July 31, 2009

St. Jude Parish celebrates 50 years with Mass and memories

Aug. 15 Mass, picnic to mark anniversary

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein prays during the dedication Mass for the new St. Jude Church on Dec. 21, 1997. The old church building was converted into a cafeteria for the school. (Archive photo)

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein prays during the dedication Mass for the new St. Jude Church on Dec. 21, 1997. The old church building was converted into a cafeteria for the school. (Archive photo)

By Kamilla Benko

The overgrown yard is an eyesore in the neighborhood. A fallen tree in the uncut grass irritates the neighbors, and they have repeatedly asked the property owner to remove it.

But the owner is physically unable to cut up and haul away the tree. She also can’t afford to spend $250 to hire someone to clear it. The income from her three jobs is needed to pay her mortgage. Under these circumstances, moving the tree is equivalent to moving a mountain.

But 15 days later, the yard is tidy and the fallen tree is nowhere to be found thanks to the Men’s Club at St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis.

It’s that story and many other stories of service that Father Stephen Banet, St. Jude’s pastor, said showcases the parish’s ownership and pride.

“St. Jude is a parish that parishioners don’t just attend, but literally attend to,” he said. “There is a real sense of reaching out to people.”

St. Jude’s tradition of service will be one more reason for the Indianapolis parish to celebrate its 50th anniversary. On Aug. 15—exactly 50 years to the day after the parish’s first Mass—parishioners will celebrate during an anniversary Mass with Msgr. Joseph F. Schaedel, vicar general, at 5 p.m. A parish picnic will follow the liturgy.

The parish’s first church was built in a cornfield on the south side of Indianapolis to help serve the growing Catholic population in Perry Township. Then-Archbishop Paul C. Schulte designated Father William E. Vollmuth to create a new parish carved from the territory of Holy Name of Jesus, the former St. James the Greater and St. Mark the Evangelist parishes.

Jean Shotts, a charter member of St. Jude Parish, and her family moved into the boundaries of the new parish.

Originally from St. Roch Parish, Shotts said, “We were sad to leave, but it was exciting to start with a new house and new parish. There were mixed emotions.”

Construction began in May 1959, and Father Vollmuth celebrated the first Mass on Aug. 15, 1959. Exactly a month after the first Mass, St. Jude School opened its doors to 328 students.

The original uniforms—white-collared shirts and dark trousers for boys and white blouses with small red ties, green-checkered, pleated skirts and matching beanies for girls—had to be hand-sewn by volunteers.

“We had to purchase the fabric from J.C. Penney and make the skirts. That was before permanent press and each skirt had 50 pleats! That was a lot of ironing,” charter member Marilyn Love recalled for the parish’s 50th anniversary pictorial directory.

Susie Springer, 59, was one of the girls who wore a pleated skirt to school the first year it opened.

Over the years, St. Jude Parish has marked significant passages in Springer’s life. Springer married her husband, Mark, at the church. Her two children attended the parish school for nine years. The tradition continued when her son—also named Mark—married his wife in the parish church of his childhood.

While St. Jude Parish has witnessed monumental changes in the Springer family and for other longtime parish families, the parish is not immune to change.

The original church was converted into a cafeteria for the school. In 1997, a new church building was constructed.

“[During the construction], we had to go to Roncalli High School for Mass,” Springer remembered.

In 1972, the parish hall, known as the Parish Activity Dwelling, was built to accommodate the many activities sponsored by St. Jude Parish. Parishioners have an opportunity to participate in nearly 50 organizations, ministries and outreach programs through the parish.

Somebody is always at St. Jude Parish, whether in the gym, the church or the pastor’s house, Springer said.

The parish has grown rapidly over the years. In 1959, St. Jude was comprised of 350 families. Now, more than 1,800 families call St. Jude home.

While longtime families like the Springers continue to be members of the parish, parishioners and staff also attribute its growth to new families with young children.

In fact, the growth has been a bit of a challenge.

“Because we are so big,” said Joan McKinley, liturgical coordinator, “it’s trying to meet everybody’s needs. It’s easy to focus just on one thing, but you’ve got to remember there are 2,000 more people out there who need something else.”

Though the parish has grown in 50 years, Shotts, now 80, said that one crucial element of St. Jude has remained. It still feels like home.

“I don’t see any change at all. It’s still our home parish,” she said.

The Shotts family has moved twice, each move taking them farther away from St. Jude’s boundaries. But they have remained at the parish for 50 years.

Shotts said she can’t bear to leave the parish which holds many happy memories.

“My husband [Meredith] and I used to go to dances, and we developed a lot of friendships through the church and school activities,” she said. “The church was new, and we were all new friends. We all kind of grew together.”

“We are a grassroots community,” said Father Banet, “and with that, there is solidarity.”

The solidarity fostered at St. Jude Parish is one of the reasons that parishioners are so eager to help one another, Father Banet said.

“We know our roots. We know where we came from,” he said.

St. Jude’s theme for its anniversary year is “Looking Back with Pride and Forward with Hope.” That statement, Father Banet said, describes the parish perfectly.

(For more information about St. Jude’s celebrations, call the Parish Center at 317-375-9444 or visit www.stjudeindy.org.)

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