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Last updated 12/16/2016 11:26 AM

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

HEROES Promote Healthy Living

By Trisha Hannon Smith

Third-grade students at Saint Benedict Cathedral school in Evansville are channeling their inner heroes while learning to make good choices.  

Working alongside their teachers and Master Gardener community volunteers, the students are caring for two garden towers to plant organic foods and herbs in order to enrich student knowledge of healthy lifestyle choices.

St. Benedict School is in its third year of the HEROES initiative program, which stands for Healthy, Energy, Ready, Outstanding, Enthusiastic Schools.  The HEROES Initiative is a three-year, school-based health grant provided by Welborn Baptist Foundation. Annunciation Parish’s Christ the King campus and St. John the Baptist School in Newburgh are also local grant recipients from the Catholic education community of the Diocese of Evansville .  

Laura Mesker, Senior Health and Nutrition Coordinator at Welborn Baptist Foundation and community, partners with the students and staff to provide community support.  She sees value in the projects incorporated by the current participating schools.

“All schools have excellent policies and practices in place that offer a healthy environment for learning in the Catholic faith,”  Mesker said. She hopes to see more schools in the Catholic Diocese of Evansville apply for the next round of grants.

 The three-year funded initiative focuses on integrating health and wellness into the whole-child development.  Schools have incorporated salad bars, exercise equipment and gardens, among many other creative ideas, to enrich student knowledge of healthy lifestyle choices.  The program provides technical and financial assistance to schools. More than $250,000 in grants were awarded for the 2016-17 school year to local schools.

The request for proposal process for the 2017-18 school year opens Jan. 6, 2017.  For more information and the proposal link, please visit

'God's Plan For Mary Revealed His Plan For Each One Of Us'

By Tim Lilley

During Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception at St. Benedict Cathedral on Dec. 8, Bishop Charles C. Thompson noted that the story of Archangel Gabriel’s appearance to Mary – announcing that she would conceive and bear a son, and name him Jesus – includes a message that remains valid today.

“God’s plan for Mary revealed His plan for each one of us as children of God,” Bishop Thompson said in his homily. “And like Mary, we have to strive to listen; we have to strive to have the courage and the humility to recognize that we are humble servants, humble witnesses and humble instruments of the Lord.”

The bishop concelebrated Mass with Benedictine Father Godfrey Mullen, Rector of St. Benedict Cathedral. Deacon Thomas Kempf assisted. Students and faculty from St. Benedict Cathedral School attended, with students singing in the choir for the Mass and serving as lectors.

“We celebrate today how Mary shows us how to be obedient, how to be humble, how to recognize God’s mercy and love at work in us even when we don’t understand … and how to trust; how to trust in God,” Bishop Thompson said. “Let us pray for the grace that, like Mary, we may stay open to that encounter with God’s grace.”

He added, “Pope Francis, in beginning the season of Advent, asked us simply to keep our hearts and minds open to encountering the sacred presence of God not only in Mass, but in each other, in our families, in  our schools in our neighborhoods – wherever we are.”

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

Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend

Catholic Charities: Extending a hand to those in need

At 18, Alex Coreas came to the United States. It was very difficult to leave his family, but under the circumstances, it was really his only hope.

His native El Salvador was in shambles. The country had been torn apart by civil war for many years. In the aftermath, his homeland descended into anarchy. Violent gangs ruled the cities and towns. They demanded “rent” for protection and terrorized the populace.

“It was getting really bad,” said Coreas. “It was common to see a dead body in the street.”

As he was coming of age in his late teens, the gangs started to recruit Coreas. But he wanted nothing to do with them, aspiring instead to raise a family and have a business career. He rebuffed their advances, a response that put him in great danger.

Then came a terrible earthquake that caused widespread damage in El Salvador. The United States came in to provide aid. For some, there was a chance to be granted a special work permit to come to the U.S. Coreas jumped at the possibility.

Visa in hand, he joined a boyhood friend who was living in Fort Wayne. He found work doing maintenance and construction jobs, always supporting himself along the way. Eventually he became a commercial carpenter, which is still his full-time job.

“There are many like Alex who come to the U.S. legally every year as refugees and asylum seekers,” said Luz Ostrognai, Coreas’ case manager at Catholic Charities. “Because these people are living in the most dire of circumstances, they typically have a great appreciation for being here.”

As the prospect of returning home diminished because of continued unrest in El Salvador, Coreas made the decision to stay in the United States and apply for his green card. Catholic Charities helped him navigate the labyrinth of red tape. With a steady work history and proficiency with English, he was granted permanent residence status.

Day by day Coreas’ appreciation for his new country grew. The freedoms and opportunities he experienced here were in such sharp contrast to the oppressive environment in his native El Salvador.

“Compared to my country, there is no hardship here,” he said. “If you work hard and play by the rules, you can get ahead.”

Ever thankful for his new lease on life, he wanted to show his appreciation for his new country by serving in the military. Once he received his green card, he became a member of the Army National Guard.

“My respect for my new country is big. It’s been 16 years, but every day I still feel a great sense of gratitude for being here.”

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

Diocese of Gary

Reaching out to peers, diocesan students get it write

By Anthony D. Alonzo

HAMMOND and PORTAGE – Local Catholic school students could send hundreds of texts in the time it takes to compose a letter, place it in the mail and wait for a response from their intra-diocesan penpals. Nonetheless, the youths appear won over by the uniqueness of hand-written correspondence.

Students at St. John Bosco in Hammond and Nativity of Our Savior in Portage recently completed the first round of a letter writing exchange as part of a diocesan penpal program that has created a buzz among participating Catholic schools in recent years.

Showing the colorful drawings on one side of large postcard-style letters they received, St. John Bosco second-graders Kaelyn Lee and Madeline Monroe said they could not wait to receive their second responses sometime before Christmas break.

