Today – June 26 – is the anniversary of the death of Bishop Simon Brute, first bishop of the Diocese of Vincennes, Indiana, which is now the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. He died on this date in 1839, just five years after becoming the founding bishop of a diocese that covered the entire state of Indiana and the eastern third of Illinois – with the initial assistance of only two priests to minister to the Catholics of that area. Now, 174 years later, his successor as Archbishop of Indianapolis – Archbishop Joseph Tobin, CSsR, is in Rome preparing to receive the Pallium from Pope Francis at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica this Saturday, June, 29, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. For us in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and the other dioceses that were formed through the years from the original Diocese of Vincennes, this week is a time to honor our past and celebrate the present and future of the Catholic Church in this part of the world.
The Pallium that Archbishop Tobin will receive on Saturday is a band of white and black wool that circles the neck and comes down in the front and back of the archbishop wearing it. It is worn over the chasuble at Mass when an archbishop presides in his own metropolitan province, or group of dioceses – in our case the Province of Indianapolis includes the five dioceses in Indiana. It is worn only by the heads of Archdicoeses and not by other bishops. It is a sign of jurisdiction and identity as the chief shepherd of a local church, and it is also a sign of union with the Holy Father who bestows the Pallium on new Archbishops each year on June 29. (Read an earlier blog post about the wool used to make the Pallium here.)
As a priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, I am looking forward to welcoming Archbishop Tobin back from Rome with his Pallium because it is something of a completion of his installation as our Archbishop – while he has been officially installed as our shepherd for over six months, the symbolism of the Pallium visually reminds us of his union with the priests, religious, and lay faithful of the Archdiocese – his sheep – as well as Pope Francis – our universal shepherd. It will be good to see a Pallium once again at liturgies in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. And in coinciding this week with the anniversary of the death of our first bishop, Simon Brute, we are also connected to the hard work and devoted ministry of so many people who have brought the faith to this area and who continue to be witnesses to the presence of Jesus Christ in our midst. Bishop Brute, for one, still inspires young men who are discerning a priestly vocation, particularly through the college seminary in Indianapolis established in his name. And the cause for Bishop Brute’s canonization is ongoing.
From Bishop Brute to Archbishop Tobin, the Church of Vincennes and Indianapolis has been blessed with shepherds after the Lord’s own heart. May their ministry and prayers continue to inspire holiness in the people of this Archdiocese.