Have you heard the story of the young man from Detroit who became a Cardinal? In his own words, “you’ve got to be joking!”
Joe Tobin, born in Detroit to a large Irish Catholic family, was baptized at Holy Redeemer Church and began his education in the parish school. Early on, God called him to a Redemptorist vocation. Like most young men who first hear that call, the thought “you’ve got to be joking” may have crossed his mind.
Joe entered the Redemptorist seminary, beginning at St. Joseph’s College in Edgerton, WI. He continued his formal studies at Holy Redeemer College and Mount Saint Alphonsus Seminary. When the Co-Redemptorist Association started in the 1960s, Joe was part of the first group of students supported by the generous founding donors. Fellow Co-Redemptorists prayed for him throughout his education, and beyond, through his ordination, to his first assignmentshis first assignments and beyond. Fr. Joe was passionate for the poor and this showed in his service.
Yet God wasn’t finished with Fr. Joe. The call to wider servant leadership soon unexpectedly followed, and like any humble Christian, his response: “You’ve got to be joking!” And thus this young Redemptorist became Provincial Consultor, then General Consultor, and finally Superior General for the Redemptorists. In 2010 he was ordained an Archbishop, first serving as Secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, as shepherd to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, and soon to be Archbishop of Newark.
God’s mysterious ways continued one Sunday morning this October. Archbishop Tobin pulled up his iPad and was greeted by a flood of tweets revealing Pope Francis had named him a Cardinal. He started his day with this thought: “you’ve got to be joking!”
God’s call often comes unexpectedly. We can answer: “Why me?”, “Is someone more qualified available?”, or “I’m afraid.” God stretches and shapes us to the image of his Son. He knows our hesitations and sometimes shock at his call. Yet he asks us to simply trust his guidance.
What does the future have in store for our seminarians? How will they be stretched to serve God’s people? Whatever his call, I assure you – he’s not joking.
In Christ the Redeemer,
Father John K. Schmidt,
Director, Co-Redemptorist Association
P.S. Through your support, you have a share in Cardinal-designate Tobin’s work. Will you continue that support with a gift today?