November 15, 2013

New boundaries help parishes, pastors ID communities to be served

By Natalie Hoefer

Imagine a jigsaw puzzle with overlapping pieces and even a gap in the middle.

The end result would be an obscure picture.

Such was the image of the Terre Haute deanery after the closing of four parishes in 2011-12.

“It was assumed the receiving parishes would absorb the boundaries of the closed parishes,” said Barbara Black, parish life coordinator of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Terre Haute.

“But when we actually drew out the boundaries, we realized we had some parish boundaries overlapping. We even discovered a few blocks that didn’t fall into any parish boundaries at all.”

As a result, priests and parish life coordinators of the parishes in the deanery spent the last year determining new boundaries for the 10 parishes in the deanery. The results were announced at the end of October. (See the new parish boundaries here)

“We mostly used common sense [in determining the boundary lines],” said Father Rick Ginther, dean of the Terre Haute deanery and pastor of St. Patrick and St. Margaret Mary parishes, both in Terre Haute. “We used things like county lines, townships and major streets.”

Knowing parish boundaries is of primary importance to parishes for several reasons.

“First,” said Father Ginther, “canon law requires that parishes either be national with no boundaries, like St. Benedict [Parish in Terre Haute], which is historically the German national parish in the area, or that they be territorial and have specific boundaries. So we had to make sure the parish boundaries for the territorial parishes were clear and not obscure.

“Second, [boundaries] make clear to a parish’s staff and pastor the area they are responsible for and the folks who live in their boundaries,” Father Ginther continued.

“If a person in the boundary has no parish but is Catholic, we’re the first responders.

“Also, when we have a nursing home or health care facility in our boundary, we’re responsible for the pastoral care of those facilities, like visiting, bringing Communion or having Mass there. So boundaries are very important to how [parishes] provide pastoral care.”

Father Stephen Giannini, vice chancellor for the archdiocese, explained the process.

“Once the group of priests and parish life coordinators from the Terre Haute deanery finalized their plan, they presented the proposed boundaries to Archbishop [Joseph W.] Tobin.

“[The archbishop] then met with the Council of Priests [also known as the Archdiocesan Presbyteral Council]. With their input, the final decrees were then determined,” Father Giannini said.

The 10 parishes of the Terre Haute deanery encompass five counties—Clay, Parke, Putnam, Vermillion and Vigo. Each of the counties except Vigo now has one parish.

Father Ginther emphasized that the boundaries were not set to dictate which parishes Catholics in the deanery should attend.

“After parishes were closed [a few years ago], many [of the affected members] went to the parish community they felt more drawn to. That’s not going to change,” he said.

(To read the official decrees for each affected parish, log on to

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