By Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Bishop Gerald A. Gettelfinger of Evansville, Ind., and named Father Charles C. Thompson, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., to succeed him.
Bishop Gettelfinger, who turned 75 last October, had submitted his resignation at that time, as required by canon law. He had headed the Evansville Diocese since 1989.
Bishop-designate Thompson, 50, has held a variety of parish, educational and administrative posts since his ordination as a priest of the Louisville Archdiocese in 1987.
The appointment and resignation were announced April 26 in Washington by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Bishop-designate Thompson will be ordained and installed as head of the Evansville Diocese June 29 at St. Benedict Cathedral in Evansville.
In an interview with The Record, Louisville archdiocesan newspaper, the bishop-designate said Archbishop Sambi told him when he called about the appointment that Jesus was “asking you to leave everything and follow him; you’ve led large parishes and now he’s asking you to take over a larger parish, the Diocese of Evansville.”
“And so I said, ‘I’m most unworthy, but if that’s what I’m being asked to do, I trust in God’s grace and will do my best,'” Bishop-designate Thompson said.
“He is a very holy man,” said retired Louisville Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly, who has lived at Holy Trinity Parish, where Bishop-designate Thompson is pastor, for the past few years. “And he’s a fine communicator; he preaches extremely well.”
Archbishop Kelly said he was delighted that Pope Benedict had decided to make another Louisville archdiocesan priest a bishop, following the December 2009 appointment of Bishop William F. Medley of Owensboro, Ky. He said the two recent selections “says we have a very high-class presbyterate, something I’ve been saying for a long time.”
The retired archbishop said he was also certain that both Bishop-designate Thompson and Bishop Medley are glad the two of them are in such close proximity to one another — Evansville lies just 40 miles northwest of Owensboro.
“They’re great friends,” he said, adding that the bishop-designate “has worked in both rural and city parishes, and he has a large number of people who really trust him and regard him as a teacher and father.”
Born April 11, 1961, in Louisville, Bishop-designate Thompson holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Bellarmine College, a master of divinity degree from St. Meinrad School of Theology and a licentiate in canon law from St. Paul University in Ottawa, Ontario.
Assignments after ordination included chaplain at Bethlehem High School in Bardstown and Presentation Academy in Louisville; several jobs in the archdiocesan tribunal; and various parish posts. He has been pastor of Holy Trinity since 2002 and vicar general since 2008.
Though news of the appointment as bishop was held in confidence until the April 26 announcement, Bishop-designate Thompson said he did share it with his parents, Coleman and Joyce Thompson, of Marion County.
“I’m from a big family, and that’s served me very well,” he said. “My mom is one of 16 children; my dad is one of 13 and I have 90 first cousins and well over 200 second cousins. So every holiday — every Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving — those were not real intimate gatherings. There were always 40, 50 or 60 people around.”
When asked what he’d want the people of the Evansville Diocese to know about their new shepherd, Bishop-designate Thompson reflected for a moment and then said: “I hope they will come to know that I intend to serve them with every ounce of energy and talent and ability that I have in me. I look forward to getting to know them, to learning from them, to serving them and becoming a part of them.”
Born Oct. 20, 1935, in Ramsey, Ind., Gerald Andrew Gettelfinger was ordained a priest of the Indianapolis Archdiocese May 7, 1961. He holds a bachelor of arts degree from St. Meinrad College and a master’s in education from Butler University.
In addition to holding a number of parish posts, he was archdiocesan superintendent of Catholic education, 1974-80, and chancellor of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, 1980-88.
Named bishop of Evansville on March 11, 1989, he was ordained and installed exactly a month later. At the time of his appointment he was serving as vicar general of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.
Bishop Gettelfinger made national news in 2009 when he declined to attend a right-to-life dinner where Michael Steele, then chairman of the Republican National Committee, was to speak because he objected to comments the GOP leader had made about abortion.
Asked in a GQ magazine interview if he thought women had the right to choose abortion, Steele, a Catholic, answered, “Yeah. I mean, again, I think that’s an individual choice.” Steele later issued a statement saying, “I am pro-life, always have been, always will be” and spoke to Bishop Gettelfinger by phone, but the bishop stuck to his original decision.
Bishop Gettelfinger was episcopal liaison to the National Catholic Committee on Scouting for many years.
The Evansville Diocese, covering 5,010 square miles, has nearly 500,000 people, of whom about 65,000 are Catholics.
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Contributing to this story was Glenn Rutherford in Louisville.
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