August 29, 2014

Mass, dinner mark implementation of Terre Haute Deanery plan

Jack Meany, a member of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Terre Haute, receives Communion from Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin during an Aug. 13 Mass at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Terre Haute. Meany and other Catholics from the Terre Haute Deanery involved in the deanery’s planning process and the implementation of that plan came together with the archbishop for the Mass and dinner that followed. (Submitted photo by Patty Mauer)

Jack Meany, a member of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Terre Haute, receives Communion from Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin during an Aug. 13 Mass at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Terre Haute. Meany and other Catholics from the Terre Haute Deanery involved in the deanery’s planning process and the implementation of that plan came together with the archbishop for the Mass and dinner that followed. (Submitted photo by Patty Mauer)

By Sean Gallagher

Five years ago, members of parishes across the Terre Haute Deanery began a planning process that looked to the future of the Catholic Church in west central Indiana.

In 2011, then-Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein approved the proposed changes that emerged out of that planning process. They included the merger of four parishes in the deanery, having all parishes in the deanery support St. Patrick School in Terre Haute and maintaining current outreach ministries in the area and working to build up new ones.

Over the past three years, Catholics across the deanery have worked to implement that plan that was begun in 2009.

On Aug. 13, many of them gathered with Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin for a Mass at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Terre Haute and a dinner at the parish that followed.

Saying it was a chance for him to “take the pulse” of a portion of the archdiocese, Archbishop Tobin said he was glad to meet the people involved in formulating and implementing the plan because that work took place before he was appointed to lead the Church in central and southern Indiana.

“It was a lovely, spiritual evening,” Archbishop Tobin said. “I was greatly encouraged to hear how the parishes of the deanery were cooperating in several projects, such as shared responsibility for a Catholic elementary school and an effort to improve the outreach of the food bank that is managed by the archdiocesan Catholic Charities.”

At the same time, he acknowledged that the implementation of the plan for the Terre Haute Deanery was challenging for many Catholics because it resulted in the merger of four parishes.

“No one denied the pain that the parish mergers caused,” Archbishop Tobin said. “However, there was a tangible pride and gratitude for the new energy these Catholics had discovered. I am confident that the spirit of solidarity will continue to grow.”

Gratitude was on the mind of Julie Bowers as she attended the Mass and dinner.

“It was a wonderful example of being thankful for the opportunity that we had to go through the planning process and thankful that it and the implementation were successful,” said Bowers, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Terre Haute who participated in the planning process and has helped oversee its implementation.

Although there have been challenges in the implementation because it involved the merger of four parishes, Bowers noted that there are still parishes in all five counties of the deanery, something that then-Archbishop Buechlein mandated at the start of the planning process.

“It showed Archbishop Buechlein’s commitment to having a Catholic presence in all major communities in our deanery,” Bowers said. “It’s important for families to not have to drive a terrible amount of time to have an opportunity to worship.”

At the same time, Bowers said the implementation of the plan has resulted in growth for St. Patrick School, which is now known as St. Patrick School of the Terre Haute Deanery.

“Our enrollment at our school is up,” she said. “The one area in particular that we’ve seen growth in is our preschool. We’re hoping to retain those families all the way through the eighth grade. It’s had a positive effect on our school.”

At the time of the merger of the former St. Ann Parish in Terre Haute and the former St. Leonard of Port Maurice Parish in West Terre Haute, there were vibrant outreach ministries at both faith communities.

A dental clinic for people in need was operating at St. Ann, and St. Leonard housed a food pantry. Both ministries have continued since the parishes were merged in 2011, although the food pantry has a new location, which gives it better facilities and a greater ability to serve people in need. Both ministries are overseen by the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

Bowers noted, however, that all parishes in the Terre Haute Deanery have been encouraged to increase their outreach to the broader community.

We have encouraged all parishes in the deanery to have some sort of outreach,” she said. “Some of our parishes are opening their doors to distribute food.”

The planning process that started in the Terre Haute Deanery in 2009 eventually became the Connected in the Spirit planning process that has been implemented in the Batesville Deanery and the four Indianapolis deaneries. It will also eventually occur in the other deaneries across central and southern Indiana.

Annette “Mickey” Lentz, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, said that the process in the Terre Haute Deanery began when a group of Catholics from there approached archdiocesan leaders about the idea of preparing for the future of the Church in their area.

As Lentz observed and participated in the planning process in the Terre Haute Deanery, she became more convinced that it would be good to use the process across central and southern Indiana.

“It really gave me the hope that this can happen if we follow a process, make it grassroots, and assure that our pastoral leaders are truly leading,” Lentz said. “Then we can see the results. We kind of hold them as a model.”

Although the implementation of the plan for the Terre Haute Deanery is largely complete, Bowers noted that the Catholics of west central Indiana won’t sit on their laurels in the years to come.

“You plan and implement, but it’s organic,” Bowers said. “As needs come up, as our Catholic population changes and we see more needs or more areas that we can learn or grow in, we will continue to [plan and implement]. I think we have some good processes in place to have that continue.”
 

(For more information about the Connected in the Spirit planning process, log on to www.archindy.org/connected.)

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