Archbishop's role remains pastoral, but in different form
When Archbishop George J. Lucas assumed governance of the Association of the Hermit Intercessors of the Lamb two weeks ago, his primary goal was to use his pastoral role to help the faithful members associate as a community that was in harmony with the church.
But instead, according to a archdiocesan news release, the archbishop said he had no choice but to suppress the association - make it cease to exist as a Catholic entity - when the association's civil board made it impossible for him to exercise his pastoral function.
His pastoral role, however, didn't end with that decision, but changed. He provided a bus Oct. 15 to transport 48 former members from the Ponca Hills campus to temporary housing in the archdiocese. He also is providing food and clothing for the 48.
"My concern is for the welfare of the individuals who joined the Intercessors with the intention of doing the Lord's work," Archbishop Lucas said.
Father Gregory Baxter, pastor of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Omaha who was named trustee of the association, said the community is "very grateful that the archdiocese wants to support the former Intercessor community."
Gathered with the 48 former Intercessors as they boarded the bus, Father Baxter said the former members will stay in their temporary housing for the next two weeks while a more permanent arrangement for the community is made.
"They'll continue to do community discernment and look at eventual possibilities for the formation of a new community," he told the Catholic Voice. "I'm going to continue to help moderate that process with them, to work with them to do community discernment, to be the liaison between the community and Archbishop Lucas.
"I'm deeply touched by this faithful community. It's been a difficult two weeks, but as I come to know and love them even more, it's been a personal joy to be with them and to continue to work with them in the future."
Because the former Intercessors have very little belongings and will not be allowed to wear their habits, there is a great need for clothing and daily supplies, Father Baxter said.
"We're going to have to work quickly to provide some clothing and basic necessities for daily living," he said. "The archdiocese is really stepping up to provide that and many resourceful people and many donors I know are already promising help to support daily life for the community.
"We have nearly 50 individuals who need support, housing, food and clothing and we're going to work very hard to provide it," he said. "I'm confident that God's providence will find ways to support the community."
Elizabeth Marie Neuhoff, a member of the former association, said she and the 48 other former members look forward to working closely with Archbishop Lucas in restructuring the community and to a new future with him and his support.
"God has a plan and we keep trusting in him," she said.
With the support of Archbishop Lucas and Father Baxter, the former members feel they can move forward, she said.
"Father Baxter has been very supportive and has been here for us whenever we've needed him," Neuhoff said. "He really has been a lifesaver."