July 14, 2023

Mass Excursions

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton: three churches, one faith community

Jack Schmitz will become the next executive director of the archdiocese’s Catholic Youth Organization when Bruce Scifres retires on Aug. 31. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

From top to bottom, St. Andrew, Holy Family and St. Mary churches, all part of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Richmond. (Submitted photos)

By Natalie Hoefer

The history of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Richmond is a story with five chapters. Chapters one through three involve the founding of three parishes: St. Andrew in 1846, St. Mary in 1859 (just a half-mile from St. Andrew), and Holy Family in 1953 (about a mile from St. Andrew and St. Mary).

The 1980s ushered in the fourth chapter as the three faith communities began to work in unison. In 1995, one priest was assigned to head the three parishes as the Richmond Catholic Community.

The fifth chapter launched in 2016 when the parishes united to form one faith community. A poll for a new parish name resulted in St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, in honor of the two local parochial schools: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (pre-K through grade 6) and Seton High School (grades 7-12).

But the story isn’t over. It continues as the parish serves the community, educates children and seeks to make disciples.

Making a difference in Richmond and beyond

The parish’s largest ministry is its two schools and their ability to both provide a stellar education and to evangelize, says Father Sengole Gnanaraj, the parish’s administrator. He notes that 40% of the high school’s students are not Catholic.

“Some have been exposed to Christianity, some not at all,” he says. “Our priority is the Catholic identity in the schools.”

Mass, daily prayer, opportunities for confession and service projects are among the ways “the schools evangelize non-Catholics, exposing them to God,” says Father Gnanaraj. “Our schools have been a huge blessing to the Richmond community.”

So has the parish’s participation in the Tri-County Good Samaritan St. Vincent de Paul conference, along with members from the parishes of St. Gabriel in Connersville and St. Bridget of Ireland in Liberty.

“They’re really active,” he says. “They do a furniture ministry, they offer Changing Lives Forever and they’re opening a building soon to expand to [offering] cooking classes and budgeting classes.”

The parish also helps those in need by annually donating to the Wayne County Trusteeship.

“They take care of the homeless and hungry in Richmond and the whole county,” explains Father Gnanaraj. “They have a system in place, so we help the poor and homeless in Wayne County through them.”

One recent source of “pride and excitement” in the parish was celebrating two sons of the parish being ordained priests in the last two years. Jesuit Father Joseph Kraemer was ordained on June 11, 2022, and Father Jack Wright was ordained on June 3. He now serves as parochial vicar of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis.

With three worship sites, each church building offers something unique, says Father Gnanaraj.

Completed in 1901, St. Andrew Church has “beautiful stained-glass windows,” he says. “I use them during school Mass to help teach the children about the life of Christ.”

St. Mary Church was completed in 1909. Built by the same architect who designed SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis, it is a smaller version of archdiocese’s cathedral.

Holy Family Church, built in 1979, boasts a new outdoor Stations of the Cross. The church also hosts adoration, confession, Vespers and Benediction twice a week for the parish.

“We have 30-40 people show up each time,” says Father Gnanaraj. “When people leave confession, they see all these people praying, like they’re being brought back into the community.”

He is also excited about something else coming back to the community: the parish’s annual Chocolate Fest.

“We used to have over 1,000 people show up, with chocolatiers and vendors. We had to stop it because of COVID,” he says. “But we’re bringing it back next year on Jan. 27.”

Father Gnanaraj invites all to worship with the members of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.

“The Richmond Catholic community is known for its openness,” he says. “Our members are very welcoming and very generous.

“Please come worship with us—and bring your friends! God wants to see us all together adoring, worshipping and praising as one family.”

Go to www.setoncatholics.org for Mass times and church locations.

Choose your path: forest, music trail or Underground Railroad

There is a wealth of culture within the boundaries of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish to make for a fun day or weekend trip that includes Mass at one (or more!) of the parish’s churches.

Known as “The Birthplace of Recorded Jazz,” Gennet Records in Richmond is where greats like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Hoagy Carmichael cut their first albums. Founded in 1917, Gennett Records studio and record plant was instrumental in spreading jazz, country and Gospel music in the country prior to the Great Depression. The studios no longer exist, but the Gennett Walk of Fame is a sidewalk trail embedded with medallions and information honoring the many artists and bands that recorded there. The trail begins at 201 S. 1st Street.

Music and the arts thrive in Richmond, says Father Gnanaraj. He notes that parishioners are involved in the Richmond Symphony Orchestra (richmondsymphony.org, 765-966-5181) and the Richmond Theater (richmond-theater.com, 844-765-8432). He also recommends the Richmond Art Museum (richmondartmuseum.org, 765-966-0256) and the Wayne County Historical Museum (wchmuseum.org, 765-962-5756).

One particular historic site of note is the Levi Coffin Home in Fountain City, about 9 miles north of Richmond. Built in 1839, it became known as “The Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad.” For 20 years, the Coffins provided food, clothing, shelter and transportation to slaves seeking freedom. The site consists of the home and an interpretive center—named in 2016 by the Smithsonian as “one of 12 new museums around the world to visit.” It’s located at 201 US Highway 27 in Fountain City. For more information, hours or to purchase tickets, go to cutt.ly/CoffinHome or call 765-847-1691.

Those who prefer the outdoors will like Hayes Arboretum—330 acres of hiking and biking trails through woods, flora and fauna native to Indiana. An old-growth beech and maple forest on the grounds includes trees as old as 450 years. The site includes two Adena and Hopewell native American mounds, a nature center, a playspace, a geology collection featuring at least one of every rock type native to Indiana and more. For more information and hours of operation, go to hayesarboretum.org or call 765-966-1931.

(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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