May 8, 2009

175th Anniversary Mass

Bishops and abbots show Church’s universality at May 3 Mass

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago confirms Alisha Webber, a member of Holy Family Parish in Oldenburg, during the May 3 Mass at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis that celebrated the 175th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Bishops process in at the beginning of the 175th Anniversary Mass in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on May 3. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

By Sean Gallagher

The celebration of the 175th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis on May 3 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis involved more than just the Church in central and southern Indiana.

The archdiocese is in communion with the broader universal Church. Those ties were displayed at the anniversary Mass through the presence of 17 bishops and two Benedictine abbots from around the Midwest.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville led his local Church last year in the celebration of its 200th anniversary.

It was originally the Diocese of Bardstown, Ky., one of four dioceses created in 1808 out of the Diocese of Baltimore, the first local Church in the United States.

Archbishop Kurtz said the 175th anniversary of the Diocese of Vincennes (now the Archdiocese of Indianapolis) following closely on the heels of his own local Church’s anniversary gave him a broader view of its history.

“It helps to continue to expand our horizons,” he said. “It’s very easy for us in the Archdiocese of Louisville to picture our present territory and say, ‘Well, this once was the Diocese of Bardstown.’

“It’s not as easy for us to picture the vastness of the territory and pioneer nature of all the faithful, the priests and especially of Bishop [Benedict] Flaget.”

Bishop Flaget was the first bishop of Bardstown. He was also the principal consecrator in the episcopal consecration of the Servant of God Bishop Simon Bruté, the first bishop of Vincennes.

Archbishop Kurtz also said that diocesan anniversaries are important in that they help us consider history and not just geography in thinking about the Church’s universality.

“It’s not just a matter of looking at the local Church over space, but also over time,” he said.

The Diocese of Vincennes was formed out of territory taken from the Diocese of Bardstown. Bishop Gerald A. Gettelfinger of Evansville leads a local Church that was formed in 1944 out of land taken from the-then Diocese of Indianapolis at the time it was raised to an archdiocese.

Bishop Gettelfinger’s connections to the archdiocese go even deeper. He grew up as a member of St. Bernard Parish in Frenchtown in the New Albany Deanery and was ordained a priest of the archdiocese in 1961.

“My roots are there,” Bishop Gettelfinger said. “I spent 28 years [as a priest] in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. That was my home for so many years, especially my family home in the southern part. I’m very much a part of the fabric of that territory.

“It’s a great joy to be a son of the archdiocese and come back and celebrate.”

He served as a chancellor and vicar general of the archdiocese.

For more than 150 years, the local Church in central and southern Indiana has had a close relationship with the Benedictine monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey.

The monks have staffed many archdiocesan parishes over the years. And the monastery’s seminary has been the primary place where archdiocesan seminarians have been formed for the priesthood.

Archabbot Justin DuVall, the current leader of Saint Meinrad Archabbey, spoke about the importance of the anniversary Mass in the days leading up to it.

“When we gather to celebrate [God’s] blessings on May 3, I will carry with me the gratitude of the monks for blessings past, present and yet to come,” he said. “It is an honor for me to represent the Archabbey at this joyful celebration.”

Archabbot Justin said he was also looking forward to hearing tens of thousands of people singing a hymn text written especially for the occasion by one of his own monks, Benedictine Father Harry Hagan.

“I already heard the hymn sung at the chrism Mass this year, and it was quite moving then,” Archabbot Justin said.

“Father Harry has captured so well the people, places and events that play a significant role in the history of the archdiocese, and for the Church in Indiana and in the United States as well.” †


(Related: Purchase photo reprints from the Mass | More news coverage)

Local site Links: