May 21, 2014

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin's comments at May 21 press conference at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral, Indianapolis

(Related: Summary of Connected in the Spirit Decisions for Indianapolis Deaneries)

Archbishop Joseph W. TobinI would like to welcome you to the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, the mother church for the Catholic communities in central and southern Indiana. Today I would like to speak about some decisions that will affect forty-seven parishes of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

As you may be aware, the parishes of the Archdiocese are organized in regional configurations, called deaneries. The decisions I am about to announce will affect the parishes of the four deaneries of the metropolitan area of the city of Indianapolis.

Before giving you the concrete details of what has been determined, allow me to highlight the process that produced these decisions.

Sixteen months ago, pastoral leaders and lay representatives from the parishes in the four deaneries entered into an important planning process called Connected in the Spirit. This process is an effort to discern where God is leading the Catholic Church in central and southern Indiana and determine how the Archdiocese of Indianapolis should change its structures in order to carry out its mission today and in the future.

This planning process was inaugurated under the leadership of my predecessor, Archbishop Daniel Buechlein. The parishes of the Terre Haute and Batesville Deaneries were the first to have participated in the planning process, which resulted in some reconfiguration of the Catholic community in the western and southeastern regions of the Archdiocese. After the conclusion of this process in metropolitan Indianapolis, the remaining five deaneries of the Archdiocese will eventually take part in Connected in the Spirit.

Pastoral planning recognizes the need for the Church to adapt its structures to a changing world. Factors, such demographic shifts in Catholic populations, the concentrated density of parishes in a limited geographical area, a history of declining Mass attendance and sacramental activity, increasing economic challenges that threaten sustainability, a decrease in the clergy needed to staff parishes and a review of facilities, have influenced the pastoral plan for the four deaneries in the metropolitan area. We recognize that today’s mission and the viability of the Catholic Church in the future requires that we reposition our structures and marshal our forces in a new way.

Let me give you an idea of the work that has preceded the decisions that I will announce today.

In March 2013, representatives from the four deaneries met with staff from the Archdiocese to examine the goals for the process of Connected in the Spirit. Two consultants from the Reid Group, which is helping a number of dioceses across the United States plan for the future, assisted the participants.  The parishes were divided into smaller groups or cohorts, with the idea that neighboring parishes might be able to assess better their present situation and identify ways to share their activities and resources. The cohorts took several months to complete this assessment before submitting some initial recommendations to the Archdiocesan Planning Commission.

The Planning Commission is a group of 16 ordained, religious and lay leaders who are broadly representative of the Archdiocese and were delegated by the Archbishop to study the parishes’ self-assessment and then make some preliminary recommendations. These recommendations were communicated to the parishes, which had another opportunity to present their position to the Planning Commission. After reviewing the responses from the parishes of the four deaneries of greater Indianapolis, the Planning Commission made their final recommendations to me in February of this year.

In the weeks and months that followed, I broadened the consultation to include a variety of groups, such as representatives of the parishes that would be most affected by the recommendations, the Council of Priests, the senior managers of the Archdiocese. This consultation convinced me that the process used to arrive at the decisions I am about to announce has been a sincere attempt to discern the will of God by proceeding from the base of each parish to the leadership of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. That is to say, the process was not an arbitrary movement from the top-down. And, while I still have much to learn about the Catholic Church in central and southern Indiana, I am confident that the decisions we are making will contribute to its growth and health.

The decisions make use of three different models for the Catholic communities in the four deaneries of greater Indianapolis. You will hear me speak of merged or consolidated parishes, linked parishes and parishes in partnership; let me briefly describe each:

  • The term “merged parishes” describes a new configuration in which an existing parish is entirely joined to another; in these cases, the independent identity of one of the parishes will cease with the merger, and its members and assets will be incorporated into another. In the decisions I am about to announce, three parishes will be merged into others.
  • Linked parishes are produced when two parishes share a single pastoral leader. Linked parishes cooperate in as many ways as possible, since the pastor or administrator is striving to serve two separate parishes. The decisions announced today will continue two sets of parishes that are already linked, and establish two new linkages.
  • Parishes in partnerships are created through the implementation of joint programs, the appropriate sharing of staff with a view to enhancing the quality of ministry as well as the practice of good stewardship of resources and the use of joint councils and commissions. All the remaining parishes will be expected to form effective partnerships with a view to sharing planning and resources aimed at implementing and, eventually, evaluating joint programs of evangelization, catechesis and the effective exercise of charity.

Keeping in mind those three models, I now would like to announce my decisions regarding the parishes of the four deaneries of Indianapolis:

  • The following parishes will be merged:
    • Holy Trinity Parish will be merged into Saint Anthony Parish, effective November 30, 2014.
    • Holy Cross Parish will be merged into Saint Philip Neri Parish, effective November 30, 2014.
    • Saint Bernadette Parish will be merged into Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, effective November 30, 2014.
    • As a result, the parishes of Holy Trinity, Holy Cross and Saint Bernadette will cease to exist as established parishes on the First Sunday of Advent, 2014. The receiving parishes will be invited to recommend to me any further use of the three churches.
  • The following parishes will be linked:
    • The existing linkage will continue between Sacred Heart Parish and Saint Patrick Parish as well as between Saint Ann Parish and Saint Joseph Parish.
    • New linkages between Good Shepherd Parish and Holy Name of Jesus Parish as well as Saint Rita Parish and Holy Angels Parish will begin on July 1, 2014.
  • During the process of Connected in the Spirit, the parishes of the four deaneries were divided into cohorts, which helped the participants to identify possible opportunities for joint activity and shared resources. Special consideration was given to sharing programs of formation for parish pastoral councils, finance councils and other parish committees.

