April 24, 2015

All Saints Parish grows in unity, reaches out to people in need

Some 160 pilgrims pose in front of St. Martin Church in Yorkville at the end of a six-mile walking pilgrimage on March 28, the Saturday before Palm Sunday, that visited three of the four campuses of All Saints Parish in Dearborn County. (Submitted photo)

Some 160 pilgrims pose in front of St. Martin Church in Yorkville at the end of a six-mile walking pilgrimage on March 28, the Saturday before Palm Sunday, that visited three of the four campuses of All Saints Parish in Dearborn County. (Submitted photo)

By Sean Gallagher

DEARBORN COUNTY—Donna Hoff’s family roots reach deep in southeastern Indiana. Her ancestors were members of the former St. Paul Parish in New Alsace as far back as the 1840s.

So when Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin announced on June 6, 2013, that St. Paul and several other faith communities in the Batesville Deanery would be merged as a result of the Connected in the Spirit planning process, she and other fellow parishioners were naturally concerned.

“Our ancestors poured their hearts and souls into building the churches,” said Hoff. “They weren’t told to build a church. When they settled here, they wanted to build a church. At first, we were all scared that everything was going to go.”

Over the past year, however, the fears of Hoff and many other Catholics in Dearborn County have been calmed as she has seen how members of four former parishes have come together as one and grown in faith as a community in ways that were made possible by their merger.

According to a canon law decree signed by Archbishop Tobin, St. Paul Parish, St. John the Baptist Parish in Dover, St. Joseph Parish in St. Leon and St. Martin Parish in Yorkville—all in Dearborn County—were to be merged into one parish on Dec. 1, 2013.

On that date, the new faith community became All Saints Parish.

Archbishop Tobin also approved the recommendations made in the Connected in the Spirit planning process that the four campuses of the previous parishes be reduced to one campus by the First Sunday of Advent in 2015. This was later extended to the First Sunday of Advent in 2017.

The Connected in the Spirit planning process in the Batesville Deanery took place over a two-year period, and involved pastoral leaders and lay Catholics from across southeastern Indiana.

Members of each of the four merged Dearborn County faith communities appealed Archbishop Tobin’s decision to merge them into one new parish. Those appeals were being considered by the Vatican when all of the petitioners from the parishes decided late last year to drop their cases.

According to Father Jonathan Meyer, pastor of All Saints Parish, they chose to end their appeals for at least a couple of reasons.

One reason is Archbishop Tobin approved the parish’s request to keep open its four campuses and not require them to be reduced to one by 2017.

The campuses being close together—none is more than three miles from another campus—and the willingness and ability of the parishioners to continue to care for them made keeping them open feasible.

Second, the members of All Saints Parish were coming together in ways that showed vitality in their common life of faith.

That was seen last Thanksgiving when All Saints sponsored its first “Gobble Wobble,” a 5K running and walking race that benefitted two food pantries in Dearborn County.

More than 500 people participated in the race, which raised more than $10,000 for the pantries.

Hoff said she couldn’t have imagined any of the four previous parishes organizing such a race and producing such results.

“We had so many people involved,” she said. “So many people pitched in together from all four former parishes.”

Father Meyer said the Gobble Wobble was an important event for All Saints because it was focused entirely on helping people in the community at large.

“I just felt a need for us to find more and more ways to get out of ourselves and be a very bold presence in the local community as promoters of those who are on the fringes of society,” he said. “The whole point of the event was that it was not about us. It was about the poor and those who are in need.”

Other initiatives in the parish have focused on giving care to parishioners as well as those outside the parish.

Last winter, All Saints parishioner Larry Zinser, formerly a member of St. Paul Parish in New Alsace, was hospitalized for the better part of three months.

Members of All Saints’ Pax Christi, a new ministry there focused on giving spiritual support to the homebound and the sick, prayed for him and gave him a prayer shawl that had been made by members of the faith community’s Ladies Sodality, which is made up of members of similar organizations in the four former parishes.

“It really inspired me,” said Zinser. “I could feel the prayers. It helped me get over my sickness.”

This spring, many All Saints parishioners participated in a pilgrimage on the Saturday before Palm Sunday that involved three of the parish’s campuses. They walked six miles from St. John the Baptist Church in Dover to St. Paul Church in New Alsace and continued on to St. Martin Church in Yorkville.

Father Meyer also pointed to All Saints’ participation last fall in the archdiocese’s annual United Catholic Appeal: Christ Our Hope. The contributions were nearly double the goal that had been set for the parish. And 60 percent of the parishioners participated in it, the fourth highest parish participation rate in the archdiocese, according to Father Meyer.

“Is this community more vibrant and alive now than when they were four separate parishes?” Father Meyer asked. “I do believe that. The United Catholic Appeal is one instrument to [determine that].”

Hoff attributes much of the new vitality of All Saints Parish to its active pastor.

“He just wears you out looking at him,” she said with a laugh. “He’s got so much energy.”

Father Meyer said that the leadership he has tried to show in the parish has been rooted in respect.

“I think they needed someone who respected where they were at emotionally and spiritually and where they were also at culturally and traditionally,” he said. “People are going to be in different places on the four campuses. We have to respect people’s past experiences, where they’re at with this spiritually … ”

Ultimately, Father Meyer said moving the four faith communities together as one in All Saints Parish was God’s will, and continuing to nurture the unity and faith of the parish will require attentiveness to the Holy Spirit.

“We have to be open to the Spirit to be able to say, ‘What’s really important here?’ ” Father Meyer said. “And what’s really important is people’s souls being saved, people growing in relationship with Christ, and people going out and serving the Lord.

“We have to look at where God is working. He’s doing really amazing stuff. I’m thrilled.” †

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