October 18, 2013

St. Mary Magdalene Parish to celebrate final Mass on Oct. 27

Pictured is the inside of St. Mary Magdalene Church in New Marion. Parishioners will celebrate their final Mass there at 2 p.m. on Oct. 27. (Submitted photo)

Pictured is the inside of St. Mary Magdalene Church in New Marion. Parishioners will celebrate their final Mass there at 2 p.m. on Oct. 27. (Submitted photo)

By Sean Gallagher

History will in a sense repeat itself on Oct. 27 when the members of St. Mary Magdalene Parish in New Marion will worship together for the last time in the church of their Batesville Deanery faith community.

St. Mary Magdalene Parish was one of 12 parishes in the deanery that was selected earlier this year to be merged with nearby parishes. The decision was the result of the “Connected in the Spirit” planning process that involved Catholics across southeastern Indiana over the past two years.

But this won’t be the first time that the parish in New Marion has been closed. In 1941, the federal government took over the land on which the parish sat when it established the Jefferson Proving Grounds, a military installation where armaments were manufactured and tested.

For the next six years, many St. Mary Magdalene parishioners were members of St. Maurice Parish in Napoleon. But in 1947, a group of them petitioned then-Archbishop Paul C. Schulte to re-establish St. Mary Magdalene Parish. Their hopes were fulfilled when the archbishop re-founded the parish, and the archdiocese purchased a former bank in New Marion to serve as the parish’s church.

Sandra Meisberger, 73, has been a St. Mary Magdalene parishioner since the late 1960s when she and her husband, Melvin, who was born and raised in the parish, moved back to the area.

She understands how members who have always called the parish their spiritual home are finding the latest closing of the parish difficult. But Meisberger thinks the decision was “common sense.”

“There are no young people left in the [parish] anymore,” said Meisberger of the parish, which has 62 registered households. “There are just two families that have teenagers. I don’t think that there are any children younger than that.”

Deacon Michael Gardner, parish life coordinator of St. Mary Magdalene Parish, praised the many members of the faith community for recognizing the reality of their situation. He noted, however, that closing the parish is still difficult for many of its members.

“This has been their parish,” he said. “Their grandparents and great-grandparents were buried in the cemetery. Their kids were baptized and married there. It’s very painful for many of them. But they’re dealing with this with such grace. It has very much impressed me.”

Although some St. Mary Magdalene parishioners are choosing to join other parishes, many will become members of Prince of Peace Parish in Madison, which was designated in the “Connected in the Spirit” process as the parish into which the New Marion faith community would be merged.

When they join the Madison parish, they will not be far from deceased relatives and friends from New Marion. When St. Mary Magdalene Parish was closed in 1941, its cemetery was moved to the grounds of then-St. Patrick Parish in Madison. St. Patrick Parish was later merged with two other Madison faith communities to form Prince of Peace Parish.

On Nov. 2, All Souls Day, St. Mary Magdalene parishioners will travel in a caravan to St. Patrick Chapel, which is adjacent to the cemetery, Pope John XXIII School and Father Michael Shawe Memorial Jr./Sr. High School.

Led by Deacon Gardner, they will bring the Blessed Sacrament from their previous parish’s church and place it in the tabernacle at St. Patrick Chapel. Deacon Gardner will also bless the graves of St. Mary Magdalene Cemetery in an All Souls Day prayer service.

The group will then travel to Prince of Peace Church in Madison to participate in the parish’s 6 p.m. Mass, where they will be welcomed by their new fellow parishioners.

“I think what we’re doing really gets down to the heart of our faith,” said Deacon Gardner, who also ministers at Prince of Peace Parish. “So much of our faith is passed on by our ancestors. The cemetery has always been an important aspect of St. Mary Magdalene.

“I think that coming here and focusing our celebration around the cemetery and around their ancestors, blessing their graves, kind of embraces the whole reason that they have decided to merge with us here [at Prince of Peace]. It also points out to the folks here in Madison the importance of that cemetery and their history to them.”

(Former members and priests who have served as pastors at St. Mary Magdalene Parish in New Marion are invited to participate in the final Mass at the Batesville Deanery faith community at 2 p.m. on Oct. 27. A dinner will follow. If they would like to come, they should call St. John the Baptist Parish in Osgood at 812-689-4244 by Oct. 23.)

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