Four Local Churches To Merger Into Two Separate Parishes; Others To “Link” In The Future

Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Schnellville.

Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Schnellville.

Reprinted from “The Message” / Southwestern Indiana’s Catholic Community Newspaper

EVANSVILLE – Most Rev. Charles C. Thompson, Bishop of the Diocese of Evansville, announced last week the establishment of six new parishes and an Oratory over the next two years as the result of mergers that involve 15 existing parishes. Mergers will take effect between July 1, 2015, and July 1, 2016.

The new parishes include two in Dubois County.  They are Saint Anthony Parish in Saint Anthony, created by the merger of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Schnellville with the existing St. Anthony Parish. Effective July 1, 2016.

And, Saint Peter Celestine Parish in Celestine, created by the merger of Saint Raphael Parish in Dubois with the existing Saint Peter Celestine Parish in Celestine. Effective July 1, 2016.

The bishop also announced that none of the churches involved in the mergers are closing as a result of these moves, which represent the continuation of parish reorganizations that began last year.

St. Raphael Catholic Church in Dubois.

St. Raphael Catholic Church in Dubois.

Other new parishes to be created as the results of mergers…

Saint Anthony of Padua Parish in Evansville, created by the merger of Saint Joseph Parish (a.k.a. St. Joseph in the city) in Evansville and the existing Saint Anthony of Padua Parish. Effective July 1, 2015.

Saints Mary and John Parish and Holy Trinity Oratory in Evansville, created by the merger of Holy Trinity Parish in Evansville with the existing Saints Mary and John Parish in Evansville. Effective April 27, 2015. Saints Mary and John boundaries will expand to include the area formerly served by Holy Trinity.

Good Shepherd Parish in Evansville, created by the merger of St. Theresa Parish in Evansville and the existing Good Shepherd Parish. Effective July 1, 2016.

Saint Francis Xavier Parish in Vincennes, created by the merger of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Vincennes; St. John the Baptist Parish in Vincennes; St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Vincennes; and St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Vincennes with the existing Basilica of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Vincennes. Effective July 1, 2016.

St. Peter Celestine Catholic Church in Celestine.

St. Peter Celestine Catholic Church in Celestine.

Holy Trinity Church, however, will be changed to an Oratory, which the Catholic Church defines as a structure other than a parish church that is set aside for certain forms of Divine worship, such as the celebration of Mass.

Bishop Thompson has designated the pastor of St. John Parish in Daylight to assume responsibility for maintenance and upkeep of the Oratory, subject to direction and oversight by the diocese. Holy Trinity will maintain ownership of the Reitz Chalice and other holy artifacts.

“Over the years,” Bishop Thompson said, “the number of Holy Trinity parishioners who actually live within its territorial boundaries has dwindled to virtually none. Many of those parishioners, while continuing to attend Holy Trinity, also have been attending St John Daylight because the two parishes share similar ecclesiologies. It is not possible for us to merge Holy Trinity and St. John, Daylight, however, because Canon Law mandates that parishes being merged share territorial boundaries.

“As we continue to reorganize parishes across the diocese, we remain focused on keeping the Diocese of Evansville a lively, faith-filled community,” Bishop Thompson added. “Throughout my involvement with this process, which began more than six years ago under Bishop-Emeritus Gerald Gettelfinger, I have been moved by the tremendous faith of our Catholic community. They continue to let the Holy Spirit guide them as they come together to form new parish communities. We already see the fruits of their faith in several new parishes that came to life on July 1.”

Seven additional parishes will link on July 1, 2015, including:

Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Petersburg and Blessed Sacrament Parish in Oakland City will link.

St. Joseph Parish in Princeton and St. Bernard Parish in Snake Run will link.

Holy Cross Parish in Fort Branch, St. James Parish in Haubstadt and Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Haubstadt will link.

Depending on pastoral availability, future additional parish links will most likely include:

Corpus Christi Parish in Evansville and St. Philip Parish in Posey County will link.

St. Ferdinand Parish in Ferdinand and St. Henry Parish in St. Henry will link.

Also, it is possible that St. Mary Parish in Ireland and Precious Blood Parish in Jasper, which are now linked, also will link with one or both of the other parishes in Jasper – Holy Family Parish in Jasper and St. Joseph Parish.

As was the case with the announcements made in September 2013, Bishop Thompson will make pastoral assignments at the appropriate times.

From January through June of this year, Bishop Thompson and Diocesan Chief Operating Officer Tim McGuire held a series of parish listening sessions to discuss reorganization and hear from affected parishioners. Those sessions revealed a few consistent questions regarding the changes that involve merging parishes.

One of the most prevalent involved when and where Masses will be held. As noted above, no churches are closing as a result of the mergers. Pastors will determine Mass schedules and locations for the newly merged parishes, conforming to the Canon Law requirement that no priest regularly celebrate more than three Masses to fulfill the Sunday obligation on any given weekend.

Some listening sessions also included questions about parish and church names moving forward. The decrees establishing new parishes note formal names taken from one of the existing parishes being merged. That name, however, may be changed in the future.

“It is not possible for me or any bishop to change the name of a church,” Bishop Thompson explained. “Changing the name requires Vatican approval. I can, however, authorize the change of a parish name.

“Canon Law requires that we include the name of a parish being established by decree, which is what we did with the changes we announce today. We expect, however, that the pastors and parishioners will review every element of these mergers as they develop the most effective plans for implementation. Among other things, they may request a change in the parish name.”

Some parishes created by mergers announced in September 2013 already have sought and gained approval from Bishop Thompson to change their names. One example is St. Joseph Parish in Dale, which was created by the merger of Mary, Help of Christians Parish in Mariah Hill, St. Nicholas Parish in Santa Claus and the exiting St. Joseph Parish. When the merger takes effect on July 1, 2015, it will become St. Francis of Assisi Parish.

When each merger takes effect, the assets and liabilities of the merging parishes all become part of the new parish. Pastors will form new finance councils, which are required by Canon Law, as well pastoral councils. Responsibility for final decisions remains with Bishop Thompson and parish pastors. Finance and pastoral councils, however, play important advisory roles.

When parishes link, each linking parish maintains its autonomy. The major change resulting from linking is that one priest serves the linked parishes as pastor.

Bishop Emeritus Gerald A. Gettelfinger initiated a strategic planning process more than six years ago that has resulted in the reorganization. During that time, groups from across the diocese have provided input and recommendations that have led to today’s announcements.

“I am truly grateful to all of the people who have contributed to the process,” Bishop Thompson said. “This effort included virtually every constituency in our diocese. The people of this diocese are the Catholic Church in southwestern Indiana, and the people have provided me with the information necessary to reach these decisions.”

“As I did a year ago when we announced the initial mergers – and a I did at the listening sessions earlier this year – I ask our Catholic family today to consider a basic question that involves words we say at every Mass during the profession of our Faith,” he continued. “We say, ‘I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.’ As we move forward with reorganization and create new parish families, I ask that we contemplate whether we truly believe what we profess, or are we just repeating the words?”

Bishop Thompson added that evaluation of the diocesan structure will continue. “We are on a journey to make the Diocese of Evansville as healthy and strong as it can be,” he said “What we announced today is with a focus on our ultimate goal, which is the Kingdom of God; and to achieve our mission, which is the salvation of souls.”

For more information, visit “The Message” online.

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