January 19, 2024

Mass Excursions

St. Augustine Parish is ‘right at the heart of it all’ in Jeffersonville

By Natalie Hoefer

St. Augustine Parish in JeffersonvilleTwo blocks from the main thoroughfare of Old Jeffersonville Historic District. Three blocks from a walking bridge over the Ohio River connecting Jeffersonville to Louisville, Ky. Four blocks from the Ohio River itself.

As pastor Father Adam Ahern says, “St. Augustine Parish is right at the heart of it all.”

The faith community was founded in 1851 and named in honor of Jeffersonville’s first resident priest, Father Auguste Bessonies. While 173 years have passed, the parish still actively spreads the Gospel in the river town, particularly through outreach with the members of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Jeffersonville, for which Father Ahern also serves as pastor.

“We do a lot to support the Center for Lay Ministries in Jeffersonville in their work with the homeless and impoverished,” he says, including providing volunteers for the organization’s food pantry and other outreach efforts to help those in need in the community.

“We are also very engaged with the local Knights of Columbus, helping with the outreach and charitable work they do.

“And our annual Advent project is a big deal where families sign up and we give them food and other necessities and small gifts. This [past] year, we took care of over 60 families.”

In a faith community where “they see themselves as family and are very faithful to each other,” members care for their fellow Catholics as well, says Father Ahern.

He calls the two parishes’ shared homebound ministry “very robust.

“They don’t just take Communion to [Catholics in] nursing homes, hospitals or sick at home. They’re engaged. They sit and talk to the people they take Communion to.”

In fact, both faith communities support the homebound, not just the ministry members, says Father Ahern, noting that at Christmas “we send them a food basket, and the students at Sacred Heart School send them cards several times a year.”

St. Augustine Church itself is a “must-see,” he says.

The current structure was built after a fire in December 1903 destroyed the original church. Father Ahern calls the current church “stunning, particularly the interior.”

The walls and high altar are made of Italian white marble, with a relief carving of the Last Supper in the middle.

The stained-glass windows depict the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries of the rosary (minus the “crowning of thorns” and “carrying the cross”).

“The colors, paired with the white marble, are just gorgeous,” he says.

He hopes to see many visitors worshipping at Mass at St. Augustine Church (call 812-282-2677 or go to jeffersonvillecatholic.org for Mass times).

“All are invited, all are welcome,” he says. “Come join us and enjoy the beautiful celebration of the Liturgy of the Eucharist with the whole communion of saints here in Jeffersonville.”

‘The world’s largest Beatles-inspired music festival’

As for a good time to visit Jeffersonville and worship at St. Augustine, Father Ahern has several thoughts.

“Last fall we had an Oktoberfest, our first big event since COVID,” he says. “We hope to have it again this year.”

Summer is a good time to come, too, he says, with events and concerts at the Jeffersonville Riverstage and the Big Four Station Park (which every Memorial Day weekend holds Abbey Road on the River, “the world’s largest Beatles-inspired music festival,” according to the event’s website).

Or come in December, Father Ahern suggests, when you can drive through an underground Christmas light display at Mega Cavern in Louisville.

Father Ahern couldn’t pick just one favorite restaurant—“it depends on what you’re in the mood for”—but he recommended H.M. Franks an’ O’Shea’s for “really good pub food,” Red Yeti for “classic American food with a unique spin,” Parlour for “some great brick-oven pizza,” and Union Restaurant and GameYard “where you can play cornhole, ping pong and a bunch of other games outside.”

Other sites to take in include:

—Big Four Bridge, a converted railway truss providing a 2-mile round-trip walking/biking path over the Ohio River to Louisville. For more information, go to bit.ly/BigFourBridge.

—NoCo Arts and Cultural District, offering a “Story Trail” and “Paintbox Garden,” with frequent pop-up markets from local artists. For more information, go to www.jeffersonvilleart.com/noco-district.

—Vintage Fire Museum, featuring fire engines and artifacts dating back to 1756. For more information, hours and cost, call 812-282-4705 or go to www.vintagefiremuseum.org.

—Howard Steamboat Museum, located in an 1894, 22-room mansion, home of the Howard steamboat-building family. For more information, hours and cost, call 812-283-3728 or go to www.howardsteamboatmuseum.org.

—Jeffersonville Riverstage, jeffparks.org/jammin-in-jeff (2024 event list not posted as of The Criterion going to press).

—Annual Big Four Arts Festival, weekend after Labor Day, bigfourbridgeartsfestival.com.

(Mass Excursions is a monthly feature highlighting an archdiocesan parish and local attractions, encouraging a trip to the area that includes Mass with the members of that parish. Each month will highlight a parish in a different deanery to showcase faith communities throughout central and southern Indiana.)

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