June 22, 2012

Through donations of items, St. Ann Parish continues to live on

The tabernacle and large, rough-hewn bark cross at St. Ann Church in Terre Haute are among the liturgical furnishings and other items donated by the parish to the archdiocesan seminary, local churches and St. Luke Parish in Salyersville, Ky., whose church was destroyed by a tornado on March 2. St. Ann Parish was closed by the archdiocese on May 20 as part of the Terre Haute Deanery future parish staffing plan. (Photo by Mary Ann Garber)

The tabernacle and large, rough-hewn bark cross at St. Ann Church in Terre Haute are among the liturgical furnishings and other items donated by the parish to the archdiocesan seminary, local churches and St. Luke Parish in Salyersville, Ky., whose church was destroyed by a tornado on March 2. St. Ann Parish was closed by the archdiocese on May 20 as part of the Terre Haute Deanery future parish staffing plan. (Photo by Mary Ann Garber) Click for a larger version.

By Mary Ann Garber

TERRE HAUTE—With faith in God’s loving Providence, endings can become grace-filled beginnings.

As part of the Terre Haute Deanery future parish staffing plan, St. Ann Parish was closed by the archdiocese on May 20.

St. Ann parishioners have been welcomed by members of the receiving community—St. Joseph University Parish in Terre Haute—and other area parishes.

They are understandably sad about the closing of their small but vibrant faith community, but also happy that liturgical furnishings and religious artwork from their beloved church have been given to the archdiocesan college seminary, several local churches and a parish in the Diocese of Lexington, Ky., whose church was destroyed by a tornado on March 2.

Providence Sister Connie Kramer, St. Ann’s longtime parish life coordinator, has been busy in recent weeks arranging for the delivery of several hundred donations.

“Death leads to resurrection if you let it happen,” she said. “… That’s why the donation of items to area churches and to St. Luke Parish in Salyersville, Ky., was so significant. You feel like an organ donor. You feel like you’re passing on your life.”

That is an appropriate response to the parish closing, she said. “Everything we have here is a gift from a loving God.”

On May 22, some of the members of Indiana State University’s football team volunteered to help employees of two moving companies load St. Ann’s donations onto vans for transport to their new church homes.

Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis received the tabernacle, pews and other liturgical furnishings.

St. Joseph University Church, the receiving parish in Terre Haute, is the new home for the historic St. Ann statue, sacramental records and other furnishings.

St. Margaret Mary Parish in Terre Haute was given the Stations of the Cross.

St. Benedict Parish in Terre Haute was the recipient of the large, hand-hewn bark cross and a lectern.

St. Patrick Parish in Terre Haute received a handmade needlepoint blessing prayer for meals to display in their soup kitchen and 125 serving trays.

Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Terre Haute is the new home of a historic relief sculpture of the Last Supper and several candlesticks.

The Providence Center at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods received the piano.

“We are sending something to all of the area parishes so the people [from St. Ann Parish] will see something familiar when they go to those churches,” Sister Connie said. “We’re giving away the symbols of our [community’s] life here.”

The majority of the liturgical furnishings as well as vestments and more than 30 boxes of other items were given to St. Luke Parish in Salyersville to help the small faith community recover from a tornado that destroyed their church, rectory, parish hall and outreach building in a poverty-stricken area of Appalachia.

St. Ann Church will become the new Christmas Store operated by Catholic Charities Terre Haute, Sister Connie said, and the beautiful

stained-glass windows will remind the poor of God’s love and mercy.

The parish’s Nativity scene, holiday wreaths and Christmas altar cloth will be permanently displayed as part of the meditation section of the Christmas Store, she said. The altar has been deconsecrated and will be used to display the Christmas Scriptures.

St. Ann’s medical clinic and dental clinic have been combined, she said, and will continue to serve the poor under the administration and sponsorship of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

Sister Connie asked Catholic Charities officials and Father Steven Schaftlein, pastor of St. Michael Parish in Charlestown and St. Francis Xavier Parish in Henryville—another small community devastated by a tornado on March 2—about where to donate some of the liturgical items.

She learned that St. Luke Parish in Salyersville was one of 12 churches in the Diocese of Lexington damaged by storms that swept through southern Indiana and Kentucky.

“St. Luke Parish operated the only food pantry in the county,” Sister Connie said. “I told Father Bob [Damron, pastor of St. Luke Parish and St. Martha Parish in nearby Prestonsburg, Ky.] that, “You’re just like we were in 1876. You’re small at this point, but your first thrust is outreach.”

She believes this parish connection is part of God’s perfect plan.

“They’re very pleased with our gifts, particularly the handmade items,” Sister Connie said. “Almost all the liturgical furnishings—including the presider’s chair and ambo—are handmade.”

In a phone interview, Father Damron said that when he first saw the destruction of the parish on Route 114 he knelt on the St. Luke Church steps—all that was left of the building—then prayed and cried.

“Seven people and a dog took shelter in the church,” he said. “They had cuts from flying glass and bruises, but thankfully no one died. … It took us five hours to find the tabernacle. It was dented, but the Blessed Sacrament was intact inside it. … God is present, and new life will come forth.”

Father Damron and St. Luke’s 15 families are celebrating Masses in a trailer.

“We have poverty, but we have a lot of faith,” he said. “Hopefully, we will start building in the spring. We haven’t missed one single Sunday Mass since the tornado. … The buildings may be gone, but the people are still here and it’s the people that make up the Church.

“We want to thank Sister Connie and the people of St. Ann Parish in Terre Haute for their generous donation,” Father Damron said. “Many of those items will be used again in the new church of St. Luke Parish. We just want to thank everybody for their prayers, and especially for their generosity.” †

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