March 27, 2020

Father Richard Eldred was pastor of parishes in Lawrence County

By Sean Gallagher

Father Richard EldredFather Richard Eldred, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Mitchell and St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Bedford, died on March 18 at St. Vincent Dunn Hospital in Bedford. He was 70.

Because of measures prohibiting large public gatherings due to the coronavirus outbreak, a private committal service was celebrated at Calvary Cemetery in Terre Haute. A memorial Mass for Father Eldred is expected to be celebrated at a later time.

In a 2015 interview with The Criterion, Father Eldred spoke about his love for priestly life and ministry, which he embraced when he was nearly 50 years old after working for more than 20 years in his family’s moving and storage business in Terre Haute.

“You have your challenges just like anyone does in life, but I really enjoy being a priest,” Father Eldred said. “The peace and joy as a priest are off the charts. You have this wonderful knowledge of the presence of the Lord in your life.”

During the 15 years of his ministry to the Catholic community in Lawrence County, Father Eldred sought to share that presence with many people in need through an array of charitable ministries he helped to found in Bedford.

They include Becky’s Place, now an agency of archdiocesan Catholic Charities Bloomington that offers shelter for homeless women and children; a local chapter of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and a thrift store; and the Men’s Warming Center of Bedford.

Deacon David Reising, who ministered with Father Eldred from the time of the deacon’s ordination in 2008, learned much from his pastor about how to serve the needs of others.

“He could bring people together,” Deacon Reising said. “He was the catalyst that got things going. If it hadn’t been for him, these things wouldn’t have come to completion.”

As good as he was at organizing large-scale ministries involving many people from the broader community, Deacon Reising said that what drove Father Eldred in this work was always his love for Christ and other people.

“You could see that love there,” Deacon Reising said. “He was such a people person. He loved people and loved to do things for those that were in need.”

That love was nurtured through Father Eldred’s devotion to prayer and to the Eucharist in particular.

He helped to found two perpetual adoration chapels in the archdiocese: at St. Thomas More Parish in Mooresville and at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Bedford.

“All of those things started with prayer,” Father Eldred said in a 2017 interview with The Criterion of the connection between his ministry of charity and the Eucharist. “We have Catholics and non-Catholics that have found peace by being here in our adoration chapel.”

Father Eldred also had a great love of the priesthood and did what he could to pass it on to others. Father Rick Nagel, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, knows this personally.

At one point during his priestly formation, Father Nagel was considering leaving the seminary, but first wanted to go on a retreat at Medjugorje, a Bosnian town where the Blessed Virgin Mary is said to have appeared many times since the early 1980s. The problem was, he needed a priest to serve as a spiritual director during the retreat and couldn’t find one.

When he spoke with Father Eldred about it, the priest offered without hesitation to be his spiritual director. Father Nagel had a profound experience during the retreat that he said “affirmed that I was supposed to stay in and continue my journey to the priesthood.

“I wouldn’t be a priest today if it weren’t for him,” Father Nagel said.

During the retreat, Father Nagel saw a man approach Father Eldred on a sidewalk asking him to hear his confession. Without hesitation, Father Eldred agreed to do so. Soon, a long line of people formed and he was hearing confessions four hours later.

“He was just so open to the Spirit all the time,” Father Nagel said.

That openness to the Spirit was also reflected in an attraction to the goodness in the people around him.

“He was forever an affirmer of people,” Father Nagel said. “He was always affirming people in ministry. He encouraged young men to think about their vocation. He was constantly thinking about others and where they were at in their lives. That was one of his primary gifts.”

Richard William Eldred was born on Aug. 24, 1949, to the late John and Beatrice (Bledsoe) Eldred in Terre Haute and grew up as a member of St. Patrick Parish. He graduated in the western Indiana city from the former Archbishop Paul C. Schulte High School in 1967 and from Indiana State University in 1971.

Father Eldred worked for more than 20 years in his family’s moving and storage business in Terre Haute before discerning a call to the priesthood and becoming an archdiocesan seminarian in 1994.

He received priestly formation at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee and at Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wis.

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein ordained Father Eldred to the priesthood on June 5, 1999, at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. He celebrated his Mass of Thanksgiving on June 6, 1999, at St. Patrick Parish in Terre Haute.

Father Eldred’s first pastoral assignment was as associate pastor of the former parishes of Holy Family, St. Andrew and St. Mary, all in Richmond, serving there from 1999-2000. He then ministered as the associate pastor of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis from 2000-01.

Father Eldred served as administrator and later pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Mooresville from 2001-05.

In 2005, he was assigned as pastor of St. Mary Parish in Mitchell and St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Bedford, which he continued to serve until his death. He also ministered as the dean of the Bloomington Deanery from 2016 until his death.

He is survived by a brother, John Eldred of Terre Haute.

Memorial gifts for either the Vocation Department Endowment for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis or for

St. Patrick School of the Terre Haute Deanery Endowment may be sent to 1400 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN, 46202; or gifts may be sent to the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, 1 Providence Place, St. Mary-of-the-Woods, IN, 47876. †

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