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Last updated 09/12/2014 12:15 PM

Catholic News Around Indiana

Catholic News Around Indiana logoThe Catholic newspapers of the five dioceses of Indiana -- Evansville, Fort Wayne-South Bend, Gary, Indianapolis and Lafayette -- have agreed to share news stories with each other on a regular basis. They are compiled by Brandon A. Evans.

Sometimes these new stories appear in the print edition of The Catholic Moment; many more will be appearing here.


Diocese of Evansville

Music Ministers Share Friendship And Advice

By Anna Schulten (The Message Intern)

Music ministers from across the diocese gathered at the Catholic Center on Aug. 27 to share lunch, and friendship and advice from one parish to another. 

Several music ministers attended the National Association of Pastoral Musicians’ Conference in St. Louis during July, and shared their experiences with the group. “NPM reminded me of the importance of community,” Jenny Gorman of Evansville’s Saints Mary and John the Apostle Parish reflected. “It reminded me that I’m not alone in planning for the large-scale goals of music ministry.” 

Another perk of NPM is its pool of resources. “We were surrounded by wonderful talented people,” added Tom Scheller of St. Matthew Parish in Mount Vernon. “Some pieces we can’t do back home, but there are some other really great ones we can.” 

NPM attendees also discussed how to make choirs more inclusive. For example, some parishes also know the challenge of integrating a bilingual community. “We need to learn more bilingual music. It will help us learn the language,” explained Father Bob Nemergut, a retired priest of the diocese now living in Bloomfield, Ind. “It shows that we are doing our best to incorporate them as fellow Catholics.” 

Paula Alles of Jasper’s St. Joseph Parish spoke on the topic of choir-member recruitment. “Our choir takes a break during July, and we’re thinking about making cards that say, ‘You have a wonderful voice.’ When choir members overhear good singers, they can hand them out, and it’s an easy way to get the word out without pushing too hard.” She added wryly, “I know of a choir director who promised a steak dinner to any current member who recruited someone new. And they got two steak dinners if the new member was a tenor.” 

It would not be a music ministry meeting if the topic of selecting music was not discussed. “They say it takes 100 years for changes in the Church to be implemented,” Bernie Heitzman of St. John Daylight Parish commented. “We’ve seen everything from the 3-chord guitar Mass to 4-part polyphonic chant stuff. And it’s only been 50 years since Vatican II.” 

Many music ministers also are attuned to parish mergers, as our diocese goes through the Strategic Planning process. “Things will change,” Diane Sammet of Evansville’s Corpus Christi Parish acknowledged. “Our parishes are our families, but even our families change. Our choirs are just a small community within the larger parish community.”

Catholics For Habitat Hard At Work

By Tim Lilley (The Message Editor)

Evansville’s Catholics for Habitat group started building a new home Aug. 28. This is the 25th home that Evansville-area Catholics have worked on.

Volunteers from the new St. Boniface Parish worked around showers – some of them heavy – to build the foundation for the home, on South Evans Street.

Volunteers from other parishes will take over as construction continues, and The Message will provide ongoing coverage as the new home takes shape. Evansville Habitat’s Family Selection Committee and Board of Directors approved Amique Thomas and her twins as the partner family for the new home.

If anyone understands the definition of drive, it is Thomas. She is not quite 22 years old, and is looking forward to homeownership and the boost she knows it will give her in life. She has twins – a girl and a boy – who are approaching their second birthday. Every step Thomas is taking now is driven by her dedication to give her children a bright future.

Living in a two-bedroom, two-story apartment, Thomas and her children are ready to have a home to call their own – with working appliances and space all in her name. The energy bills in her apartment are simply too high; and with rent that’s more than she can afford, Thomas is excited to have a simple, stable affordable home for her children to grow up in.

Thomas heard about Habitat for Humanity through a friend who also was a partner family, and now a Habitat homeowner. After hearing more about the program and how to apply, Thomas found that owning a Habitat home was just the right step. She now has a plan to save money, finish her bachelor’s degree in radiology from the University of Southern Indiana, and begin working as an ultrasound technician.

Since becoming a partner family with Habitat, Thomas says this process has shown her how hard people work, inspiring her to also help other people. She explains that the dedication of the Core Crew has given her a new outlook on life and what someone can accomplish. “Things aren’t always as hard as they seem,” she said; “you just do it.”  

After graduating from Bosse High School and moving out of her mother’s home, Thomas’ mantra is to keep moving forward. “This will give me the opportunity to do the things I’ve always dreamed of doing,” she said.

(For news from the Diocese of Evansville, log on to the website of The Message at

Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend

Psalm 91 prayer cards inspire prayer across country

By Kathy Kershner

SOUTH BEND — Genevieve Szynski’s family believes that “the family that prays together … wants everyone to pray together.” Or so her prayer card crusade would lead one to believe.

