Update from Brebeuf Jesuit President, Fr. Bill Verbryke, S.J.
Below is a message that was sent to the Brebeuf Jesuit community on Sunday, August 4
Dear Brebeuf Jesuit Community,
Greetings and blessings as we near the beginning of a new school year. As you are all no doubt aware, the summer months were a unique and challenging time for Brebeuf Jesuit as we grappled with Archbishop Thompson’s decision and the June 21 decree revoking his recognition of Brebeuf Jesuit as a Catholic institution within the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. We wish to update you today on the ongoing communications between Brebeuf Jesuit and the Archdiocese.
We have begun the process of appealing Archbishop Thompson’s decree. The appeal process is being led by Fr. Brian Paulson, S.J., the Provincial of the USA Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), and his staff, in conjunction with input and support from our school leadership. The first stage of the appeal involved formally requesting that the Archbishop reconsider and rescind his decree. He declined to do that. We are now in the second stage of the appeal, in which Fr. Paulson, on behalf of Brebeuf Jesuit, has asked the Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome to consider and address the issues at hand and, hopefully, suspend the effects of the decree during the appeal process. In the end, we hope that the decree is overruled; if that does not occur, we have asked for additional clarity as to the legitimate effects of the Archbishop’s decree on the sacramental life of Brebeuf Jesuit. We do not have a timeline for how long the appeal process will take, but please be assured that we are making every effort to resolve our disagreement with the Archbishop and resume the strong relationship we have enjoyed with the Archdiocese for the past 57 years.
As the appeal process has progressed, we have had continuing dialogue with Archbishop Thompson. Within the past two weeks, the Archbishop has informed us that, as a result of his decree, the current priests of Brebeuf Jesuit, Fr. Chris Johnson, S.J. and I, will require his express, advance permission in order to celebrate any Masses on campus. Archbishop Thompson has given this permission for our daily 7:45 a.m. Mass, which is held each school day in our chapel. However, although we duly complied with his request and sought the Archbishop’s permission to hold various other Masses on campus this year, he declined to grant his permission for those.
We are disappointed and saddened by the Archbishop’s decision; however, our appeal includes our request for the ability to have school Masses on campus once again. We earnestly hope to be able to celebrate the Eucharist as an entire school community again in the near future. However, we must, and do, acknowledge the authority of the Archbishop with respect to the celebration of Mass within the Archdiocese. In lieu of celebrating the Mass of the Holy Spirit as a traditional opening-of-the-school-year Mass on Thursday, August 15, our Brebeuf Jesuit community will call upon the blessings of the Holy Spirit in our school community for this academic year by holding a school-wide prayer service during the school day.
In this instance, as in all school operations, we will continue to educate our students to grow in their faith and to seek God in the 450-year tradition of Jesuit education. For our students and families who are Catholic, although we are saddened that they will not have the opportunity to receive the Eucharist at all-school Masses for the time being, we remind them and our entire community that all are welcome at our daily 7:45 a.m. Masses in the chapel before school.
We are so grateful for the many messages of support we have received, for all of those who took time to attend the parent session in June, and for all who have engaged with us about this issue over the past several weeks. It has reminded us of the depth and strength of our Brebeuf Jesuit community, which is a great blessing for all of us. We continue to welcome conversation, concerns, and most importantly prayer, as we navigate through this challenging time together.
Rev. William Verbryke, S.J.