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History repeating itself.
They prayed in the churches of St. John the Evangelist, St. Mary, St. Patrick, St. Anthony, Holy Trinity and Sacred Heart of Jesus. They are all places of worship that had been home to Irish, German and Slovenian immigrants in the late 19th century.
Three of these parishes—St. Mary, St. Patrick and St. Anthony—now welcome large numbers of more recent immigrants from Mexico and Central and South America.
Seminarian Martin Rodriguez is one of those immigrants from Mexico, and is a member of St. Mary Parish.
He already knew some of the history of his home parish, which this year celebrates the 150th anniversary of its founding. But the stories of the other parishes were largely unknown to him.
“I’ve really liked this pilgrimage because it’s showing some of the evidence that our Church has been an immigrant Church since the beginning,” said Rodriguez. “… Now we’re in touch with the past.”
Rodriguez is a senior at the Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis.
Seminarian Jerry Byrd, a member of St. Louis Parish in Batesville, said exploring the history of the parishes will hopefully prepare him well for his future ministry.
“It really opens my eyes to what is going on,” said Byrd, who is in first theology at Saint Meinrad School of Theology in St. Meinrad. “I’m going to be ministering in this archdiocese. So for me to see it as it’s happened historically gives me some concept for how it’s going to be in the future.”
One of the things that will help these future priests minister in the archdiocese will be the fellowship that they will build with one another.
Seminarian John Hollowell, who expects to be ordained a transitional deacon in October, spoke about this while visiting St. John the Evangelist Church, the first Catholic church in Indianapolis.
“I’m glad we have a chance each summer to work on that as seminarians to grow closer together,” said Hollowell, “so that when we enter the priesthood, we’ll hit the ground running with each other.”
He said the archdiocesan seminarians truly enjoy being with each other.
“We really have a special group of seminarians for our archdiocese,” Hollowell said. “We go to school with seminarians from lots of other dioceses. And the camaraderie and the fraternity that we have is really unique and special.
“We have a good time. We enjoy being around each other. We laugh a lot and have a lot of fun. That’s something that not every diocese is fortunate enough to have.”
Joshua Cord entered that circle of friends for the first time during the pilgrimage and the seminarian convocation at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis that led up to it.
A member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Bedford, Cord, 26, comes to the seminary after completing four years of graduate studies in mathematics at the University of Notre Dame in northern Indiana. He will be in first philosophy at Saint Meinrad School of Theology.
“It’s good to be with the other seminarians,” Cord said. “I’ve struggled with my vocation for a while, trying to figure it out. So it’s good just to be giving it a shot and trying it out and to see what happens. These are great guys and already, in two days, I have had a lot of fun with them.”
Toward the end of the pilgrimage, Cord and the other seminarians prayed the rosary at St. Anthony Church in the Indianapolis West Deanery.
Founded in 1891, it was originally populated by Irish immigrants. But within about 15 years, a large number of Slovenian immigrants came to the parish.
Shortly thereafter, Holy Trinity Parish was established nearby to accommodate the Slovenians’ cultural and linguistic needs.
Byrd said the changing ethnic flavor of the six parishes’ histories highlights the universality and the robust nature of the Church over time.
“There’s an ebb and flow of the faith,” Byrd said. “As people leave parishes and go to other parishes or found other parishes, the faith continues on there and someone else comes into the old parish and fulfills what was started.
“It really shows the universality of the Church. We’re all Catholic.”
A highpoint in the pilgrimage for the seminarians was when Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein celebrated Mass with them at St. Patrick Church.
In his homily during the Mass, Father Eric Johnson, archdiocesan vocations director, said that while the ethnic history of the archdiocese the seminarians had experienced was important, there was something far deeper that united them to the past and the future.
“When we come together to do this, to offer praise and thanksgiving in bread broken and wine poured out in Christ’s own body and blood shed for each one of us, we become a part of all that came before us,” he said. “… And we are united with those who will come after us.” †
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