A personal prayer devotion turned ministry, Genevieve has been praying Psalm 91 every day for well over 30 years. It began soon after hearing the soulful testimony of a fellow prayer-group member giving an account of an encounter with death. Faced with the terror of an advancing tornado, “she knelt down, got her Bible and started reading the 91st Psalm, and it never touched her house. It went right around her.”

“Wow,” marveled Szynski, contemplating the power of Psalm 91 to protect her and her loved ones, “so I’ve been reading the 91st Psalm every day since. “

She described, with fervor, the feeling of the protective power of the Lord working in her life as a result of her devotion. From near-misses on the highway to emerging unscathed from a collision that demolished her car, “and a lot of little bitty things that have happened, I knew that the Lord was with me all the time.”

The joy of such trust might have been enough for 87-year-old Szynski, but it would seem that the Lord has commissioned her to share the Psalm with the world. “I was praying my 91st Psalm and the Lord put it on my heart to have the Psalm printed and to pass it on to others,” she proclaims. Not knowing the first thing of modern technology, design or printing, she called on her daughter Bridget Beutter for help. “She told me in January, I had one year to do it!” Beutter relates.

Originally, Szynski thought to make only enough to share with her five children and 16 grandchildren. The card would be a Christmas present. They were each to be given two, one for the home and one for the car, and each was to promise her to pray it every day — once at home for security and protection and once in the car for safety during travel. But soon 42 prayer cards turned into 1,000 when Szynski learned that her son and granddaughter intended to support the survivors of the Boston Marathon Bombing by attending this year’s race — on the one-year anniversary of the tragic event.

“I find it fascinating that someone mom’s age is ministering to people,” daughter Bridget Beutter confides.

(For news from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, log on to the website of Today’s Catholic at

Diocese of Gary

‘Now is the time for action,’ says activist Chicago priest

By Anthony D. Alonzo

GARY—Father Michael Louis Pfleger’s message was summed up in simple terms, softly spoken at the beginning of his speech to local interfaith religious leaders at an awards brunch in Gary.

“The Book of Proverbs 31st chapter says to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, speak up for the rights of the destitute,” said Father Pfleger, who is pastor of St. Sabina Church in Chicago. “Speak up and judge fairly, defend the rights of the poor and the rights of the needy.”

At the Northwest Indiana Federation of Interfaith Organizations’ annual Martin Luther King-Cesar Chavez Social Justice Awards and Benefit Brunch on Aug. 23, Father Pfleger had Genesis Convention Center audience members on their feet, vocalizing their support throughout his message of social justice.

The federation, that has for 21 years fought for “justice and equal opportunity for all races and ethnic groups,” gathered in downtown Gary to present five service awards to non-denominational and Baptist churches leaders, a Lutheran pastor and a representative of the Gary Muslim Center.

Reflecting the group’s 2014 theme “Who Dropped the Ball? Exposing the Sham of Justice and Organizing for Real Action,” local ministers called for residents to “stay focused on their charge,” and not settle for “band-aid solutions” to urban violence, high unemployment and poor-performing public schools.

Father Pfleger, dressed in his Roman collar and a T-shirt reading ‘Demand Peace’ and ‘Blessed Are the Peacemakers’ quietly approached the podium.

After his opening remarks, Father Pfleger addressed his concerns about living in a “serious and dysfunctional time in this world and in America.” With his voice growing in volume, he spoke of crises overseas, at our southern border and in the nation’s cities.

The Catholic priest said that while people falling in sinkholes have recently made headlines in the media, “whole communities have fallen into sinkholes in America and nobody has done anything to bring them back out. We have hundreds and thousands of brothers and sisters all around this country who’ve been left on the side of America’s Jerico Road.”

Father Pfleger decried three popular “illusions” or attitudes – a “just wait,” a “surrender to hopelessness” and an “it just won’t come to my house” – that debilitate people. The “lies,” he said, from politicians to corporate leaders “usually come about because of false prophets who make false promises just to keep the natives quiet.”

All of these outlooks are unacceptable, he said. “They are not in the tradition of Jesus Christ.”

Area’s first school pantry: Partnership with food bank expands college’s outreach to students

By Steve Euvino

WHITING—College students need to eat, and not just pizza and munchies. Some collegians, however, may not have the funds for a decent meal.

Calumet College of St. Joseph opened a food pantry several years ago. Now, through a partnership with the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, the college hopes to serve more students.

At a press conference on Aug. 22 to announce the partnership, the college’s service engagement club GIVE (Get Involved, Value Everyone) announced it is teaming with the food bank to further develop the area’s first school-based pantry. Members of GIVE will manage the pantry.

“Many people don’t think about the need for hunger relief for college students and their families, but the truth is it’s growing in need,” said Arleen Peterson, executive director of the regional food bank serving nearly 100 food pantries and soup kitchens in Lake and Porter counties. “Students attending college are families in transition who can benefit from additional resources.”

