December 9, 2011

Indianapolis North Deanery parish celebrates 50 years

Members of the third-grade class at St. Luke the Evangelist School in Indianapolis are all smiles during the parish’s Jubilee Jam Festival on Sept. 24 on the grounds of the Indianapolis North Deanery parish. The third-grade students are, from left, Elena Telesco, Caroline Kiefer, Julianne Vaughan and Claire Bromund. A special Mass to mark St. Luke’s 50th anniversary was celebrated that evening. (Submitted photo)

Members of the third-grade class at St. Luke the Evangelist School in Indianapolis are all smiles during the parish’s Jubilee Jam Festival on Sept. 24 on the grounds of the Indianapolis North Deanery parish. The third-grade students are, from left, Elena Telesco, Caroline Kiefer, Julianne Vaughan and Claire Bromund. A special Mass to mark St. Luke’s 50th anniversary was celebrated that evening. (Submitted photo)

By Sean Gallagher

The two decades following the 1945 conclusion of World War II were a time for a boom in births, and in the growth of cities and towns across the country.

The Church in the United States was as affected by these trends as any other institution.

From 1945-65, 22 parishes were established in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. One of the last ones founded was St. Luke the Evangelist Parish on the north side of Indianapolis.

When Father Paul Courtney was named its founding pastor in 1961, St. Luke the Evangelist Parish had 270 households among its charter members. Fifty years later, it is one of the largest parishes in the archdiocese with nearly 2,000 households.

“In the life of a parish in the archdiocese, 50 years really isn’t very long,” said Msgr. Joseph Schaedel, who has served as St. Luke’s pastor since July. “There’s only a very few parishes—I think four or five—that are younger than we are.

“But 50 years has resulted in so many accomplishments at St. Luke. We have 607 children in school. The school is the largest it’s ever been in the history of the parish. And I think that there are very few schools, if any, in the archdiocese that can say that.”

The celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of St. Luke began in September, and will conclude next June. An anniversary Mass was celebrated on Sept. 24.

Father Courtney served either as pastor or co-pastor of St. Luke until 1984—nearly half of its history.

He was also dearly beloved by some of the Indianapolis North Deanery parish’s first members.

“We considered him a very holy man without wearing it on his sleeve,” said Jim Hackl, who, along with his family, joined the parish in 1968 when they moved to Indianapolis from New Jersey. “He was very holy, intelligent, just a wonderful man. He had his own quiet way of leadership.”

Hackl’s wife, Christine, appreciated how Father Courtney helped her and her family to feel welcome. He encouraged her to help organize parish social events. Jim later served as the co-chair of the building committee of St. Luke’s current church, which was completed in 1981.

“He was friendly and outgoing,” said Christine. “He helped us get acquainted right away with some of the people in the parish. We made some good friends.”

From its beginning, St. Luke has been the home for many young families that have enrolled their children in the parish’s school.

Dick and Mary Jane Baxter joined St. Luke just months after its founding. All of their six children were students at St. Luke School.

Mary Jane credits the school for nurturing their faith, which continues to be strong today in their five surviving children.

“The great joy of our life is that all of those five remaining children are very close to our Lord,” she said.

Maggie Spencer attended St. Luke School through the eighth grade, graduating in 2002. She appreciated the education she received there so much that she returned as a kindergarten teacher.

“I absolutely love it,” she said. “Some of the teachers that taught me are still teaching here. I learned a lot of things from them, and am receiving a lot of support from them as well.

“I could not be happier to be back here. Honestly, this was my dream job.”

Spencer is also happy to be a member of the parish in which she grew up.

“The people are very close,” she said. “If you have any special intentions, people are always there to pray for you. A lot of people go to daily Mass here. And it’s wonderful to come any day and see a familiar face. I would definitely see myself sending my children here and raising my family in this [parish].”

Many of those prayers are offered up before the Blessed Sacrament at St. Luke’s perpetual adoration chapel, which was built in 1997.

“I think one of the finest things that we’ve done in all these years … is the adoration chapel,” said Mary Jane Baxter. “It’s promoted more devout participation in the practice of the faith.”

It was that love and practice of the faith that came to the mind of Msgr. Schaedel when he was asked to describe the defining characteristics of this now 50-year-old faith community.

“The first word that comes to mind for me is fidelity,” he said. “The parish was established for certain purposes 50 years ago—mainly to serve the sacramental needs of people on this side of town and then to educate the children in the school. And we’ve remained faithful to that mission in all 50 years.”

(For more information on St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, log on to www.stluke.org.)

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