I accept the partnerships that have been proposed for the four deaneries:

    • Saint Jude and Nativity Parishes:        
    • Saint Barnabas, Saint Mark and Saint Roch Parishes:
    • Saint Anthony and Saint Christopher Parishes:
    • Saint John the Evangelist and Holy Rosary Parishes:
    • Immaculate Heart of Mary, Saint Joan of Arc and Saint Thomas Aquinas Parishes:
    • Christ the King, Saint Lawrence, Saint Luke, Saint Matthew, Saint Pius X, and Saint Andrew Parishes:
    • Saint Simon the Apostle, Saint Michael (Greenfield) and Saint Thomas the Apostle Parishes:
    • Saint Philip Neri, Saint Mary and Saints Peter and Paul Parishes:
    • Holy Spirit, Our Lady of Lourdes and Little Flower Parishes:
    • Our Lady of the Greenwood and Saints Francis and Clare Parishes:
    • Saint Gabriel, Saint Michael and Saint Monica Parishes:
    • Saint Malachy, Saint Susanna and Mary, Queen of Peace Parishes:
    • Saint Ann, Saint Joseph and Saint Thomas More Parishes:

In approving these partnerships, I expect that each grouping will include in their joint planning some objectives that are common to all, such as the provision of life-long formation in our faith, coordination of mass schedules and support for local Catholic schools. I also hope that the partners will discover new ways to promote vocations to the priesthood and religious and begin new and creative programs of evangelization.

Besides objectives that are common to all the partnerships, each grouping will receive specific recommendations from the Planning Commission and approved by me. For example, Our Lady of the Greenwood and Saints Francis and Clare Parishes will be asked to develop a joint evangelization program for the city of Greenwood and to address the need for Hispanic ministry in response to the growing population of Latinos in that city.

Here in Indianapolis, Immaculate Heart of Mary, Christ the King and Saint Thomas Aquinas parishes will be asked to develop a joint partnership for youth ministry that targets junior high and high school students as well as young adults. With the assistance of the Archdiocese, these parishes are asked also to identify the best option for Catholic campus ministry at Butler University.

I am asking the parishioners of Holy Angels Parish to proceed with the rebuilding of a church on parish property at Michigan Road and West 28th Street. This decision reflects the commitment of the Archdiocese to the black Catholics of Indianapolis as well as our determination to work with people of all faiths for the life, dignity and well-being of the citizens on the near west side of this city.

I expect the respective Deans to ensure that the agenda of the monthly deanery meeting includes an evaluation of the progress made among the partnering parishes. The Deans will the development at their quarterly meetings with me.

Finally, in view of the unique role of the cathedral church in the life of a diocese, I will name a special commission of clergy and lay experts to study the mission of the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul and offer recommendations for my consideration.

The Archdiocese has set in place a team that will assist the parishes in carrying out these decisions. Sr. Connie Kramer, S.P. has agreed to serve as Pastoral Facilitator with special responsibility for the care of the parishioners whose parish is being merged into another. Mr. Dan Krodel, who participated in Connected in the Spirit as a Cohort Team Leader in Indianapolis, will help coordinate the implementation of these decisions. Joining him is Mrs. Julie Bowers; Julie is continuing to facilitate the implementation process two years ago in the Terre Haute Deanery. Father Patrick Beidelman, the director of the Office of Worship, will be available to help plan appropriate liturgical celebrations for the parishes most affected by these decisions.

The implementation team may also call on the assistance from the consultants of the Reid Group. More information about the implementation of the decisions as well as how parishioners can volunteer to help with the next steps of the process will be communicated in the near future.

I can well understand that some of these decisions, especially those regarding the Holy Cross, St. Bernadette and Holy Trinity parishes are difficult to accept and parishioners may wonder how and to whom they might appeal. Let me explain the process of appeal as governed by the proper law of the Catholic Church.

That law recognizes that those who are affected by the three decrees that I have issued today have the right to seek recourse against these decisions. Anyone who chooses to challenge a decree must first petition the person who issued it – in this case, the Archbishop of Indianapolis – giving their reasons that justify asking me to rescind or emend the decree. Such a petition must be filed within ten so-called “useful” days, or the right to seek recourse is lost.

In canon law, a “useful” day is a day in which a person can act in the exercise of a right. The period begins when a person receives notice that a right might be impaired and includes all the days during which it is possible to conduct business with the Archdiocese, either directly or by post.  This means that anyone who wishes to seek recourse against the three decrees that I have issued today must file his or her petition within ten business days of receiving notice of the decree. The decrees are available in the respective parish offices for inspection or copying.

In the event that I receive any petitions within the period of ten “useful” days, I would then have thirty consecutive days to respond to them. Under the law, I could rescind or emend the decree that I have issued, or I could deny the petition. If I should deny such a petition or if the thirty days should elapse without any response from me, the law considers the petition to be denied. The petitioner then would have fifteen useful days to seek recourse against the decree by petitioning my hierarchical superior, which for decrees of this nature is a department of the Vatican called the Congregation for Clergy.

The coming months will bring changes that, to some degree, touch all the faithful of the four Deaneries of metropolitan Indianapolis. I recognize that there will be grief for the members of the three parishes that will close and sincerely regret the pain these decisions will cause. While I personally know the anguish that comes when having your home parish closed, I am also certain that the God is constantly working through us to advance the work of His Church, leading us through sorrow to new and more abundant life.

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