November 3, 2017

St. Ann Parish in Indianapolis celebrates 100 years of faith

Shirley Verhonik, left, Louise David, Mary Harper and Jeanette Clements, all members of St. Joseph Parish, St. Ann’s sister parish in Indianapolis, pray the Our Father during the Oct. 7 centennial Mass. Harper was a longtime member of St. Ann Parish and baptized in its church in 1920. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

Shirley Verhonik, left, Louise David, Mary Harper and Jeanette Clements, all members of St. Joseph Parish, St. Ann’s sister parish in Indianapolis, pray the Our Father during the Oct. 7 centennial Mass. Harper was a longtime member of St. Ann Parish and baptized in its church in 1920. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

Mary Harper knows a lot about the history of St. Ann Parish in Indianapolis.

She should.

She’s lived through nearly all of it.

Harper, 97, was among the approximately 400 people who attended the Oct. 7 Mass celebrating the parish’s 100th anniversary. Archbishop Charles C. Thompson was the principal celebrant.

“I was baptized in St. Ann’s, I’d say in April some time in 1920,” said Harper, who was born in March of that year.

Harper spent the majority of her life as a member of the parish, but joined St. Joseph Parish in Indianapolis (St. Ann’s sister parish) when she moved to Crestwood Village, a residential community for seniors.

Still, she felt compelled to come home to her longtime parish for the centennial celebration and share fond memories of St. Ann’s, which was founded in 1917 by Father John F. Patterson near Stout Field, a former Army Air Field on the west side of Indianapolis and the current headquarters of the Indiana National Guard.

“It was my church, the old church, but then I learned to love the new one [on Holt Road] then,” Harper said. “That one I loved. I still love that old church. … That’s where my heart was.

“This [new church] is a beautiful place,” she added.

In his homily, Archbishop Thompson cited several momentous realities that have transpired since the founding of the parish 100 years ago near the end of World War I, including several subsequent wars, technological advancements, and the landing of a man on the moon.

“The parish itself has a history of churches, … a history of priests and now deacons, … a history of worship, ministries and services to tell,” the archbishop said. “Through it all, faith has been the hallmark of response to all that transpires both within and beyond this parish.”

According to Like a Mustard Seed Growing, a history of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis from 1834-2009, written by Franciscan Sister Francis Assisi Kennedy, the parish originally used a Quonset hut as a church. A second church, a frame structure, replaced the hut in 1927, and in 1969 a third one, a contemporary round building located on Holt Road, followed.

Based on a feasibility study begun in 1998, it was determined that St. Ann Parish should build a new church closer to the center of Decatur Township to support the growing Catholic population there.

The newest church building is on a portion of a 56-acre tract of land on the southwest side of Indianapolis that was purchased in 2003. On June 28, 2008, a procession of cars moved from the church to the new site for a groundbreaking ceremony. Then-Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein presided at the Mass of Blessing a Church and Altar at the new parish address at 6350 Mooresville Road on Sept. 26, 2009.

“We ourselves who are bound here in faith and love are the living Church set in the world as a sign and witness of God’s love for all,” Archbishop Buechlein told the assembly at the 2009 Mass, which included Father Glenn O’Connor, then the pastor of the parish who helped lead the effort to build the new church. “I come to express my congratulations. I come to commend you for your great faith, and I commend you for what you have accomplished with this new church.”

Like Harper, Alana Schubert Swain has lots of memory at St. Ann Parish. She’s been a longtime member—except for 2 1/2 years when she and her husband Chad lived in Louisville, Ky.—and her grandparents John and Mary Schubert Sr. were founding members of the parish.

“My father, John Schubert Jr., and his brothers and sisters were members of the church, too,” said Swain. “My mother, Dolores Rathz Schubert, started attending Mass there after she and my father were married. My six brothers and sisters and myself attended St. Ann School.”

Alana and her husband were married at St. Ann in 1998, and Chad, who oversees the parish’s website, was received into the full communion of the Church in 2002. Their daughter Emma was baptized there in 2004.

The family’s love and commitment to the parish is evident through their volunteer efforts. Chad has served on the parish council for 11 years, and Alana is in charge of its monthly parish newsletter and its Giving Tree program, which in collaboration with the its St. Vincent de Paul Society chapter helps provide Christmas presents to needy children and food and gift cards to families. They all help out at the annual parish festival, and Alana and Emma also volunteer at Vacation Bible School.

But Alana said their family is no different from many other St. Ann members, who always step up to volunteer.

“The thing that makes our parish special is its parishioners!” she said. “We have people who generously give their time and talents to make our Church the best it can be!”

Alana said that was especially true when it was decided to purchase the land and build the church on Mooresville Road.

“I’ve seen the faith of our parish lived out when we decided to build our current church,” she said. “It took a lot of time and effort from our parishioners, but it got done.”

Father Robert Hausladen, the parish’s pastor since 2012, said he is “constantly humbled” by parishioners.

“This is a parish of beauty in diversity, a church of great faith expressed in lives of generosity and hope, and I am truly blessed to be a part of it,” Father Hausladen wrote in his message to parishioners for the centennial liturgy.

“While facing great obstacles and adversity, St. Ann has made and continues to make tremendous strides in sharing the Good News and building the kingdom of God,” he continued. “It is through the grace of God and constant efforts of so many that St. Ann has been and is a beautiful witness to God’s love.”

As parishioners move forward into the next 100 years, Archbishop Thompson encouraged them to continue to be a faith community committed to prayer.

“Prayer is that wellspring of our discipleship,” he said. “It is through prayer, both individually and communally, especially in the celebration of Mass, that we discern the will of God in our lives in order to take on the heart and mind of Jesus Christ.

“It is that very Christ-centered conviction that has enabled those who have gone before us to persevere in faith, hope and charity, so that you, who are part of this parish today, have that foundation, something to build upon. It must be so with us as well.” †

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