May 30, 2014

Parishioners, pastors express sadness over decision to close parishes

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin speaks with Jan Erlenbaugh Gaddis after a May 21 press conference in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis in which Archbishop Tobin announced decisions regarding the Connected in the Spirit planning process for the four metropolitan Indianapolis deaneries. Erlenbaugh Gaddis is a longtime member of Holy Cross Parish in Indianapolis, one of three parishes that Archbishop Tobin said would be closed as of Nov. 30. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin speaks with Jan Erlenbaugh Gaddis after a May 21 press conference in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis in which Archbishop Tobin announced decisions regarding the Connected in the Spirit planning process for the four metropolitan Indianapolis deaneries. Erlenbaugh Gaddis is a longtime member of Holy Cross Parish in Indianapolis, one of three parishes that Archbishop Tobin said would be closed as of Nov. 30. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

Jan Erlenbaugh Gaddis has been a member of Holy Cross Parish on the near east side of Indianapolis for 36 years. For nearly half of that time, she has ministered in the faith community as a parish nurse and pastoral associate.

From the moment she visited the parish for the first time in 1978, “it felt like home,” she said.

So it was a difficult moment for her when she heard Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin announce on May 21 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis that her longtime parish home would close on Nov. 30.

(Related: Archbishop Tobin announces changes for Indianapolis deaneries; three parishes to close)

“It’s still emotional,” said Erlenbaugh Gaddis.

But in her ministry at Holy Cross, she knows that she will have to help her fellow parishioners cope with their emotions related to the loss of the faith community and its merger with nearby St. Philip Neri Parish.

“I feel called to be a presence of Christ for others and a calm presence,” Erlenbaugh Gaddis said. “We’ll have to acknowledge the grief and loss. We’ll have to mourn. We’ll work through that process.”

She is confident that her faith that has been nurtured in the parish over the past three and a half decades will help her through this difficult time. And that faith is tied to the parish’s name—Holy Cross.

“It doesn’t end at the cross,” Erlenbaugh Gaddis said. “There’s resurrection. There’s new life. I don’t know what that is [yet]. I hold a vision of goodness and greatness and blessings. I just don’t know the details right now. I know within myself personally that there is joy in the midst of sorrow.”

May 21 was also a difficult day for Father John McCaslin, who has led Holy Trinity Parish on the near west side of Indianapolis since 2008. It is another of the three Indianapolis parishes slated to be closed on Nov. 30.

“It’s your parish. You care for your parishioners,” he said. “We went through this process. It’s not an easy process. I know all along there’s been concern and worry and hurt—and great people coming forward. So many things. When you know that people you care about are going to be hurting, your heart is with them.”

Linda Lupear is a lifelong member of Holy Trinity Parish who participated in the Connected in the Spirit process. She said that she suspected long before the process began that the closure of her parish, founded in 1906 by immigrant Slovenian Catholics, could be a distinct possibility.

“I fully expected it,” said Lupear, 73. “For a number of years, the membership has been dwindling because people are dying off and younger people have moved out. There just aren’t enough people to make it a viable parish.”

While she understands the decision to merge her faith community with nearby St. Anthony Parish, Lupear is still concerned about the future of her parish’s beloved church.

“I know it will transfer to St. Anthony,” she said. “But if the finances are not there to maintain that building, then what happens? Nobody wants to see it fall into disrepair.”

Lucille Miller, a member of St. Bernadette Parish on the east side of Indianapolis for nearly 20 years, was similarly understanding about the decision to close her faith community and merge it with nearby Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.

“It was expected and accepted,” she said. “You hoped for a different result. But I think the Spirit is alive.”

Miller attended the press conference at which Archbishop Tobin announced his decisions. She appreciated how he explained that the need to reconfigure the organization of the archdiocese is tied to effectively carrying out the Church’s mission in changed social circumstances.

“I agreed with a lot of what the archbishop said,” Miller said. “I think the Church, in general, needs a different model to succeed in the 21st century. [But] there’s also a great deal of emotion connected to it.”

Father Nicholas Dant, pastor of both St. Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes, said he will seek to support the St. Bernadette parishioners in the months to come.

“We’ll try to put as positive a framework on it as we possibly can to get the parishes to cooperate with the decision that the archbishop has made,” he said. “There is certainly an element of sadness about it, though, that’s for sure.”

Father McCaslin certainly had some sadness in his heart when he learned that Holy Trinity would be closed. But after the May 21 press conference, he attended a Catholic Charities board of directors meeting and was asked “What’s the good news?”

“And I said, ‘Christ is risen,’ ” Father McCaslin recalled. “That was right afterward. That ultimately is the good news, the good news that we need to share.

“In the midst of our own experiencing of whatever we feel and whatever loss we’re experiencing, that’s [still] the heart of who we are and what we’re about. We need to continue to bear the light and the Good News to the world.” †

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