December 19, 2014

Holy Cross, St. Philip Neri hope to build bonds through merger

By John Shaughnessy

The Christmas season has always been known as a time for bringing people together.

And the east side Indianapolis parishes of Holy Cross and St. Philip Neri have long been known for their generous outreach to people in need—especially during the holiday season.

For decades, members of Holy Cross Parish have distributed Christmas food baskets to families, while St. Philip parishioners have collected clothes and toys to make Christmas brighter for children and their parents through their “Christmas with Christ” effort.

That shared sense of generosity is one of the bonds that members of both communities have pointed to as Holy Cross Parish merged into St. Philip Neri on Nov. 30.

The two parishes united through the Connected in the Spirit planning process—part of the plan for the four Indianapolis deaneries that Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin announced in May.

“We have two very dynamic, active and engaged parishes coming together,” says Father Christopher Wadelton, administrator of St. Philip Neri Parish. “Having a common outreach toward people in need will help us come together, and have an even greater sense of community on the east side of Indianapolis. I see us doing great things together.”

Members of the combined faith community saw a successful start in that direction when about 500 people—with strong representation from both Holy Cross and St. Philip—came together for Mass on Dec. 7 at St. Philip.

“I was overwhelmed,” says Ann Litton, a member of St. Philip since the early 1970s. “We were hoping to fill the church, and we did. People were in the choir loft. The choirs of St. Philip and Holy Cross combined.”

The Mass of unity also reflected one of the gifts and the opportunities of the two parishes merging. In actuality, there are three communities that are coming together, Father Wadelton notes. There are the former members of Holy Cross, the English-speaking members of St. Philip and the Spanish-speaking members of St. Philip.

Symbolizing the desire to connect the three communities, the Dec. 7 Mass was celebrated in both English and Spanish. And one of the highlights of the Mass was a liturgical dance that the Hispanic group Efeta performed to an English-language song.

“The reception afterward was well-attended, too,” says Father Wadelton. “People mingled. There was a strong feeling of community. I heard a number of people from Holy Cross who were appreciative of all the planning and the hospitality.”

As the former parish council president of Holy Cross, Mike Barrett says that people in the parish “had a lot of different reactions” when the Connected in the Spirit decision was made to merge Holy Cross into St. Philip.

“There is some loss that it’s not Holy Cross Parish anymore. Some were born and raised in the parish. Others have come along at different points. Holy Cross was their home,” Barrett says. “But there’s also hope. And there’s relief that the community will continue as part of St. Philip Parish.”

Part of that relief came in knowing that Holy Cross Central School will continue to be open as part of the Mother Theodore Catholic Academies. Relief has also come in the decision to have the former Holy Cross Church become Holy Cross Chapel and continue as a worship site for St. Philip Neri Parish.

At 8:30 on Thursday mornings, Mass will be celebrated at the chapel for the school community of Holy Cross Central. A Mass will also be celebrated in Holy Cross Chapel at 9:15 a.m. on Sundays.

“The archbishop has allowed us to continue to use the church as a worship site,” says Father Wadelton. “The chapel can also be used for weddings, funerals and baptisms as long as there is a pastoral reason.”

At the same time, St. Philip Neri Parish will have just one parish council, one finance committee and a combined liturgy committee, among other plans to unite the communities. The two groups that represent the St. Vincent de Paul Society are working together as one. And there are plans to combine the two Christmas outreach efforts next year.

“We’re working together as we move forward as one parish,” Father Wadelton says. “My hope is that we will become one parish with two worship sites, and we’ll all be members of the same parish. I see movement in that direction already.”

Members of both communities share that hope.

“We have to continue to work together, find ways to get to know each other, and help each other on our journey,” Barrett says. “When we do, we will be a viable Church presence on the east side.”

Litton agrees, “Both parishes were really strong, and we’ll be even stronger as we come together.” †

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