February 28, 2020

Matching gifts could help historic parish build new church

A crane is seen razing Holy Angels Church in Indianapolis on Aug. 22, 2012. Eight years of fundraising efforts to build a new parish church were recently enhanced by two donors willing to match gifts up to $10,000 and $20,000. (Criterion file photo)

A crane is seen razing Holy Angels Church in Indianapolis on Aug. 22, 2012. Eight years of fundraising efforts to build a new parish church were recently enhanced by two donors willing to match gifts up to $10,000 and $20,000. (Criterion file photo)

By Natalie Hoefer

Holy Angels Parish has been proclaiming the Gospel on the near-northwest side of Indianapolis for 117 years—despite not having its own sacred space for eight years.

In 2012, the church structure was demolished due to irreparable damage from weather and age. Since that time, the congregation has been worshipping in Bishop Chartrand Memorial Chapel at nearby Marian University.

The parish school—now a Notre Dame ACE (Alliance for Catholic Education) Academy—still stands just south of the land where the church once stood. Holy Angels hopes to soon have another structure for worship gracing those grounds, a place where the word can be proclaimed and the sacraments celebrated within the neighborhoods of the parish boundaries.

After eight years of fundraising efforts, parishioners hope that two donor offers to match donations will fulfill their dream. One donor will match all donations up to a total of $10,000, and another will match up to a total of $20,000.

Meanwhile, a long-standing angel statue marking the corner of the former church site still extends its gaze along a street named for a man known for encouraging dreams—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street.

The street name—which was changed by the city from Northwestern Avenue in 1985—is appropriate, given Holy Angels’ identification as one of two black Catholic parishes in the city.

Such was not the case when the parish was founded in 1903. But as its surrounding demographics changed, Holy Angels had become home to a predominantly black Catholic congregation by the end of the 1940s.

St. Joseph of Carondelet Sister Gail Trippett, who serves as parish life coordinator for the congregation, proudly ticks off the tremendous fruits that have come from Holy Angels.

“Each generation has embraced the call to spread the mission of Jesus by focusing on the relevant issues affecting their parish in their time,” she says.

“One generation focused on education by building a school for the neighborhood children. And the product of that [effort] cultivated numerous African-American vocations in the archdiocese and to various religious orders,” she notes, listing Holy Cross Brother Roy Smith, Our Lady of Africa Missionary Sister Demetria Smith and the late Father Kenneth Taylor, who not only served as Holy Angels pastor from 2006 until his death in 2019 but also started the archdiocesan Intercultural Office in 1996.

Benedictine Father Boniface Hardin served as associate pastor of the parish from 1965-69. While there, the civil rights advocate and founder of Martin University in Indianapolis conducted public classes promoting racial justice and workshops on unity.

The parish has not been daunted by the lack of its own worship space. Holy Angels maintains its long-running free tax preparation program, raises money for private high school and college scholarships through the Knights of Peter Claver Court #109, gathers donations for a Christmas basket program serving 400 seniors and needy citizens, stocks a neighborhood food box, serves neighbors through assisting with several Society of St. Vincent de Paul programs and educates inner-city youths at its school.

“Building a new church would open the door for the next generation of parishioners to not only continue spreading the Gospel message, but also to continue positively impacting all who live within the parish boundaries,” says Sister Gail. New plans are already drawn to “create viable means to health care access and to expand the ability to provide healthy food within a food desert zone.”

Holy Angels is eager to serve its surrounding neighborhood with its own worship space. To help the parish rebuild its church and continue in its Gospel mission—especially with the two generous matching donations—checks made out to “Holy Angels Parish” can be mailed to Holy Angels Catholic Church, 740 West 28th Street, Indianapolis, Indiana, 46208.

For more information, contact Sister Gail at 317-926-3324. †

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