David Paul Hammer, center, on the day he was received into the Catholic Church in 2000, with then-Archbishop Daniel Buechlien, left, and right, Mercy Sister Camille D’ Arienzo and Sister Rita Clare.

Archbishop Emeritus Daniel M. Buechlein’s passing has rekindled many warm memories for the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Beginning in 1992, he served as the fifth archbishop of Indianapolis. He grew up in Jasper, Indiana (where the SPs taught), and became a monk at St. Meinrad Archabbey. Archbishop Buechlein served Indianapolis until Pope Benedict XVI accepted his resignation in Sept. 2011, due to illness.

General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski said, “The Sisters of Providence have always had a special affinity for Archbishop Buechlein because he was educated by our sisters at St. Joseph School in Jasper. In fact, when he first visited Saint Mary-of-the-Woods after being installed as archbishop, then General Superior Sister Nancy Nolan introduced him to the community as ‘one of our boys from Jasper.’

“During his time as archbishop, he was an ardent supporter of the canonization process of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, participating in both Beatification and Canonization ceremonies in Rome. His desire for continued strong Catholic education in the archdiocese resulted in our coming to sponsor Providence Cristo Rey High School as well as our continued presence at the Mother Theodore Guerin Academy schools in central city Indianapolis. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for his dedication to the mission of the Church in which we all share.”

After Mother Theodore’s Beatification in Rome, the bishops of Indiana gathered to celebrate Eucharistic Liturgy in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at the Woods. At that time, Archbishop Buechlein invited all present to “keep close to Mother Theodore and follow the virtues that were so evident in her life.”

He later called Saint Mother Theodore Guerin “a timely gift from God to renew the Church in its infancy in Indiana” and said that her life serves as a blueprint for us all.

In October of 2000, Archbishop Buechlein visited Providence Associate David Hammer, a convicted murderer, at the Federal Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. At the time of the visit, the archbishop presided over David’s entrance into the Catholic Church, his confirmation and first communion. Sister Rita Clare Gerardot had befriended David while he was on death row at the prison and had helped arrange the meeting.

“David Hammer was extremely pleased that Archbishop Buechlein was coming to receive him into the Catholic Church during a Mass celebrated in a small room in the prison. Sister Camille D’Arienzo RSM, Chaplain Roof, three other inmates and I were present along with several guards.

“Archbishop Buechlein wore a vestment with St. Peter’s image on the front and St. Paul’s on the reverse side. The archbishop based his homily on these two saints alluding to the fact that both had sinned and then reminding all of us that God’s love embraces all who truly repent. The archbishop and David corresponded with one another for several years after the visit. I was impressed that the archbishop did this even when he was having great difficulty writing, after his stroke,” added Sister Rita Clare.

In his Oct. 16, 2006, homily at the Mass of Thanksgiving celebrating the canonization of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, Archbishop Buechlein said that her canonization was the formal recognition by the Pope of her holiness and her all-consuming love of God. He said she was a holy woman of faithful prayer.

Former General Superior Sister Denise Wilkinson said, “Although I did not know Archbishop Buechlein well, I knew him best at the time of preparing for and participating in Mother Theodore Guerin’s Canonization. Before the Canonization, he helped us to prepare for our meeting in Rome with the Vatican’s Congregation of the Causes of Saints. He shared with Sister Ann Margaret, then general superior, and me, the information we would need for our meeting with the cleric who would plan for the Canonization itself. He also suggested some information that we would need to plan our own celebration of the Canonization. He shared with us how happy he was to be the archbishop at this wonderful time in the history of the archdiocese. He, ever so gently and respectfully, with a touch of humor, noted that he hoped his support of the SPs and Mother Theodore “made up for” one of his predecessors, (our friend Bishop de la Hailandière). I always appreciated the kindness of the archbishop — a gentle kindness. He was a very good listener and communicated his views and/or decisions in that same mode — kind and clear.”

Archbishop Buechlein also presided at a Eucharistic Liturgy in celebration of the Church of the Immaculate Conception’s centennial on Oct. 21, 2007.

“Saints in heaven are our friends. They offer us spiritual friendship, prayer and communion,” Archbishop Buechlein said of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. He now has first-hand experience and is enjoying communion with Saint Mother Theodore who most undoubtedly received him with open arms.