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Meet the cardinal who lifts weights—and who is a recovering alcoholic


Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 12/23/16

When was the last time you saw a picture of a prince of the church doing that?

The New York Times this morning introduces readers to the man who will be Newark’s new archbishop: 

For about a year, the guys at the gym just called him Joe. He lifted weights in the early mornings wearing a skull-printed do-rag. He worked out on the elliptical, wiping it down when he was done.

Then one day Shaun Yeary, a salesman at a landscape supply company, asked him in the locker room what he did for a living. “I used to be a priest,” Joe recalled telling him. “And now,” he said, his voice growing quieter so as not to scare anyone in earshot, “I’m the archbishop of Indianapolis.”

“I was like, for real?” Mr. Yeary recalled. “This guy is benching two and a quarter!” — gymspeak for 225 pounds.

Joe, also known as Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, recently became one of the 120 men in the world who will choose the next pope. But he wants to be judged by his actions, not his lofty position in the Roman Catholic Church.

Though he has led the Archdiocese of Indianapolis since 2012, a status that usually comes with perks like a driver, he drives himself around in a Chevy Tahoe and helps with the dishes after lunch meetings. He introduces himself simply as Padre José to the children at a local Catholic school. He showers and shaves at the Community Healthplex gym like any other member, and calls his workout buddies his Band of Brothers.

In short, he is just the kind of leader Pope Francis is elevating to realign the church in the United States with his priorities.

Read it all. 

Meanwhile, there’s this detail from his life that many may not know:

In May 2016, Archbishop Tobin celebrated Mass on the Guest House campus in Lake Orion to mark the 60th Anniversary of the treatment center’s founding.  A 1988 graduate of the Guest House program, Archbishop Tobin has been a keynote speaker at the Guest House Summer Leadership Conference several times and a speaker at the annual Bishop’s dinners in Rochester, Minnesota, and Detroit, Michigan. “He has been a great friend and supporter of Guest House over the years,” noted Guest House CEO, Robert Koval.

During a telephone interview with the National Catholic Reporter, Archbishop Tobin said that mercy is “an essential revelation of the true nature of God.”  He spoke of mercy in the context of his own personal experience as a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for 29 years.

Photo: A J Mast for The New York Times

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