April 20, 2018

Century-old Holy Trinity bells find new home at St. Malachy

Workmen from The Verdin Company in Cincinnati lower onto a flatbed truck the largest bell—weighing 1,800 pounds—from the former Holy Trinity Church in Indianapolis on March 14. The three bells from the Slovenian-founded parish, which was merged in 2014, will be cleaned and eventually moved to St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg. (Photos by Natalie Hoefer)

Workmen from The Verdin Company in Cincinnati lower onto a flatbed truck the largest bell—weighing 1,800 pounds—from the former Holy Trinity Church in Indianapolis on March 14. The three bells from the Slovenian-founded parish, which was merged in 2014, will be cleaned and eventually moved to St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg. (Photos by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

For 107 years, the three bronze bells of Holy Trinity Church on Indianapolis’ west side called local Catholics to worship. But the bells of the Slovenian-founded parish fell silent on Nov. 30, 2014, when the faith community was merged with nearby St. Anthony Parish.

For more than 50 years, former Holy Trinity parishioner Paul Barbarich listened to the bells—and sometimes rang them.

“When I was a kid, we went up [to the bell tower] a few times to try to ring the bells like they rang them in Europe,” he said. “The big bell had its own cadence, then it was joined by the other two. It’s a rhythm that you have to do by hand. … When they got swinging, you had to be careful where you sat so you didn’t get knocked over!”

With a few tears in his eyes, Barbarich, 58, watched as the 600-, 900- and 1,800‑pound auditory icons were removed from their tower on March 14. He shared his thoughts with The Criterion as a large crane extracted the bells one by one.

“It’s a mix of emotions going on today,” he said. Since the merging of his former parish with St. Anthony Parish through the Connected in the Spirit process, Barbarich admitted that “every time I come here [to the Holy Trinity site], it’s hard.

“But life goes on, and I’m just excited that my new parish home and their families will benefit from these wonderful bells.”

The new parish home of Barbarich and of many former Holy Trinity families is St. Malachy in Brownsburg. Through the generosity of an anonymous benefactor, the bronze bells are being cleaned and serviced at The Verdin Company in Cincinnati where they were originally cast in 1907. From there, they will be installed at a yet-to-be-determined location on the grounds of St. Malachy.

There is another former Holy Trinity parishioner who came to St. Malachy, but not because the parish closed. Rather, he was assigned there—Father Vincent Lampert, pastor of the Brownsburg parish since 2015.

“My family have been lifetime members [of Holy Trinity] dating back to my grandparents when they emigrated from Slovenia,” he said. “You could always hear the bells ringing in the neighborhood. It reminded you of the purpose of bells, that we’re called to wake up the Church and be about the things of God.”

Father Lampert noted that “a large contingent of people from the former Holy Trinity Parish and Slovenia live in Hendricks County [where St. Malachy is located], so bringing the bells from Holy Trinity will be a good way to maintain that connection with the roots of many people on the west side of Indianapolis.”

While St. Malachy does have a bell from its own former church structure, Father Lampert said its clapper is missing. The bell now resides in a non-permanent structure.

As for what to do with the Holy Trinity bells, he said the parish “already [has] funds donated to this project. We just need to determine what type of structure to build, what it will look like, if the bells will be functional or just displayed, and then think of the placement of the bells with the parish bell.”

While Barbarich hopes to hear the bells toll once again, having them displayed would show off their special, one-of-a‑kind feature, something he recalls from his childhood ventures to the Holy Trinity bell tower.

“Each bell was named, and the name was [engraved] on the bell,” he recalled. “Lodges were a big social force within the Slovenian community,” he explained. So the smallest and middle bells were named for the local Slovenian lodges: St. Joseph and St. Aloyisius. The largest bell was named Holy Trinity in honor of the parish.

Once the extraction was complete, Barbarich hopped up on the flatbed truck. He knelt next to the middle-sized bell and traced his hands over it. Leaning in close, he wet his thumb and swiped it over a spot of the tarnished surface. And there they were—the fine lines of engraved letters: “Zvon Sv. Alojzija,” Slovenian for “the Bell of St. Aloyisius.”

According to parish history, said Barbarich, “Father Joseph Lavric was the first pastor of Holy Trinity [founded in 1906]. He collected $1,189 back in 1907 for the bells.” Following the closing of Holy Trinity, Barbarich and other members of St. Aloyisius Lodge petitioned to be custodians of a few items from the church, including the bells.

Some former Holy Trinity pieces are already at St. Malachy—statues of Mary, St. Joseph, St. Anthony, Christ the King, two angels “and SS. Cyril and Methodius, patron saints of the Slavic nations,” said Father Lampert. Holy Trinity Church, which is attached via the narthex to Catholic Charities’ Holy Family Shelter, will be used to expand the shelter’s services.

While there is no deadline set for the completion of the bell project, Father Lampert hopes it will be finished in 2019, in time for the 150th anniversary of the founding of St. Malachy Parish.

Barbarich looks forward to the day when he can see and possibly hear the Holy Trinity bells again.

“I feel like [Holy Trinity] is part of my family,” he said. With the bells coming to St. Malachy, he said he feels “like a part of my family is following me to my new parish. I hope they will be there for the next 100 years.” †

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