INDIANAPOLIS — Archbishop Daniel Buechlein, who led the Indianapolis Roman Catholic Archdiocese for 19 years before a stroke forced his retirement in 2011, has died. He was 79.
Archbishop Buechlein died early Thursday at the infirmary of southern Indiana’s St. Meinrad Archabbey, where he had been living since his retirement, according to the archdiocese. Spokesman Greg Otolski said he didn’t immediately know the cause of Archbishop Buechlein’s death but said his health had been declining over the past month.
Archbishop Buechlein was bishop of the Memphis, Tenn., diocese for five years before Pope John Paul II named him the fifth archbishop of Indianapolis in 1992. He grew up in the southern Indiana city of Jasper and became a Benedictine monk at St. Meinrad, including serving as president-rector of its college.
During his retirement news conference, Archbishop Buechlein said he believed his greatest accomplishment was strengthening the education system for the archdiocese, which includes some 225,000 Catholics in 39 central and southern Indiana counties.
Enrollment in the archdiocese’s schools increased during Archbishop Buechlein’s tenure by 30 percent, to more than 25,000 students, reversing a 25-year decline, according to the archdiocese.
‘‘With your help and the help of God we’ve accomplished much together,’’ Archbishop Buechlein said.
Archbishop Buechlein opened Bishop Simon Brute College Seminary in Indianapolis in 2004 to prepare college students before they begin their formation for the priesthood. The seminary, named for the first bishop of Indianapolis, reached its capacity with 35 students before Archbishop Buechlein’s retirement.
He also ordained 25 men as permanent deacons in 2008, making Indianapolis the final Catholic archdiocese in the country to adopt the ministry after it was restored by Pope Paul VI in 1967. Deacons, who are often married, can perform some Catholic sacraments such as baptism and marriage, but cannot lead Masses. The archdiocese now has 40 active deacons.
Archbishop Buechlein’s stroke in 2011 left him unable to stand on his own. That illness followed chemotherapy and radiation treatments for Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2008 and the removal of a non-cancerous tumor from his abdomen in 2010.
Funeral services weren’t immediately announced.