January 15, 2021

175-year-old Brookville parish is ‘pillar of the community’

Lou Moster, a member of St. Michael Parish in Brookville, poses on Dec. 2, 2020, in the Batesville Deanery faith community’s church. At 92 and a lifelong member of the parish, Moster has experienced more than half of its 175-year history. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Lou Moster, a member of St. Michael Parish in Brookville, poses on Dec. 2, 2020, in the Batesville Deanery faith community’s church. At 92 and a lifelong member of the parish, Moster has experienced more than half of its 175-year history. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

BROOKVILLE—The year 2020 was supposed to be a time of celebration for the members of St. Michael Parish in Brookville of the 175th anniversary of the founding of the Batesville Deanery faith community.

While nearly all of the events scheduled to mark the anniversary were cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic—including a festive anniversary Mass slated for last September—its members and pastor still take great pride in their parish.

At 92, Lou Moster has been a member of St. Michael for more than half of its 175-year history. His family has even deeper roots in the parish.

Father Meinrad Fleischmann, a great uncle of Moster, served as St. Michael’s pastor from 1868-97. Father Urban Aulbach, an uncle, was an assistant pastor there in the late 1940s.

Moster has lived a short walk from the parish for 65 years and can see the parish church’s prominent steeple from his back kitchen window.

“It is so meaningful, being there for so many years,” Moster said. “It just makes me feel good. If I’m feeling a little low, all I have to do is look up there and see that.”

The steeple and much of the exterior of the church that was completed in 1862 and enlarged in 1902 has recently had major work done to it. Some 3,000 bricks were replaced, and a new slate roof was installed.

All of the exterior projects and current plaster, paint and flooring work being done in the interior were all funded by a $2 million capital campaign.

Rebecca Harvey, 40, helped lead the effort. A wife and mother of two, Harvey, 40, grew up in St. Michael. She later moved away from Brookville but returned about eight years ago with her family.

“We try to give back as much as we can,” Harvey said. “We really believe in stewardship and try to lead by example for our kids. Being connected to St. Michael is like family for me.”

She has appreciated the leadership of St. Michael’s current pastor, Father Vincent Lampert, and his predecessor Father Sean Danda, who began the capital campaign.

“Father Vince loves to joke around with the kids and makes a special point to talk with them,” Harvey said.

His closeness to the parish community reminds her of her childhood pastor, Father Louis Schumacher, who led the parish from 1968-98.

“He was kind of like family,” said Harvey. “Of course, Father Schumacher was going to be there [at family events]. He was always there. Father Danda and Father Vince have also been to our home.”

While Father Lampert is proud of the physical renovations at St. Michael, he knows that there is more work to do.

“We’ve had a capital campaign,” he said. “Now we need to have a spiritual campaign. We have these facilities that are in good shape now. But how are we really feeding the souls of the people who call St. Michael their parish home?”

Harvey has seen that happen in her family. Her husband was received into the full communion of the Church at St. Michael and now helps lead its Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program.

She is excited about what she sees as a bright future for St. Michael.

“As we look at the anniversary and celebrate where we’ve been and where we’re at right now, we also look to the future,” Harvey said. “The parish is fortunate enough to support the school and the children who go there. It’s great to see all of the baptisms, which are growing, and the first Communions.

“It’s nice to see that we’re still growing as a parish.”

Father Lampert knows that helping keep his parishioners spiritually alive is important in part because of the place that St. Michael holds in the broader Brookville community.

“There are a lot of people here in Brookville who aren’t even Catholic who take great pride in St. Michael,” he said. “It’s part of the history of the city itself.”

As townspeople and visitors approach Brookville from the south in a valley on State Road 1, they can see the prominent steeple of St. Michael Church sitting high on a hill on the edge of town.

For Father Lampert, the visual prominence of the parish is symbolic of its important place in the life of Brookville.

“A lot of small-town America has closed up shop, so to speak, over the years as smaller businesses have closed down,” he said. “But if you look at a church like St. Michael that’s been here for so long, it’s a sign of stability. Even in the midst of change, there are things that remain constant—things that are extremely important, such as faith and belief in God. St. Michael represents that.”

Harvey agrees, describing St. Michael as a “pillar of the community.”

“We, as a parish family, are definitely looking to the future and how our parish can be a part of the broader community,” she said.

Moster knows the stability of St. Michael well and has contributed to it through the decades, from the time when he was a grade school student serving daily at a 6 a.m. Mass at the parish, to leading the rosary before Mass for more than 50 years—a practice which he continues today.

“I won’t give it up until they knock me down,” Moster said. “I just love it. I’m going for 60 [years] if I can.”

The suspension of the public celebration of the Mass last spring was difficult for Moster. But having lived through the challenges of the Great Depression and rationing during World War II made the challenges of 2020 bearable. He even recalled a time in the 1940s when he and his family were quarantined for 21 days when his sister was diagnosed—wrongly as it turned out—with diphtheria.

The example of his parents and the priests and Franciscan sisters who have served at St. Michael through the years strengthened his faith for the challenges of 2020.

“I feel so fortunate to have been a member of St. Michael for all these years, with our beautiful church, our good and holy priests, our school with excellent teachers,” Moster said. “I can’t imagine being without it, and I thank God for this priceless gift.” †

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