Located in the lower level of the college’s main building, the CCSJ food pantry consists of two rooms, one for dry goods and non-perishables and the other room containing a refrigerator and freezer for meats and produce. The pantry, which prior to the partnership relied solely on donations, also provides some toiletries.

Through the partnership, the college will receive some free food, along with food at reduced prices. Last year the food bank distributed more than 5 million pounds of food and served more than 5,000 persons weekly.

Peterson said one in six persons in Indiana is food-insecure (not knowing where the next meal is coming from), including 104,000 persons in Lake and Porter counties, 30,000 of whom are children.

Jessica Compton, president of GIVE, said the pantry started with donations from faculty and students. The college group sponsors other activities throughout the year to create hunger awareness and stock the pantry.

“We serve as that bridge to bring together individuals who share the same passion for volunteering,” Compton said.

(For news from the Diocese of Gary, log on to the website of the Northwest Indiana Catholic at

Archdiocese of Indianapolis

Pastor says vandalism won’t impact relationship with Muslim community

By Sean Gallagher

Members of St. Bartholomew Parish and two other Protestant communities in Columbus discovered their church buildings vandalized when they arrived for worship on the morning of Aug. 31.

All three incidents involved the spray-painted word “Infidels,” and the citing of a chapter and verse from the Quran that relates to the way in which non-Muslims will be punished for their unbelief.

The vandalism was reported to police in Columbus, who are conducting an investigation, according to Indianapolis media outlets.

Father Clement Davis, pastor of St. Bartholomew Parish, said there is a sad irony in the fact that this kind of vandalism took place in Columbus, and at his parish in particular.

“Columbus, as a community, works hard at encouraging inclusion from diverse backgrounds,” he said. “We, certainly as a Catholic church, have that as part of our responsibility, too.”

Columbus draws people from around the world to work at multi-national diesel engine producer Cummins, Inc., and other businesses located there.

On Aug. 31, two leaders from the Islamic Society of Columbus Indiana called Father Davis when they learned of the vandalism at St. Bartholomew. One was Marwan Wafa, vice chancellor at Indiana University Purdue University Columbus, who has spoken about Islam to St. Bartholomew’s men’s group. The leaders offered any help that might be needed by the parish.

“We have a very good relationship with him,” Father Davis said. “We’ve never had any complaint with the Muslim community. I wanted to assure him that it was not my conclusion that this was anything fomented by their community.”

“There could be some people in the community at large who would say, ‘Oh well, we have to show those Muslims. … We’ll show them,’ ” Father Davis said. “Any action like that would be something that I would repudiate completely.”

In fact, it is Father Davis’ hopes that this incident will actually improve ties between St. Bartholomew and the Muslim community in Columbus—something he sees evidence of in the way leaders from that community reached out to him so soon after the vandalism occurred.

“It bodes well for the future of our doing things [together],” Father Davis said. “Their talk of bridge-building is all good. We’ve got some bridges already in place through individual friendships with members of the community there.”

Program helps Burmese teach its community ‘in their own dialect’

By Natalie Hoefer

At 14, Bu Meh of Burma in southeast Asia had lived all but the first year of her life in a refugee camp in Thailand. Her family sought safety there after fleeing unrest in their homeland, now known as Myanmar.

In the midst of growing up in the confined, unsettled existence of a refugee camp, Meh learned her Catholic faith.

After 13 years, her family was resettled to Indianapolis in 2009—facing a new country, a new culture and a new language.

The one consistency in this world of change was her Catholic faith.

“When you have faith, you don’t let someone tell you something is impossible,” said the now 19-year-old. “Through Christ our Lord, all things are possible.”

Meh, a member of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis, is one of 15 Burmese young adults learning more about their Catholic faith in English through a new Burmese catechetical program, sponsored by the archdiocesan Office of Intercultural Ministry.

According to Franciscan Brother Moises Gutierrez, director of the office, the program was created to develop pastoral and catechetical leaders for the Burmese population in the archdiocese. It will do so through classes, workshops, lectures and more.

“There are about 500 active Catholic Burmese in Indianapolis,” he said. “But it’s not about numbers.

“Burma is only about 3 percent Catholic, but that makes them so proud and passionate about their faith.

“We want to walk with them and give them the tools to develop a stronger Burmese Catholic community in the archdiocese. The way you teach [Catholics of a different culture] is a little bit different because the language is different, the culture is different.”

The first stage of the program, which started in April and finishes in September, focused on defining the Burmese-American-Catholic identity and the basics of catechesis. Future stages will delve deeper into Catholic teachings, theology and the sacraments.

Most of those participating in the program are in their late teens or 20s, with two in their 30s, said Brother Moises, primarily due to their better command of the English language.

“They are so excited about getting training. We thought we’d meet once a month, but they wanted to meet twice a month, so that’s what we’re doing.”

(For news from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, log on to the website of The Criterion at

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