The newly-appointed Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Newark, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, attended Mass in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception on March 23.
The Mass was followed by dinner at 6 p.m. and a Q&A session in Jubilee Hall’s fourth floor Atrium.
Jason Dudziak, a St. Paul’s Outreach missionary, asked the first question. “As a Cardinal, and with your experience as a priest, would you share with us one of your favorite experiences of your priesthood?”
Tobin answered by speaking about how his 20 years in Rome helped him better understand the mystery of the Cross.
Anthony Takarz, a freshman diplomacy and economics major, asked Tobin about diversity in the Archdiocese of Newark. “In your New York Times profile, you have a quote about how you are excited to be Archbishop of a diocese that celebrates Mass in over 20 different languages,” Takarz said. “Do you see in any of this a threat to Catholic unity?”
Tobin replied, “I think one of the wonderful things about being a Catholic is the responsibility to prolong the double miracle of Pentecost.”
He added, “The first miracle is obvious: Parthians, Medes, Cretans and people from Rome all heard the Word of God in their own language.”
Tobin explained that the people’s hearts were moved and in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles it is written that on that day 3,000 people accepted Baptism.
On discussing the second miracle, Tobin said those people “did not all become kind of oatmeal or porridge.” Instead, the people “discovered a principle that united them, without having to sacrifice anything that they were.” He said, “That principle of course is the Holy Spirit. It does not destroy culture. It goes through it.”
From this principle of the Holy Spirit, Tobin points out “there is a strong message in that for us today because there are forces that will drive us apart. Outside the Church and inside the Church too.”
Returning to the U.S. after 20 years in Rome, people asked him, “What changed?” He responded, “that polarization (between political parties) at times enters the Church uncritically. This is a very dangerous and I would argue, un-Christian way of thinking.”
He continued that being Christian “is our primary source of identity” and “there is nothing that comes between our relationship with God.”
He concluded his thoughts on the current polarization by saying, “We can protect ourselves from getting sucked in uncritically into polarizing forces of the United States by remembering that we are Christian,” and that “our unity is finally a sign to the world that not only that we do believe in God, but that God sent Jesus. His Son. So the stakes are high.”
Dave Miller, a junior sports management and Catholic studies major, asked Tobin about Christian identity. “Could you say just a little bit about what you think is important for young people here especially in the Church to hear today, amidst so much confusion about what it means to be a Christian?,” he said.
“What is most important is to not get isolated,” Tobin responded. He said not to let “anybody isolate you from your Church and from your fellow Christians.”
He continued, “I am not dissing Facebook, but I do think that we need flesh and blood, not just a virtual sense of community.” He said to be strong and support each other. Therefore, “Because there are a lot of forces that tell us that being a committed Catholic Christian makes you a little odd or behind the times or whatever. We are not. We are the body of Christ. And you belong with each other.”
One student, Vickie Elter, a sophomore accounting major, asked Tobin to share the story of how he entered the priesthood.
“I think answering a vocation to priesthood is a bit like falling in love,” Tobin said. “ You fall in love for some reasons, but you stay in love for others.” He added, “I think in any vocation whether it’s to priesthood, religious life, married life, or committed single life, it is answering a call. A call that we first answered in our baptism when God called us out of darkness into His own wonderful light.”
Tobin also responded to a question about what his relationship would be to Seton Hall.
Tobin began by saying, “one of the nicest surprises I had in coming here” was discovering that Seton Hall and the Archdiocese of Newark are “connected at the hip.” He continued that, “Being around any university puts you in touch with incredible resources. Human resources in the students, the faculty and the administrators. All the sort of intellectual stimulation that you get from a university. And so, I believe that this University can be and has been a real source of life and energy for the Church here.”
He continued, “Here is a perfect place to prolong that double miracle (of Pentecost). To be able to speak of Christ in way that people will understand.”
Benjamin Jaros can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.