April 14, 2023

Mass Excursions

Members of St. Peter Parish in Franklin County ‘always willing to lend a hand’

St. Thomas More Parish in Mooresville
By Natalie Hoefer

In the early 1830s, German immigrants settled in Franklin County on Indiana’s southeastern border. Among them were Catholic families who carved out farms from the land in Highland Township—families with surnames like Bauer, Fussner, Geis, Ripberger, Ripperger and Weiler.

In 1838, they completed a small, log church. Residing within the vast boundary of what was then the Diocese of Vincennes, the church was blessed the Servant of God Simon Bruté, the diocese’s first bishop. He named the parish St. Peter.

‘A very close-knit group’

The church is still “really out in the country, mostly farmland,” says Father Vincent Lampert, the parish’s pastor. “It’s a unique parish, because it only has about 150 families,” several of them still bearing the surnames of the founders.

“Family” is the word that best describes the faith community, he says.

“Being a small parish, it’s a very close-knit group. People always check in with the shut-ins to let them know they’re not forgotten. Whether it’s outreach to shut-ins or the sick or those in need, everyone is always willing to pitch in and lend a helping hand.”

The same “pitch in” attitude is true of caring for the parish, says Father Lampert. With a small staff shared with St. Michael Parish in Brookville, much of the work at St. Peter “is done by volunteers who have great ownership” of the parish, its grounds and its 170-year-old church building.

But the faith community is not closed in on itself, he notes. Parishioners support a food pantry in nearby Sunman, and “for years” the parish has supported a parish in Kentucky’s Appalachian region, “collecting toys, donating food, helping them any way we can,” says Father Lampert.

The best time to visit the rural parish is during its annual Labor Day Picnic, marking its 103rd anniversary this year.

“We have people come from all over—Cincinnati, southeastern Indiana,” he says. In line with the parish’s “family” feel, Father Lampert calls the annual picnic “really more like a family gathering.”

The parish fundraising event offers children’s games and raffles, including a raffle for $28,000.

But most people come for the food, where “fried chicken is king,” he says.

The parish sits along the culinary “Chicken Trail” of southeastern Indiana. It’s a real thing, even written about in a June 2019 article of the New York Times.

“You can usually find fried chicken from Connersville down to Lawrenceburg every day of the week,” says Father Lampert. “Parishes, restaurants, VFWs [Veterans of Foreign Wars], small town taverns—somebody is always frying chickens.”

Whether there for the Labor Day Picnic or some other time, be sure to stop in historic St. Peter Church, built in 1853.

“A few years ago, we had the entire inside of the church repainted,” says Father Lampert. “This summer, we’re doing external work on the church.”

Feel free to stop in and pray anytime—literally.

“Because it’s such a small town and the people take ownership,” he says, “the church is always open for anyone who wants to pray or just visit.”

Water, reindeer—and ‘a trail you hike with your face’

If Labor Day doesn’t fit your schedule for visiting St. Peter Parish, there are other reasons to visit the area year round.

Come see—or even paddle in— “Indiana’s Largest Canoe Race” at Brookville’s CanoeFest, held this year on June 24. In addition to enjoying vendors and live music, visitors can watch a championship race, and amateurs from the young to the young at heart can participate in 3-mile races on the Whitewater River. Of course, fried chicken is available. For more information, go to brookvillecanoefest.com or e-mail brookvillecanoefest@yahoo.com.

If you prefer your water to be wider than a river, check out Brookville Lake. The area offers opportunities for camping, fishing, boating, swimming and 25 miles of hiking trails—but you’ll have to bring your own fried chicken. For more information, go to cutt.ly/BrookvilleLake.

Looking to winter, you can worship with the members of St. Peter at the beginning or end of a family fun-day selecting a Christmas tree and encountering reindeer at Whitetail Acres in Brookville, just 15 minutes north of the parish. Whitetail Acres, which has one of only two reindeer farms in the state, offers these activities for several weeks in November and December. For more information, go to whitetailacrestreefarm.com or call 765-647-6812.

And about that fried chicken trail of southeastern Indiana. You can find a map at cutt.ly/ChickenTrail. The link takes you to a blog post on a site called “Hiking Illustrated.” As the author—who simply goes by Andrew—notes, “Yeah, this is a hiking website, but … think of the [Chicken Trail] as a trail you hike with your face.”

(Mass Excursions is a feature highlighting an archdiocesan parish and local attractions, encouraging a trip to the area that includes Mass with the members of that parish.)

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