August 5, 2016

Seymour parish welcomes former members of Brownstown faith community

Members of the former Our Lady of Providence Parish in Brownstown sit in the church on June 26 during the final Sunday Mass celebrated there. The parish was merged on July 1 into St. Ambrose Parish in Seymour as part of the archdiocese’s Connected in the Spirit planning process. (Submitted photo)

Members of the former Our Lady of Providence Parish in Brownstown sit in the church on June 26 during the final Sunday Mass celebrated there. The parish was merged on July 1 into St. Ambrose Parish in Seymour as part of the archdiocese’s Connected in the Spirit planning process. (Submitted photo)

By Sean Gallagher

The former Our Lady of Providence Parish in Brownstown helped bring Linda Jackson back to the Church.

She had grown up as a member of St. Ambrose Parish in Seymour. But when she was in her 40s, she stopped practicing her faith—until her elderly father needed her help to get to church.

So Jackson, 62, took him to Mass at Our Lady of Providence, which at the time was near where he lived and had a Sunday Mass time that was convenient for him.

She soon discovered that the small Seymour Deanery faith community—made up of 43 households—rejuvenated her faith.

“If they needed anything, they would call me, because I lived so close to it,” Jackson said. “It was a lot of responsibility, but I loved it.

“It strengthened my faith because I didn’t look at it as something I had to do. I looked at it as something I got to do. I looked forward to doing it and being there.”

When Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin announced in February that Our Lady of Providence Parish would be closed and merged with St. Ambrose on July 1, Jackson was angry.

“It was very difficult at first,” she said. “It was a hard journey. But through prayer, I found peace.

“You can’t lose anything unless you let it be lost. I’m not losing Our Lady of Providence. It will always be there in my heart and my memories.”

The closure of Our Lady of Providence Parish and its merger with St. Ambrose was part of the archdiocese’s Connected in the Spirit planning process, which began in November 2014 for the Bloomington, Connersville and Seymour deaneries.

Members of St. Ambrose Parish, led by its pastor, Father Daniel Staublin, are working to welcome the former members of Our Lady of Providence into their faith community.

For St. Ambrose parishioner Sylvia Rust, this is an important task—and a personal one. Living in the middle of Jackson County about halfway between the two churches, two of her six children were baptized at Our Lady of Providence.

“It’s very important to welcome those people properly,” Rust said. “They were deeply rooted in that church.

“Things happen in life that we might not understand. We need to rely on the providence of God and see that there’s something in store for us. We need to be welcoming.”

Members of St. Ambrose have made personal phone calls and visits to former members of Our Lady of Providence. They have also invited them to become involved in various ministries at St. Ambrose.

A welcome dinner for former members of Our Lady of Providence Parish took place at St. Ambrose on July 9.

Reminders of Our Lady of Providence can also be found at St. Ambrose. The Book of the Gospels that was used at Our Lady of Providence Church is now used at Masses in the church in Seymour. And a votive candle stand from the former Brownstown parish that features an image of Our Lady of Providence is now being used at St. Ambrose Church.

“They’re opening their arms, their hearts, their prayers and their thoughts to us,” said Jackson. “Father Dan has done the same thing. They have really made us feel welcome.”

Father Staublin also noted that while Our Lady of Providence Parish has been closed, its church remains open for occasional liturgies, including a wedding that is scheduled to take place in October.

“The church hasn’t closed,” he said. “It’s changed. But it’s still there, and it will still be used as a worship site for funerals, weddings, baptisms and other kinds of special liturgies.”

He recognizes, though, that the closure of the parish is difficult for many of its former members.

One of them is Maureen Pesta, who had been a member of Our Lady of Providence for 45 years and was “deeply disappointed” by Archbishop Tobin’s decision.

“My faith is not affected by what people say or do,” Pesta said. “I cope with this unfortunate development in my usual ways—feeling gratitude for family and friends, creating artwork and praying for a bit of wisdom.”

Father Staublin and the members of St. Ambrose have also been praying for wisdom to seek the best way to move forward after the merger of Our Lady of Providence into St. Ambrose.

There is now one parish in Jackson County made up of members from diverse backgrounds, Father Staublin said.

“We’re all part of the Catholic community of Jackson County, whether we’re from the old Our Lady of Providence Parish, whether we’re Latinos, whether we live in Seymour or out in the county,” Father Staublin said. “We’re all still one faith family.”
 

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

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