Church a visible sign of love, solidarity and justice.”

Hernandez extended an invitation to the graduates in their royal blue caps and gowns.

“I invite you to further deepen our relationship and commitment with the poor, with those most in need, becoming friends with them, close to them,” she said. “This requires that you become true missionary disciples, that all of you feel that you are learning for the first time Christ’s invitation to learn from him—from his heart, from his teaching, from his word. So that you, too, can announce that word, and do it with an attitude of openness, dialogue, availability.”

‘I am ready to serve our Church’

The graduates of this year’s class represent the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and the Lafayette Diocese. Angie Pitts—a mother of eight and a grandmother of 11 who graduated from the program with honors—was chosen to give a speech on behalf of her classmates.

Later, Pitts spoke to The Criterion about how the entire day—the Mass, the ceremony and the lunch celebration—was “breathtaking.”

“It was an awesome experience to be there with Archbishop Thompson and to see my classmates, our families and friends gathered together to celebrate with us.”

She shared how she and her fellow students overcame car breakdowns, babysitting problems and COVID challenges to complete the program. She also praised the Intercultural Pastoral Institute, a ministry of the archdiocesan Office of Intercultural Ministry.

“I fell in love with it. The teachers were awesome,” Pitts said. “Right now, I’m a lector and an [extraordinary] minister [of holy Communion], but I wanted to know more about my faith with a deeper point of view. Christ wants us to spread the Good News. That’s why I’m here. I’m ready to serve our Church.”

(To learn more about the Intercultural Pastoral Institute and its program, visit www.archindy.org/intercultural.)

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