August 12, 2011

St. Simon the Apostle Parish to celebrate 50 years on Aug. 21

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein accepts offertory gifts from Beverly Hansberry and Franciscan Sister Yvonne Conrad at the Dec. 1, 2001, dedication Mass for the new St. Simon the Apostle Church in Indianapolis. Transitional Deacon John McCaslin, left, a St. Simon parishioner who was ordained to the priesthood in June 2002, and Father Robert Sims, then St. Simon’s pastor, assisted the archbishop during the liturgy. At the time, Hansberry was St. Simon’s director of faith formation, and Sister Yvonne was the parish’s administrative assistant. (File photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein accepts offertory gifts from Beverly Hansberry and Franciscan Sister Yvonne Conrad at the Dec. 1, 2001, dedication Mass for the new St. Simon the Apostle Church in Indianapolis. Transitional Deacon John McCaslin, left, a St. Simon parishioner who was ordained to the priesthood in June 2002, and Father Robert Sims, then St. Simon’s pastor, assisted the archbishop during the liturgy. At the time, Hansberry was St. Simon’s director of faith formation, and Sister Yvonne was the parish’s administrative assistant. (File photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

By Sean Gallagher

Jeanie Fentz is looking forward to the festive Mass on Aug. 21 that will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of her parish, St. Simon the Apostle Parish, 8155 Oaklandon Road, in Indianapolis.

The Mass will begin at 11 a.m. with a reception to follow.

Fentz was a young mother in her early 20s when she joined the parish in 1962.

At the time, many of her fellow members in the fledgling parish were also young parents who had moved to Indianapolis’ far east side to work in the bustling industrial corridor along Shadeland Avenue.

Many of the people who will join her at the anniversary Mass will also be young mothers and fathers, but of her children’s generation.

“[They’re] like me all over again,” Fentz said. “They go places and do things with people from St. Simon. … It brings back memories because it appears to be like [what it] was when my kids were little. You go to church and get your support from those people.”

While many things have stayed the same over St. Simon Parish’s first 50 years, other things have changed.

Most prominent among them is the parish’s location.

It was originally located at 8400 Roy Road, on Indianapolis’ far east side, about a mile east of Shadeland Avenue.

But by the mid-1980s, many of the factories along Shadeland that had employed thousands of people when St. Simon was established in 1961 were being closed.

At the same time, many people were moving into new neighborhoods on the far northeast side of Indianapolis.

Because of these demographic changes, St. Simon Parish was moved to its current location, about 10 miles north of its original site, in 1997. Its church was dedicated in 2001.

Fentz recalled the time when the decision was made to change St. Simon’s location and the preparations for the move followed, noting that some parishioners chose to join other nearby parishes.

“It was harder on some than on me,” Fentz said. “When we were first told, I was really excited about it. … Some of the older people had a really hard time.

“But it’s all come full circle. And I think we’re all happy.”

One of those members who is happy at St. Simon Parish is Nicole Stephenson, 35. A mother of three children under age 9, Stephenson is president of the parish’s women’s club, which organizes parish social events and outreach service projects.

She and her family joined St. Simon Parish in 2007.

“When we would go into Mass, it had a welcoming environment,” Stephenson said. “Everyone was friendly. That was initially what got us in the door of St. Simon.

“What’s kept us there is that, once you get to know everybody, you get a great sense of community and family. Everybody knows everybody there, and you look out for each other.”

Fentz appreciates how her son and his family are now active in the parish like she was 50 years ago. Stephenson hopes her children will make it their spiritual home when they have their own families.

“I hope that, by doing everything that I am doing, I’m creating an environment for my kids that will nurture their morals,” she said. “[I hope] that they’ll grow up to be good people and, in turn, stay in this community and maybe do the same things that I’m doing for their kids someday.”

Father John McCaslin grew up as a member of St. Simon Parish in the 1960s and 1970s. The parish and its booming school at that time—the three sections of his first-grade class combined had more than 100 students—did a lot to nurture his life of faith.

“Our whole family life was focused around the parish,” he said. “We were very active in the parish, in CYO sports, in all the events and activities of the school. I’m still friends with a good number of my classmates that I grew up with.”

Although Father McCaslin is busy as the pastor of St. Anthony Parish and the administrator of Holy Trinity Parish, both in Indianapolis, he keeps up with his St. Simon classmates on a Facebook page.

“It was a great parish to grow up in. It really was,” he said. “I had a great experience there. It was a great community. There was a lot of investment and ownership in it. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience growing up.”

Former members of St. Simon Parish are invited to participate in the Aug. 21 Mass, and at a Sept. 24 parish picnic on the parish’s grounds that will also celebrate its 50th anniversary.

“For over 50 years, our community has celebrated the joys of baptisms, weddings and graduations,” said Father William Marks, St. Simon’s pastor since 2008. “We have also supported each other in times of sorrow and pain, funerals and illness.

“A sign of a faith-filled community is not one that survives over time, but one that continues to give its very heart and spirit to all who pass through the doors of the church. St Simon … has much to celebrate because over the years it has been a community giving of itself to others.”

(For more information about St. Simon the Apostle Parish, log on to www.saintsimon.org.)

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