August 19, 2005

Father Clarence Waldon, 66, dies

By Mary Ann Wyand

Father Clarence R. Waldon, pastor of Holy Angels Parish in Indianapolis since May 1970, died on Aug. 14 at the St. Vincent Hospice in Indianapolis. He was 66.

He also served as the first director of the archdiocesan Office of Evangelization from April 1, 1981, until July 1, 1994, and was a founding member of the board of directors, treasurer and state representative of the National Council for Catholic Evangelization ( NCCE).

Father Waldon celebrated the 40th anniversary of his ordination last year, and was nationally known for preaching at revivals and evangelization work.

He was the sixth diocesan priest to die in 2005.

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein will be the principal celebrant for the Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m. on Aug. 18 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

Father Kenneth Taylor, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis and director of the archdiocesan Office of Multicultural Ministry, is the homilist.

Burial will follow in the Priests’ Circle of Calvary Cemetery in Indianapolis.

Calling will be held on Aug. 17 at Holy Angels Church from 2 p.m. until a prayer service at 7 p.m.

Father Taylor remembered his longtim e friend and mentor as a pioneer in priestly ministry, evangelization and Catholic education.

“ Father Waldon was the first African-American priest [ordained] for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis,” Father Taylor said. “That made him a pioneer, which has been one of the hallmarks of his ministry. He was a pioneer in evangelization, he was one of the pioneers of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, and he was a pioneer in education when he developed the model school concept for Holy Angels School ” in 1972.

The new Holy Angels School , which was made possible by a Church, community and corporate partnership, opened in September 1999.

“Father Waldon always kept sight of the importance of the larger Church,” Father Taylor said. “By connecting the efforts of the local Church of Indianapolis and what was happening on the national and international level, he felt that the Church would be better able to help people in ways that would be true to the Gospel message.”

Msgr. Joseph F. Schaedel, vicar general, praised Father Waldon for his dedication and commitment to promoting parish ministry and Catholic education.

“Father Waldon was an outstanding Catholic leader,” Msgr. Schaedel said. “He had a strong faith and a strong desire to share that faith—hence, his deep involvement in the work of evangelization.

“I remember planning with him for the new Holy Angels Catholic School , partially funded by the Building Communities of Hope and Journey of Hope capital campaigns,” Msgr. Schaedel said. “Father Waldon made it quite clear that he did not want the new school to be totally financed by either the archdiocese or the business community. He made certain that Holy Angels Parish made a significant contribution toward the building of the new school. He wanted to be sure that the parish had a stake in their parish school, and saw it as an integral part of the ministry of Holy Angels Parish.”

Providence Sister Mary Quinn, pastoral associate of Holy Angels Parish, was praying at Father Waldon’s bedside at the hospice when he died at 2:40 a.m. last Sunday.

Sister Mary said “Father’s response when he was told about his cancer [in June] was ‘Whatever is God’s will.’ ”

She said Father Waldon was very involved in the community and always found time to help others.

On the 40th anniversary of his ordination last year, Sister Mary said, “A good part of our 101 years [at Holy Angels Parish] has been blessed with the leadership of our pastor, Father Waldon, who was appointed pastor in May 1970, being at the time the youngest pastor and the first black pastor of the archdiocese.

“By example, Father has led us to be involved in the community and the larger Church,” she said. “Over the past 34 years, Father has served as president of UNWA [United Northwest Area Inc.], a member of the Archdiocesan Education Board, evangelization director for the archdiocese, [and] a member of Big Brothers, Faith and Families, 10-Point Coalition and executive committee of the Church Federation [of Greater Indianapolis].”

Sister Mary said Father Waldon “provided our congregation and visitors spiritual uplift with his sermons and inspired many congregations throughout the country with his preaching during revivals.”

During more than three decades as pastor of Holy Angels Parish, she said, Father Waldon encouraged lay leadership in a variety of ministries and promoted ecumenical projects with people of other faith traditions.

“The abilities for leadership of our Parish Council members and parishioners have seen remarkable development over the years with Father’s encouragement and guidance,” Sister Mary said. “In January 1992, Father received the [Dr. Mozell Sanders] Drum Major for Justice Award from the Interdenominational Ministers Alliance. We can say that Father also deserves the ‘Drum Major for Parish Leaders Award’ for his efforts to encourage responsible lay leadership among our parishioners over the past 34 years of his pastorate.”

In 1992, he also was honored with the NAACP’s Civil Rights Contribution Award.

Karen Oddi, former coordinator of evangelization for the archdiocese, remembered Father Waldon as “a friend and a fine gentleman … who was the inspiration for my involvement in Catholic evangelization.”

Oddi said Father Waldon was a great help to her beginning in 1982 when she attended one of the first national evangelization conferences at St. Louis.

“We could not have asked for a warmer welcome than the one we received from Father Waldon,” she said. “He made us feel very much a valued part of the delegation from Indianapolis with much to contribute.

“Over the years, I have learned much more about evangelization in both practical and more studious ways,” Oddi said, “but I will always be grateful to Father Waldon for showing me the face of evangelization in action some 23 years ago. I felt honored to continue his work in my own small way over the past three years.”

Clarence Richard Waldon was born on Sept. 3, 1938, in Terre Haute to Thomas G. and Flora (Morpin) Waldon Sr., who were members of St. Ann Parish there.

He attended the former St. Ann School in Terre Haute, where he felt called to the priesthood as a third-grader, and the former Saint Meinrad High School in southern Indiana.

He continued his education at the former Saint Meinrad College and Saint Meinrad Seminary in southern Indiana and also earned a master’s degree in guidance and counseling at Indiana State University in Terre Haute.

He was ordained to the priesthood on May 3, 1964, by then-Archbishop Paul C. Schulte at Saint Meinrad Archabbey Church, and was a classmate of Archbishop Buechlein, then a Benedictine monk who was ordained a priest on the same day.

Father Waldon celebrated his first Mass on May 10, 1964, at St. Ann Church.

His first assignments were as assistant pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis as well as guidance director and a religion teacher at Cardinal Ritter High School in Indianapolis, effective on May 20, 1964.

Father Waldon was named assistant pastor of St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis on May 23, 1967, while continuing as a full-time instructor at Cardinal Ritter High School.

He was appointed pastor of Holy Angels Parish on June 24, 1970, then reappointed pastor in 1981 and 1995.

Father Waldon also served on the archdiocesan Catholic Campaign for Human Development committee as well as the United Negro College Fund’s church campaign steering committee and Urban Educational Ministry committee. He also was the chairman of the Urban Ministry Study and a member of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus ( NBCCC) and Archdiocesan Black Catholics Concerned.

Surviving are four nieces, two nephews, several great-nieces and great-nephews, and several great-great-nieces and great-great-nephews.

Memorial gifts may be sent to Holy Angels Catholic Outreach Ministries, Holy Angels Parish, 740 W. 28th St., Indianapolis, IN 46208. †


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