INDIANAPOLIS — Monsignor William Stumpf has been leading a tour.
In the weeks after the July 28 installation of new Indianapolis Archbishop Charles C. Thompson, Stumpf has been helping his new boss get settled. On one recent morning at work, that meant heading a few blocks away from their offices at the Catholic Center in downtown Indianapolis to tour the Xavier Building. Among other things, it houses archives and the crisis office for Catholic Charities Indianapolis.
Stumpf said Thompson is eager to learn as he begins leading the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis, which according to its website encompasses 129 parishes, 68 schools and several charity agencies and other ministry offices.
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Stumpf, vicar general of the archdiocese and former pastor of St. Michael Catholic Church in Greenfield, has learned quite a bit himself since November.
That’s when the previous Indianapolis archbishop, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, was named archbishop of Newark. Tobin was installed there in January.
Days later, the Indianapolis archdiocese’s college of consultors, made up of seven priests, chose Stumpf to act as administrator until a new archbishop arrived.
Scott Seibert, interim director of the archdiocese’s Office of Pro-Life and Family Life, said Stumpf leads by example and with humility.
“No matter who you are, he’s attentive and present to you when you meet him, and he always finds a way to make time for you,” Seibert, a McCordsville resident, wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter. “In addition, he brings a wealth of knowledge and understanding to relationships, and his wisdom and guidance has been instrumental for (not only) my growth as a Christian but also as someone who works for the church.”
Stumpf’s selection shifted him from the role of supporter and assistant to the leader into being the public face of the archdiocese for a season, appearing at two to three events a week and celebrating the Confirmation Mass at Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral.
He found it an interesting but rather daunting assignment. He’d heard about “the grace of office” and this year has experienced it firsthand.
“You recognize that your own abilities fall short,” he said, yet as people pray for a leader, the grace of God gives “the ability to do things you didn’t think you could do.”
He also credits the staff members of the archdiocese for their handling of the transition: “We didn’t miss a beat, and it wasn’t because of me; it was because of them.”
Stumpf served a previous tenure at the archdiocese as priest personnel director before becoming pastor of St. Charles Borromeo parish in Bloomington in 2007. Four years later, he arrived in Greenfield after the death of a beloved longtime St. Michael priest, the Rev. Severin Messick.
Before Stumpf was called back to the archdiocese headquarters in early 2015, he made a lasting impression on parishioners in Greenfield.
“He was the first priest that I took notes on during his Friday morning homilies at school Masses,” parent Katrina Royster wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter. “Sometimes, I miss the many questions that Father Bill asked the kids during Mass or the friendly competition with the teachers and students to see what they had learned during Mass. He had a way of interacting with all ages, and he valued what the kids had to say.”
Jeanne O’Donnell said Stumpf is an intelligent and humble man who truly cared about the St. Michael parishioners.
“His homilies were inspiring,” she wrote via text message, “and he always had a smile on his face. You could tell that he loved being with people and sharing his faith.”
Stumpf, likewise, has fond memories of his time in Greenfield. He recalls dedicated people who were active in serving others, often volunteering quietly through community ministries such as Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen or Love INC.
“They’re just really, really wonderful folks,” he said. “You had people from all walks of life. That was really beautiful to watch.”
Though he has enjoyed his opportunities to be pastor to a parish, he accepts the need for him to be at his current assignment and is enthusiastic about getting back to projects he was working on before the transition between archbishops.
Serving as an acting administrator has deepened and clarified Stumpf’s thoughts about leadership — the role of unifier and community builder — as its own type of pastoral work. He notes that the Apostle Paul listed administration among the spiritual gifts.
“You can’t effectively work together without structure. … Now, I can say it’s all ministry.”