February 11, 2011

New St. Gabriel the Archangel Church is dedicated

St. Gabriel the Archangel parishioners Stephen Tsareff and Sharon Porter of Indianapolis hold hands as they pray the Lord’s Prayer during the Mass of Dedication on Feb. 6 at St. Gabriel the Archangel Church in Indianapolis. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

St. Gabriel the Archangel parishioners Stephen Tsareff and Sharon Porter of Indianapolis hold hands as they pray the Lord’s Prayer during the Mass of Dedication on Feb. 6 at St. Gabriel the Archangel Church in Indianapolis. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

By Mary Ann Wyand

Countless prayers were answered—and 11 years of planning, fundraising and design work were officially completed—on Feb. 6 when Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein blessed and dedicated the new St. Gabriel the Archangel Church in Indianapolis.

Excited St. Gabriel parishioners filled the pews in the renovated and expanded church for the Mass of Dedication with Archbishop Buechlein, the principal celebrant, to thank God for their beautiful worship space at 6000 W. 34th St.

Their joy was evident by the way they enthusiastically raised their voices in song during the liturgy concelebrated by Father Larry Crawford, St. Gabriel’s longtime pastor, and seven other priests.

Sunlight streamed through the magnificent stained-glass windows and illuminated the lofty apse above the tent-shaped tabernacle as the archbishop incensed the gleaming wooden altar then anointed it with sacred chrism oil.

The unique shape of the tabernacle is meant to remind the faithful of how God pitched his tent among his people.

Thirteen colorful, contemporary window designs depict the seven sacraments, the four evangelists, and the Old and New Testaments.

The historic liturgy in the renovated and now permanent church was the fulfillment of a dream dating back to 1963 when Archbishop Paul C. Schulte and Father Victor Wright, the founding pastor, concelebrated the first dedication Mass in what was intended to be a temporary worship space adjacent to the school, which was consolidated with the nearby St. Michael the Archangel School in 2010.

A church is a sacred dwelling place for God, Archbishop Buechlein told the gathering in his homily, as are Christians who carry love for God and others in their hearts.

“Father Crawford and members of the St. Gabriel community, I extend my congratulations … [for] this lovely place of worship,” the archbishop said. “This church, renovated as it is almost totally, today testifies to your vitality and your hope. It’s important this morning to think of the folks of our faith who founded this parish. Here in prayer, especially at Mass, you are most visibly the local Church under the patronage of St. Gabriel the Archangel in the West Deanery in Indianapolis.

“Let’s remember that today we are surely joined by St. Gabriel and the communion of saints, including our ancestors in the faith,” he said. “… As we rejoice today, it’s good for us to remember that this sacred dwelling is an expression of our love for God. We need churches where we gather together so that we people might become and might remain the dwelling place of God. The beauty of this sanctuary is truly complete when it is filled with people of faith and of love, and if we are truly who we say we are—Christians who genuinely try to love one another.”

The history of every faith community is a pilgrimage marked by challenges, Archbishop Buechlein said. “I doubt that the founding pastor and the folks who founded this parish envisioned all the changes this parish has undergone, especially in recent years.

“Before we approach this newly consecrated altar in this house of God,” he said, “let’s fulfill the wish of St. Paul when he wrote to the Ephesians, ‘May Christ find a dwelling place of faith in your hearts’ ” (Eph 3:17).

“The Word made flesh is God coming to dwell among us,” the archbishop said, “coming to pitch his tent among us. … We believe that our foundation is Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” he said, “so we are not only at home with each other, we are at home with Jesus Christ. And through him and by his Holy Spirit, we are at home with God our Father.

“With incense and oil and fire, we will mark this sacred church as God’s house,” Archbishop Buechlein explained. “… This church of St. Gabriel is a wonderful dwelling place of God. May its simple beauty lead you to renewed faith in the awesome Architect of all beauty, and may Christ find a dwelling place of faith and hope and love in our hearts.”

In his remarks at the conclusion of the liturgy, Father Crawford reflected on the 850-household parish’s history since its founding in 1962 adjacent to St. Michael the Archangel and St. Christopher parishes.

He first served St. Gabriel Parish as the associate pastor from 1971 to 1976 then returned as the pastor in 1999.

“I want to thank the people of St. Gabriel Parish for the many, many sacrifices that you have made to make this day possible,” he said. “The dedication of this church took a very long time, … 47 years from the beginning of this parish. … It took us 11 years to actually design and build what we have today.”

Father Crawford also praised the work of James Schellinger of CSO Architects in Indianapolis and Todd Mattingly of Brandt Construction in Indianapolis as well as the dedication of parish building committee members.

When construction work began last June, he explained after the Mass, the south wall of the church was extended to create the apse and larger sanctuary.

Parishioners celebrated the first eucharistic liturgy in the new church on Christmas Eve, Father Crawford said, which was a wonderful spiritual gift for everyone who gave their time, talent, donations and prayers to make the major renovation possible.

Immaculate Heart of Mary parishioner Clare Fox Acheson of Fox Studios in Indianapolis said after the Mass that stained-glass windows in churches remind people that Christ is the light of the world.

“Father Crawford wanted the Old and the New Testament windows to be about the meal and about sacrifice—the blood poured out from the sacrificial lamb,” she said. “… He knew the themes he wanted, and also felt the work of the Holy Spirit in that there are seven windows on one side and four on the other so that immediately led him to the seven sacraments and the four evangelists. … They had never had stained-glass, and he wanted these windows to really have an impact.”

St. Gabriel parishioner Chris Young of Indianapolis, a lifetime member who served on the building committee, also volunteers as the parish webmaster and has taught Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) classes for 26 years.

“I looked around and saw people that I taught in class who came into the Church through the program,” he said after the liturgy. “It was great to see so many of them here. They are so active and involved in the parish.”

St. Gabriel parishioners had hoped to build an entirely new church, Young said, and instead renovated the existing space.

“I was surprised at how much this new arrangement really enhances our liturgy,” he said. “The altar area is so much bigger, … and the seating space is more intimate. … It’s a new beginning for us, and it shows that the archdiocese is really committed to this parish being here for a long time. That gives us a lot of hope.”

Longtime parishioner Dorothy Barry of Indianapolis serves as a cantor and choir member.

“I am extremely happy,” Barry said after the dedication liturgy. “We waited a long time for this church, and our prayers were answered. There were times when we thought it was not going to happen. Everybody wanted it and everybody was praying for it, too. It is a beautiful church.”

Parishioner Ryan Ward, an eighth-grader at Chapel Hill School in Indianapolis, assisted as an altar server.

“It was really exciting,” Ryan said after the liturgy. “I was one of the first [servers] to volunteer. I couldn’t wait for this day.” †

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