May 27, 2016

Nearly a year after storm, parish installs new steeple ‘to point us to God’

The new steeple atop St. Michael the Archangel Church in Indianapolis shines in the sun on May 13. The copper steeple is a replica of the one that was blown down by a storm nearly a year ago. (Submitted photo by Jose Martinez)

The new steeple atop St. Michael the Archangel Church in Indianapolis shines in the sun on May 13. The copper steeple is a replica of the one that was blown down by a storm nearly a year ago. (Submitted photo by Jose Martinez)

By Natalie Hoefer

After a series of rainy days, the sunshine was welcomed, making the pristine copper of the new steeple gleam as it rested on the blacktop next to St. Michael the Archangel Church in Indianapolis.

The students at St. Michael-St. Gabriel Archangels School gathered around the steeple and Father Michael Hoyt, St. Michael’s administrator, on the sunny May morning.

“Before we begin,” he said, “I’d like to share a little bit of history with you.”

He described how the church’s first steeple was erected in 1954, but was destroyed with the rest of the church in a fire in 1967.

A new steeple was placed atop the new church, where it inspired until July of last year.

“And you know what happened then?” Father Hoyt asked the roughly 200 children and adults gathered. “A huge storm with big, heavy winds blew the steeple off.”

Becki Roach, office manager of the parish and a member the parish for 26 years, recalled what she saw on July 14, 2015.

“It was pretty scary,” she said. “I live right here in the neighborhood. … I came over here and the steeple was just lying on the roof, hanging there.

“It’s [been] odd to not see the steeple, and because the bells were in the steeple, we haven’t heard bells ring for almost a whole year.”

But those bells are once again calling the people of the west side neighborhood to worship and to think of God throughout the day. After much effort and skilled labor contributed by several companies, the new replica of the prior steeple was raised on May 13.

Before it was lifted to its lofty position atop the church, Father Hoyt blessed the new steeple. He used the occasion as an educational opportunity.

“There’re basically two meanings why we use a steeple on top of a church,” he told the crowd. “The first reason is kind of architectural and aesthetic. … It continues the straight lines of the church, and makes it pleasing to the eye.

“The second and most important reason why we put steeples on churches is because … it draws our eyes upward toward heaven. The steeple is meant to point us to God, like a finger pointing to the most important thing: God.”

Then, with the 36-foot-4-inch steeple towering beside him, Father Hoyt explained the anatomy of a steeple.

Above the base, where the steeple is inserted into the roof, lies the belfry. In some steeples, bells toll in the belfry. In more modern steeples, like the one at St. Michael, electronic bells toll both time and tunes.

Above the belfry rests a crown, significant of the reign of God as king of the heavens and Earth. Next comes the spire, continuing to draw the eye upward both toward heaven and to the final element of the steeple, the cross, representing Christ’s glorious triumph over death.

“It is the highest thing on the church,” Father Hoyt said of the cross. “We’re raising Jesus up, drawing people to Jesus.”

The belfry of this particular steeple will contain more than just bells. It will also hold a time capsule—a copper box welded shut, containing photos and memories of parishioners.

Eddie Guanajuato, the high school band director at Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School next to St. Michael Church and a member of the parish for more than 30 years, said he and his family contributed to the time capsule.

On a sheet of paper, the Guanajuatos put down “some of our happy memories of St. Michael,” he said, including a list of the many sacraments his family has received there.

“I was confirmed here, married here, my children were baptized here, they were confirmed here, my children all went through St. Michael [School] and Cardinal Ritter,” he said. “This is such a wonderful community, a great place to be, a great place to educate children. I’ve got nothing but the utmost respect for St. Michael’s community, St. Michael Church—you can’t go wrong here.”

The night before the steeple was blessed and placed at the top of the church, Guanajuato had the opportunity to touch the top of the cross, which was detached and separate prior to the steeple’s installation.

“Whenever I look at that [steeple], I’ll think, ‘You know, I touched the very top of that the day before [it was raised],’ ” he said. “We’re really proud of this new steeple.”

Jim Huntington, owner of AAA Roofing, is also proud of the steeple. It was important to him that all went well, and not just for the sake of his company’s reputation. Huntington is a lifetime member of St. Michael the Archangel Parish.

“When the steeple fell over, they called me,” he said of the parish’s pastoral council, of which he is a member. “[My company] takes care of everything [roof-related] at St. Michael as a way of giving back. Every year, we do Habitat [for Humanity] homes as a way to give projects back to the community. This happened to be one [project] that was good to give back to the [parish].”

Besides, he said, “I didn’t want someone else putting the steeple back on my church.”

Huntington gave credit to the many individuals and companies involved in building the steeple. He saved his highest praise for the two sheet metal workers.

“There’s a couple guys that I’m really proud of—Jose Martinez and Teodoro Relles,” he said before the blessing of the steeple. “All this metal you see? It started out as just a flat piece of copper. They cut every single piece, attached every single piece, then soldered every single piece together. It took a lot of time, skill and effort, and they did it not only because they’re good at what they do, but because they care about St. Michael Church and all of you, and they wanted to do something that everyone would be proud of.”

Martinez, a member of Holy Spirit Parish on the east side of Indianapolis, has been working with sheet metal for 17 years. But this project was different.

“We worked almost three weeks non-stop, Monday through Friday,” he said of the time it took to cut, place and weld the copper exterior. “It was a little bit hard, but I feel like it’s an honor to do this for the Church.

“It’s something so special for me because I’m Catholic. I feel good doing this. I hope people like it!” †

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