June 18, 2021

‘Truly the house that God built’

Nine-year journey leads to joyful creation of a new church for Holy Angels Parish

Sitting atop a hill on the grounds of Holy Angels Parish in Indianapolis, its new brick church—nine years in the making—is a testament to God’s grace, parish leaders say. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

Sitting atop a hill on the grounds of Holy Angels Parish in Indianapolis, its new brick church—nine years in the making—is a testament to God’s grace, parish leaders say. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

As the joy and the tears flowed on a sacred evening for the parish and the archdiocese she loves, St. Joseph Sister Gail Trippett focused on the culmination of the emotional nine-year journey that led to the new Holy Angels Church in Indianapolis being dedicated on June 9.

“Being able to return to our parish home is like a reunion with beloved family members you haven’t seen for years,” said Sister Gail, the parish life coordinator of Holy Angels. “The excitement, jubilation and sense of home brings tears to one’s eyes.”

(See a photo gallery from the dedication)

So does the sight of the new brick church, which replaces the small, wood-frame house of worship that was torn down in 2012 because of extensive weather damage, after serving the predominantly Black faith community for more than a century.

The new church sits atop the hill of the parish’s grounds where a large statue of an angel still reaches out its arms to welcome and embrace the surrounding community. The cream-colored front of the church leads to two interior doors decorated with angels and into the worship area where the most striking features are the openness of the space and how light pours through its large windows—details that create an inviting atmosphere for members to share and celebrate their Catholic faith.

Eyeing the new church, Sister Gail said, “It has been truly the house that God built. There were people within the parishes around the archdiocese that contributed, priests that contributed, archdiocesan staff that have been extremely helpful, parishioners and their family members who sacrificed, construction company support and the architectural team who worked together as the family of God to rebuild his house.”

Sister Gail made special mention of three persons—“the most powerful union of the Trinity”—as she offered three prayer-wishes for the future of the parish.

“May we always keep God at the center of everything we do, that Jesus remains our unseen teacher and that the Holy Spirit continues to be our abiding strength in times of challenge. Through their aid, we have weathered all the storms wrapped in a nine-year journey to completion.”

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson had his own special prayer for the parish as he celebrated the dedication Mass at Holy Angels.

During his homily, the archbishop said, “As we dedicate this church to the glory of God, we pray that it be a place of prayer, worship, inspiration, consolation, reconciliation and encounter for all who

enter and/or gaze upon its presence here at 28th Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

“As a sign of Catholic presence and mission, may it stand as a beacon of faith, hope and charity that promotes an authentic path to unity, dialogue, encounter, reconciliation and growth. Such a path is paved with respect for life, dignity of persons and solidarity in truth.”

While noting that the new church is “beautiful to behold,” the archbishop added that “its ultimate worthiness and beauty, however, rest in the lives and souls of all who gather here in prayer and worship.”

Wearing gold vestments adorned with images of angels, the archbishop called upon the parishioners of Holy Angels to continue to strive to follow the example of the “holy angels.”

“The primary function of angels is to keep that awareness of God’s presence, will and assurance before us.”

Toward fulfilling that goal, the archbishop said, “May all who gather here be strengthened by the grace of Jesus Christ in word and sacrament to go out in service to others in his Holy Name. Indeed, may the Holy Angels rejoice in the life of this parish and its members within and beyond the walls of Holy Angels Church.”

The archbishop also focused on the defining history of Holy Angels and its place of significance in Indianapolis and the archdiocese.

“Holy Angels Parish has quite an interesting, extensive history, dating back to 1903 when Father James Carrico was given the task of organizing a parish in northwest Indianapolis,” the archbishop noted. “Within seven years, the first church and school were built.

“Racial tension is no stranger to its history, as more and more Black Catholics became parishioners over time. … Despite great challenges, the parish has persevered in being a beacon of evangelization, catechesis, education, social justice and fidelity to the Catholic faith.”

At the same time, Archbishop Thompson said that Holy Angels Parish is “part of something much larger than itself, united with its sister parishes throughout central and southern Indiana as a vital member of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

“Even more so, as in the Church’s profession of faith, it is a part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. In essence, there are many parts but one Spirit, called to be Christ-centered rather than self-centered in all things.”

As examples of that spirit, Archbishop Thompson noted the great contributions of two of Holy Angels’ influential former pastors—the late Fathers Clarence Waldon and Kenneth Taylor. He also praised Sister Gail, sharing how she “has provided incredible leadership as pastoral life coordinator in seeing the vision of this new church becoming a reality.”

The archbishop’s praise of Sister Gail’s leadership brought applause and affirmations of “Amen!” from people in the pews.

Following his homily, the archbishop focused on dedicating the new church, making it a sacred space and a home for the Eucharist, the living presence of Christ.

He walked through the church, blessing the space and the people there with holy water. He anointed the walls and the altar of the new church with sacred chrism oil, taking his time, mentioning that he was trying to do it with the care that Mary Magdalene had anointed the body of Christ. And he watched in appreciation as women from the parish wiped the altar with white towels and then placed a cloth on it.

All through this dedication Mass, the sacredness of each ritual was complemented by the music and singing of the parish’s choir. Sometimes hushed, other times soaring, the choir was soulful and reverent.

During the offertory, they sang “Cost Me Nothing,” a song that echoed the theme of how so many people had worked together so hard and so devotedly for nine years to raise up a new church in praise of God:

“I will not offer anything that costs me nothing,
I’ll place before him nothing less than my very best.”

Following Communion, the choir roared into a thunderous rendition of “O Give Thanks” that had people standing, clapping, swaying and singing along. It was as if nine years of waiting, hoping, praying and believing all poured forth in that joyous moment.

For Sister Gail, who has poured her heart and soul into bringing the hope of a new church into reality, that embrace of thanksgiving enveloped her. So has her faith in every step of the emotional nine-year journey. So has her appreciation of the leadership of others who have guided and supported the parish through this journey.

As the dedication approached, she confided, “I will be thinking of Father Clarence Waldon who originally conceived the idea of a new church, Father K.T. [Kenneth Taylor] who put the plan into motion, Cardinal [Joseph W.] Tobin who granted the first permission to continue our urban ministry, and Archbishop Thompson, who ensured the completion of the mission.

“All of them listened to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and did their share of supporting the vision of God. Only God knows the countless lives that will be touched through the experience of his presence during our worship, through our ministries and our witness of the Christ.”

On a sacred evening when the joy and the tears flowed for the parish and the archdiocese she loves, Sister Gail marveled again at how so many people had worked together to build a new church on the foundations of hope, love and faith in God to make all things possible.

“Words cannot express the amount of gratitude to all who participated in this blessed journey.” †


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