April 27, 2018

Connected in the Spirit decisions for New Albany, Tell City deaneries are announced

Map of New Albany and Tell City deaneries.

Map of New Albany and Tell City deaneries.

By Sean Gallagher

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson announced on April 19 decisions that will affect parishes across the New Albany and Tell City deaneries.

As a result of the decisions, three parishes will be merged into nearby faith communities.

(Related: See a summary of the changes)

In the New Albany Deanery, Most Precious Blood Parish in New Middletown and St. Peter Parish in Harrison County will be closed and merged into St. Joseph Parish in Corydon.

In the Tell City Deanery, St. Martin of Tours Parish in Siberia will be closed and merged into St. Isidore the Farmer Parish in Perry County.

Any future use of the church buildings of the parishes to be closed will be determined by the faith communities into which they will be merged.

All of the decisions will be effective on July 5. They were the result of the involvement of the deaneries’ pastoral leaders and representatives of its lay members through the Connected in the Spirit planning process that began in November 2015.

Any member of the merged parishes may appeal the decisions in writing to Archbishop Thompson.

Much of the process was complete when Pope Francis appointed then‑Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin as the new shepherd of the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., on Nov. 7, 2016.

After Archbishop Thompson was appointed on June 13, 2017, as the new shepherd of the Church in central and southern Indiana, he studied the proposals that were the result of the process.

“I then sought to engage the people of the New Albany and Tell City deaneries through listening sessions,” Archbishop Thompson said to The Criterion. “After prayerful consideration, following the strong recommendations from the Council of Priests and College of Deans, I determined that the final proposals for these two deaneries needed to be implemented.”

He had previous experience of such planning processes in the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., and the Diocese of Evansville, Ind.

“I realize the reality of the grieving process that goes along with change in both the lives of individuals and communities,” Archbishop Thompson said. “That grief is real and must be honored. However, there is also the reality of new life and energy that often takes root over time.

“For me, the ultimate focus is the kingdom of God and salvation of souls. Toward this ultimate focus, the more immediate goal is to strengthen Catholic identity, presence and mission throughout the 39 counties in the 11 deaneries that comprise the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.”

Many of the parishes in the two deaneries that have already forged relationships through sharing a priest will continue to be linked and are encouraged to increase their cooperation.

The only new linkage in the New Albany Deanery will be between St. John the Baptist Parish in Starlight and St. Mary Parish in Navilleton.

In the Tell City Deanery, the only new linkage will be among St. Mark Parish in Perry County, St. Michael Parish in Cannelton, St. Paul Parish in Tell City and St. Pius V Parish in Troy.

Several sets of partnerships among parishes in the two deaneries will also be established in which they will be encouraged to collaborate in various forms of ministry. (See box on page 9 for complete list of mergers, linkages and partnerships.)

Archbishop Thompson’s decisions were announced at St. Martin of Tours during Mass the weekend of April 21-22. When Janet James heard the announcement, she had “several feelings.”

She had expected the merger after hearing about the discussions that had taken place during the Connected in the Spirit process.

“That doesn’t take away from the little bit of sadness that you feel in your heart,” said James. “It’s such a nice, small parish with good people, hard‑working people. Anytime something is happening, whether it be a funeral or our ham shoot, any activity, everybody’s there to help.”

She’s hopeful, though, that, as St. Isidore and St. Martin parishioners come to know each other and become one parish, this experience of community will continue.

“I think it will work,” James said. “I think it will be a really good mix. I really do.”

Benedictine Father Luke Waugh, administrator of both St. Isidore the Farmer and St. Martin of Tours, began taking steps last fall to foster the relationship between the two faith communities.

Last Advent, they co-sponsored a book study. And interparish liturgies have been celebrated.

“No one wants to see their parish combined with another parish,” Father Luke said. “However, most parishioners have mentioned that merging with St. Isidore is the best possible scenario for maintaining a faith-based community at St. Martin.”

One aspect of St. Martin that Father Luke said will definitely continue after the merger is its St. Martin’s Cloak charitable ministry, which serves people in need in Perry, Dubois and Crawford counties through its food pantry that is open twice a month.

“St. Martin’s Cloak serves a population that is not otherwise served through a Catholic Charities agency,” he said. “Relocation is not an option. Now that St. Martin will be officially part of a larger combined parish, it is time for us to re-examine the mission of St. Martin’s Cloak and see if our offerings to the poor can be expanded. … St. Martin’s Cloak is not going away. Its mission is too important.”

For 10 years, archdiocesan chancellor Annette “Mickey” Lentz has seen this growth in cooperation among parishes across central and southern Indiana increase while she has been involved in the Connected in the Spirit planning process since it began in the Terre Haute Deanery in 2008.

“I feel like it’s been a good process,” she said. “It’s made us take a hard look at things. People have been connected in some way, either liturgically or in sharing resources. It might be as common as a partnership where they take turns having fish fries.”

Father Joseph Feltz, archdiocesan vicar for clergy, religious and parish life coordinators, also appreciates the increased collaboration among parishes brought about through Connected in the Spirit.

“I’ve witnessed more cooperation and communication among parishes that just wasn’t happening before,” he said. “In some ways, for the people in the pews, there’s a deeper realization that the local Church isn’t just their parish, but is wider than their parish.”

Father Feltz has seen this increased collaboration, in part, through reports that faith communities across central and southern Indiana have shared with archdiocesan leaders as part of the implementation stage of Connected in the Spirt, which he said will continue in the future.

On weekends, Father Feltz celebrates Mass at Sacred Heart Parish in Terre Haute and St. Mary-of-the-Woods Parish in St. Mary-of-the-Woods, both of which had parishes merged into them.

The former St. Anne Parish in Terre Haute was merged into Sacred Heart in 2011. Its campus remains active, though, housing programs of Catholic Charities Terre Haute.

“Former parishioners are able to look at it and say that maybe it’s not a parish, but it’s still doing good, a location where people are encountering Jesus,” Father Feltz said, “maybe in the help that they need instead of the sacramental life that was there for many years.”

Archbishop Thompson said that it is this kind of collaboration and creative use of the resources of the archdiocese that is at the heart of Connected in the Spirit.

“Our unity as one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church must be reflected in the ministries and services of our Catholic faith,” he said. “Connected in the Spirit is a process by which we seek to know the will of the Father, embrace the mission of the Son and discern the movement of the Spirit.”

(To learn more about the Connected in the Spirit planning process in the Church in central and southern Indiana, visit archindy.org/connected.)

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