August 26, 2016

Dedication, commitment and faithfulness lead to new 900-seat church in Greensburg

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin preaches a homily during the Aug. 13 dedication Mass of the new St. Mary Church in Greensburg. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin preaches a homily during the Aug. 13 dedication Mass of the new St. Mary Church in Greensburg. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

GREENSBURG—Joan Koors finally lived to see the special day that she had dreamed about.

St. Mary Parish, her spiritual home since 1951 and the faith community in which she has served as liturgy director for 35 years, was dedicating a new church.

And, at 86, she was helping some 900 of her fellow parishioners call on the saints and angels by accompanying them on the new church’s organ in the praying of a litany of the saints.

(Related: See a photo gallery from the Mass)

Parishioners and parish leaders had discussed the possibility of building a new church for some 30 years. Now it was a reality.

“It’s like a dream come true, something that happens only once in a lifetime,” said Koors a few days before the dedication Mass. “When we got to the point where it was going to happen, all I did was pray to the good Lord, ‘Please let me stay long enough to see it.’ And now it’s happening. It’s exciting and moving after all the years that I’ve spent here.”

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin was the principal celebrant of the Aug. 13 ritual-filled dedication Mass, which he described in his homily as a kind of baptism of the new church.

“Water has been sprinkled, chrism will be smeared on the altar and the walls, a white garment will be spread on the altar and candles will be lit from the fiery symbol of the risen Christ,” said Archbishop Tobin, “because here in this building the disciples of the Risen One will gather to give praise and thanksgiving, to seek forgiveness, to be nourished by word and sacrament, to be sent out as his witnesses.”

Father John Meyer, pastor of St. Mary Parish, praised its members for supporting the $11 million construction project which, in addition to the church, also included the building of a new parish office, parish hall and school cafeteria.

“I’ve been amazed at the dedication, commitment and the faithfulness of the people and their cooperation in seeing that the new church be built,” said Father Meyer. “I’m humbled by their contributions of their time, talent and treasure. It’s overwhelming. When I ask, they step forward.”

As the parishioners stepped into the church before the dedication Mass, they were met by many elements from the parish’s previous church incorporated into the new one: stained-glass windows, the large crucifix adorning the sanctuary, statues and the Stations of the Cross. Even the lights used in the previous church shined in the entry way to the new one.

“Everything in there had so much meaning to all of us who have been there for so long,” Koors said. “Going into a new building and seeing some of the things that we have seen for so many years makes it even better.”

It was the construction of the parish’s new school building, which opened in 2012, that paved the way for the parish’s new 900-seat church. Both are built on a 25-acre campus, about 1.5 miles southeast of its previous location.

Entheos Architects of Indianapolis designed the new church and the adjoining buildings constructed with it. Batesville-based Bruns-Gutzwiller Inc. was the general contractor for the project. Representatives from both firms respectively gave Archbishop Tobin a design of the church and a ceremonial key before the dedication Mass.

Brent Muckerheide was St. Mary’s parish council chairperson during the construction of the school, and helped lead the campaign to build support for the new church.

“We all knew that our parish, as a community, needed everything at one location,” he said. “It was important for us to get it all under one roof.”

After being so involved in the $8 million project to purchase land for the new parish campus, build a road on the property, prepare utilities for it and construct the new school, Muckerheide could have justifiably taken a break and let others step forward as leaders.

But then, Muckerheide’s good friends, Don and Barb Horan, who also helped lead the effort to build a new parish school, tragically died in a Dec. 2, 2012, plane crash. Also killed in the accident were the Horans’ friends, Stephen and Denise Butz, who were also members of St. Mary Parish.

“I knew that [Don’s] legacy was to see this through,” Muckerheide said. “After his unfortunate tragedy, I felt him pushing us. We needed to get this done.”

On the day of the dedication Mass, Nancy Buening, a lifelong St. Mary parishioner and principal of its school, saw much more than the leadership of a few people in the new school and church that stood before her.

“When I pulled in, I looked and knew that our parish did this,” Buening said. “It’s not just one person. And it’s not just monetary. There have been a lot of prayers and action that came together to make all this happen. It’s just awesome.”

Nonetheless, her heart and mind did turn to a couple of people during the moving liturgy—her brother Don Horan and her sister-in-law Barb.

“I know they’re here,” Buening tearfully said. “I know that they’re with us. I see signs that they’re with us. They would be so happy to see this come to fruition.”

Buehning is also sure that the new parish campus will bear fruit far into the future.

“I think that we’re going to grow and grow,” she said. “When I hear little ones crying at church on Sunday, it doesn’t bother me one bit. That’s the life of our parish.

“We’re building a foundation. It’s really neat to see it growing and growing.”

Archbishop Tobin reminded St. Mary’s parishioners during his homily that the construction that has marked the life of the parish over much of the past four years will continue in the future, but in a different way.

“The Spirit will continue to build you and all who will come after you into the body of Christ, a dwelling place for the living God,” Archbishop Tobin said. “This ongoing construction, at times, will be more difficult than all the efforts you have made to raise up this magnificent building.

“The challenging truth is that

St. Mary’s remains—and will remain—a work in progress and the ongoing costs are paid in humility, zeal, unselfishness and joy.”

Father Michael O’Mara, a concelebrant at the dedication Mass, spoke after the liturgy of his high hopes for the future of the parish in which he grew up.

“How many years will this be here? This will be here long beyond any of us,” said Father O’Mara, pastor of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis.

“It is what we are called to do—sharing our faith and passing the faith onto our children.”

(For more information about St. Mary Parish in Greensburg, visit

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