Members of Catholic churches in the Batesville Deanery learned June 6 how their parishes will be restructured.
Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin held a press conference at St. Louis Church, where he announced his decisions that will affect 30 parishes. Many members of those churches were in attendance.
He announced three models for the Catholic communities: Merged or consolidated churches create a new parish configuration which is able to provide many more activities and opportunities than the original ones could have managed on their own. Linked ones are produced when two parishes share a pastoral leader and cooperate in as many ways as possible. Partnerships are created through the use of joint programs, sharing of staff and the use of joint councils, commissions and programs.
Tobin’s decisions include:
• St. Anne, Hamburg, and St. Mary of the Rock, St. Mary’s, merging into Holy Family, Oldenburg;
• St. Nicholas, Sunman, and St. Anthony, Morris, being linked and partnering with St. Louis, Batesville;
• St. John the Evangelist, Enochsburg, and St. Maurice, St. Maurice, merging and becoming part of a new parish to be established in northern Decatur County and partnering with St. Mary, Greensburg;
• St. John the Baptist, Dover, St. Joseph, St. Leon, St. Martin, Yorkville, and St. Paul, New Alsace, merging to form a new parish;
• Holy Guardian Angels, Cedar Grove, merging into St. Michael, Brookville, and St. Peter, Franklin County, forming a partnership with St. Michael;
• St. Pius, Ripley County, merging into St. Charles Borromeo, Milan, and that church and St. Mary, Aurora, establishing a parnership;
• St. Denis, Jennings County, merging into Immaculate Conception, Millhousen, and that church partnering with St. Maurice, Napoleon, and St. John the Baptist, Osgood;
• St. Joseph, Shelbyville, and St. Vincent de Paul, Shelby County, being linked;
• St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Bright, and St. Lawrence, Lawrenceburg, establishing a partnership; and
• St. Mary Magdalene, New Marion, merging into Prince of Peace, Madison.
As a result, St. Anne; Holy Guardian Angels; St. Mary of the Rock; St. John the Baptist; St. Joseph; St. Martin; St. Paul; St. Denis; St. Mary Magdalene; St. Pius; St. Maurice, St. Maurice; and St. John the Evangelist will close.
The archbishop noted that anyone who wants to challenge the decree must file a petition within 10 days.
A parishioner from St. Anne’s, Hamburg, tearfully revealed her sorrow with the news that her church was closing. “When I was a young girl, our church burnt down, and 37 years ago a tornado destroyed it .... This is a sad day.”
Tobin pointed out, “Believe me, I understand .... The diocese where my mother lived went through this 10 years ago. The parish where she began worshiping as a young girl, where I celebrated my first Mass and where my father’s funeral was closed. Those tears were reproduced in my family and others. That’s what made me so gun-shy knowing what the pain was .... However, I think this was a respectful process, and I think the archdiocese is going to be healthier, even though that doesn’t take away your pain.”
He explained, “Two years ago, pastoral leaders and lay representatives from the parishes in the Batesville Deanery entered a planning process called Connected in the Spirit ... to discern where God is leading the church in central and southern Indiana and to discuss how the Archdiocese of Indianapolis should change its structures in order to carry out its mission today and in the future.
“Factors, such as demographic shifts in Catholic populations, concentrated density of a parish in a limited geographical area, history of declining Mass attendance and sacramental activity, increasing economic challenges that threaten sustainability, decrease in the availability of clergy to staff parishes and review of facilities have influenced the pastoral plan.”
Afterwards, as attendees left the church, it was very quiet, and some were visibly upset, while others talked in small groups.
For more information on the archbishop’s decree, persons can visit www.archindy.org.