June 12, 2020

Archbishop Thompson celebrates Mass with two historically black parishes

Gretchen, left, Austin and Reggie Horne, members of Holy Angels Parish in Indianapolis, smile in their car after worshiping at an outdoor Mass celebrated by Archbishop Charles C.  Thompson at the parish school’s parking lot on June 7. Worshipers remained in their cars during the Mass to observe COVID-19 safety guidelines. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Gretchen, left, Austin and Reggie Horne, members of Holy Angels Parish in Indianapolis, smile in their car after worshiping at an outdoor Mass celebrated by Archbishop Charles C. Thompson at the parish school’s parking lot on June 7. Worshipers remained in their cars during the Mass to observe COVID-19 safety guidelines. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

On June 7, the feast of the Holy Trinity, Archbishop Charles C. Thompson celebrated Mass with two historically black Indianapolis parishes, Holy Angels and St. Rita. The Mass was celebrated in the parking lot of Holy Angels School, with the congregation remaining in their cars and listening via an FM radio transmission of the Mass.

“These are challenging times for us, with what’s going on in our nation and the world, the evil and sin of racism, all the things that tear us apart,” the archbishop said before the liturgy began.

“The feast of the Holy Trinity is about the perfect communion of love, of three persons in one God, and God inviting us into that union with God and with and through one another. …

“This mystery, this feast of the Holy Trinity, is a wonderful time for us as Catholics to remember that we are about that unity … and keeping before us the sanctity of life in the communion we share as the body of Christ.”

Father Andrew Syberg, sacramental minister for both faith communities, delivered the homily.

“Going back to my seminary days, I often heard how challenging the dogma of the Trinity was to preach on—and now I have to do it in front of my boss,” he said with a grin as Archbishop Thompson laughed.

In his homily, Father Syberg noted that Catholics “must allow the actions of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Spirit—to transform us, to transform our actions.

“The authentic disciple has to allow for the possibility that things that may seem to be impossible may not be so impossible after all,” he said, a fact especially relevant in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and recent racial unrest.

“If we don’t allow ourselves to be pushed past what we think we can endure, we will never find forgiveness for the unforgivable, or love for the unlovable. Faith in what is beyond our ability to comprehend will elude us. Hope in situations that appear to be hopeless will evade us.”

But embracing “the tension that comes from bending a bit” results in a better understanding of the truth, Father Syberg continued.

“Our perception of what is actually possible will change. And as we expose the lies of the devil—who by the way wants nothing more than to destroy humanity’s relationship with God and one another—we must continue to pursue the truth that is the Trinity.

“As we do, we will come to a greater understanding of how life-giving the truth actually is, … [and] we will arrive at a place where the truth is all we will ever want.”

Holy Angels parishioner Gretchen Horne said she appreciated “the link between the happenings in the world today to the theme of Holy Trinity Sunday. Even in times of unrest and pain—and just in life in general—it’s important to remember that we’re part of a community.”

The Mass with the archbishop was “the first time I’ve had Communion in three months,” said Gretchen’s husband Reggie Horne. “It was great to have that experience back, to be back worshipping with others. And then having our archbishop celebrate with us made it more special.”

He said having Archbishop Thompson celebrate Mass with the two parishes was “appreciated at this time of racial unrest. Your faith remains strong, and we know God is with us, but to have the archbishop come together with the black community at this time was a blessing.”

Yet through such trying times, including the pandemic, “We have to say thanks to God,” said Kerry Conwell of St. Rita Parish. And coming together to celebrate the Mass—even if in cars—is “a great way to say thank you to the Lord for all he’s done for us.”

Before offering the final blessing, Archbishop Thompson shared a story from his early days as a priest.

He recalled the school of the parish he was serving wanting to form a girls’ basketball team but having only six girls in the whole school, one of whom had never played the sport. The other girls convinced her to join, telling her all she had to do was sit on the bench.

During the first game, a teammate fouled out, and the girl had to go onto the court.

“The ball was thrown to her, and three players from the other team came after her,” he said.

“As they ran toward her, she put the ball under her left arm and then made the sign of the cross. The three girls just stopped and looked over at their coach. They didn’t know what to do.”

The incident, Archbishop Thompson said, illustrates the power of the Holy Trinity.

“We live in a lot of social unrest, we live in this pandemic, we live in a world of violence, chaos and injustice sometimes,” he said.

“Let us remember not to be fearful. Let us try to be like that little girl, to trust in the Holy Trinity.

“The sign of the cross is a powerful, powerful weapon against the evils of our day. Let us never lose sight of the power of the Trinity at work in our midst.” †

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