July 6, 2007

A beacon of faith for 100 years: Festive Mass concludes cathedral’s centennial year celebration

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, left, and Father Patrick Beidelman, rector of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis, pray during a Mass on June 29 closing the centennial year of the church. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, left, and Father Patrick Beidelman, rector of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis, pray during a Mass on June 29 closing the centennial year of the church. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

By Sean Gallagher

As he processed into SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis on the evening of June 29, Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein was joined by some two dozen priests and met by a congregation of hundreds and a choir, accompanied by organ and brass instruments, singing their festive praises to God.

It was the start of a liturgy to close a year celebrating the 100th anniversary of the cathedral’s dedication.

How different the occasion was than that cold day on Dec. 21, 1906, when Bishop Francis Silas Chatard dedicated the cathedral at 6 a.m., accompanied by only a handful of local clergy.

He chose a private liturgy with no fanfare because the cathedral had just been completed, and he wanted to celebrate Christmas Mass in it.

Archbishop Buechlein, in remarks at the start of the June 29 Mass, recalled not so much the glory of the cathedral church but of the worship given to God in it by scores of Catholics during the past 100 years.

“We think especially of the parishioners past and present,” he said. “… Many of our priests were ordained in this cathedral church. … Many have been married here. … Six of our beloved archbishops and a large number of our priests were buried from this cathedral. So were faithful parishioners. …

“And so we come here this evening with many memories and intentions and a lot of gratitude.”

During the homily, current Cathedral Parish pastor Father Patrick Beidelman recalled the many changes that have occurred to the cathedral over the past century and the many changes that have happened in people’s lives through liturgies that have taken place there.

“But the profound changes that are most important to us today—as they were in the case of St. Peter and St. Paul—is what happens to us because of the saving death of Jesus Christ,” Father Beidelman said.

“How do we need to change?” he asked the congregation. “How do we need to change to be more like them? How do we need to change to be ultimately more like Jesus? It is our own personal conversion that this cathedral and this great feast should lead us to … .”

One person at the celebration experienced a great change in her life in the cathedral 75 years ago.

Missionary Sister of Our Lady of Africa Demetria Smith, archdiocesan mission educator, was baptized in the cathedral in 1932, a week after she was born.

After ministering in Uganda for decades, she returned to her Indianapolis home in 1995 and once again became a member of Cathedral Parish.

“This is just wonderful,” said Sister Demetria of the liturgy.

“I really feel blessed. I think it’s a wonderful, wonderful experience to be able to live to this day. I think about my parents, how happy, how proud, they would be.”

Father Rick Ginther, who served as pastor of Cathedral Parish for 12 years, was one of the Mass’ concelebrants.

“I really enjoyed coming back to celebrate again and to just enjoy not only the [cathedral] but the liturgy and the people,” said Father Ginther, who serves as pastor of St. Patrick and St. Margaret Mary parishes in Terre Haute.

Also celebrating an anniversary that night were members of the Knights of St. Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary, Court #191, many of whom are members of Cathedral Parish.

Their court was established 30 years ago.

Tangalia Wilkerson, a Lady of St. Peter Claver and a member of Cathedral Parish, was on hand for the liturgy.

“This is such a blessing for me,” she said. “Being a Lady of St. Peter Claver, it’s a privilege to serve our parishioners. Just to be a part of the parish is a blessing.”

For Father Beidelman, the closing of the cathedral’s centennial year was much more than about giving thanks for the past 100 years.

The future was also on his mind.

“As we remember the past today, let us look forward to a future full of hope,” Father Beidelman said, “knowing that God will guide us on a path of profound change as he fashions us into the image of his only Son, our Lord.” †

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