At this stage, the letters from this year’s grade-level penpal program contain mostly basic or “introductory” information.

“I learned that she likes math and reading, and also recess, like I do,” said Monroe about her penpal, who is coincidentally named Madalynn.

Monroe noted the spelling difference in the names and said she notices the smallest details as she double checks her writing before sending it.

At both St. John Bosco and Nativity of Our Savior, students are required to take penmanship classes. In an era when many public schools have erased writing lessons, the diocesan schools still teach cursive writing.

Despite youths’ ever-shortening attention spans, St. John Bosco second-grade teacher Molly Donner said the penpal project seems to be the spark the students needed to apply a focus on their writing.

“It’s taking learning to a new level: the writing for class is one level, but when they know someone else is going to get it, they all of the sudden come up with something better,” Donner explained.

Speaker urges families to bring mercy into their homes

By Marlene A. Zloza

CROWN POINT – Calling the family a “school of love,” speaker David Wells urged close to 400 people attending Family Advent Day on Nov. 27 at St. Mary parish to embrace “a mercy that is unlimited and patient” in nurturing their family and reaching out to their parish and community.

Following the theme “Mercy in the Home,” Wells quickly established that “There is no perfect family,” but gave his audience reason to hope.

“If you read the writings of Pope Francis, you’ll see that all of the opening chapters begin with a sense of our self-deception, a reality check,” noted Wells, who began his career as a teacher, then an advisor for the Diocese of Nottingham in England, and is now an evangelism advisor and speaker. “He says to the Church, ‘It could be better than this.’”

Wells said the Catholic Church “is in danger of getting stuck in a kind of paralysis, and a kind of remoteness and small-mindedness. . .” A tomb psychology, he added, “slowly transforms Christians into mummies in a museum.”

Disillusioned “with reality, the Church and themselves,” these ‘mummies’ “experience a constant temptation to cling to a faint melancholy”. . .feeling “no energy, no zeal.”

Wells boiled down the theme of  “Downton Abbey,” the iconic television show about British gentry in the early 20th century, to “What do you do when you are stuck and the world around you is changing,” and compared it to the predicament the Church is facing. “The pope says that is a real danger for the Church – the world is changing and the Church is ‘stuck’.”

Pope Benedict XVI, Wells added, addressed this fear with the statement: “If in my life I fail completely to heed others, solely out of a desire to be 'devout' and to perform my 'religious duties,' then my relationship with God will also grow arid. It becomes merely 'proper', but loveless.”

In a modern context, Wells said, “People are crossing the sea to save their lives and we are debating what hymns to sing.”

In another instance, Wells quoted Pope Benedict XVI that “The programme (mission) of Jesus is ‘a heart that sees.’ This heart sees where love is needed and acts accordingly.”

Critical to the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI and becoming the foundation of Pope Francis’ papacy, added Wells, is the idea that the role of mercy “is to look through the eyes of love” and forgive the Prodigal Son when you see him “coming over the hill, admitting that he got it wrong.”

“Is mercy a word you use?” Wells asked his audience. “Where do you see it? Where do you experience it?”

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

Archdiocese of Indianapolis

Archdiocese, Cardinal Tobin bid heartfelt farewell to each other during Dec. 3 Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral

By Sean Gallagher

On Dec. 3, 2012, then-Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin said that he and the faithful of central and southern Indiana were “under an obligation of love” to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

He said this in the Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis during which he was installed as the sixth archbishop of Indianapolis.

Four years later to the day, looking back on his time of ministry to and with the Catholics in central and southern Indiana, he said during another liturgy at the cathedral that “we fell in love then, and we remain that way today.”

This Mass was originally planned as a celebration of Archbishop Tobin being inducted into the College of Cardinals on Nov. 19.

But when it was announced on Nov. 7 that Pope Francis had appointed Archbishop Tobin to lead the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., the Dec. 3 liturgy became a bittersweet farewell for Cardinal Tobin and the 1,000 Catholics from across central and southern Indiana who gathered in the cathedral to worship with him, and offer him their heartfelt prayers as he goes forward to lead the Church in northern New Jersey.

Both Masses four years apart were celebrated on the feast of St. Francis Xavier, the 16th-century Jesuit missionary to Asia who is the principal patron of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

In his closing remarks at the end of the Mass, Cardinal Tobin, his voice filled with emotion, made his own the words of St. Paul in his First Letter to the Thessalonians to describe his love for the Catholics of central and southern Indiana, and the mission he was given in ministering to and with them.

“ ‘With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the Gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so beloved have you become to us’ ” (1 Thes 2:8), Cardinal Tobin said.

That emotion was shared by many people present in the cathedral.

Harold Back, 80, a member of St. Michael Parish in Brookville, also attended the installation Mass in 2012. During the past four years, Back has grown to love Cardinal Tobin and was sad to see him go.

“He hit our hearts,” Back said with emotion. “And when he hits your heart, he makes you cry.

“There’s joy today, but there’s also sadness. It’s been a wonderful four years of knowing Cardinal Joseph Tobin. He has meant so much to so many people in the archdiocese. It’s awesome.”

Christkindl Village ‘brings Christ into the streets’ in Indianapolis

By Natalie Hoefer

Seeing a camel, donkey or goat strolling along Georgia Street in downtown Indianapolis at any other time of the year would be shocking. But they’ve become an anticipated cause for smiles and joy in mid-December at St. John the Evangelist Parish’s Christkindl Village.

The animals are part of a live Nativity scene, just one of many ways the one-and-a-half day festival seeks to fulfill its main purpose: to evangelize.

“It brings Christ into the streets,” says Father Rick Nagel, the parish’s pastor. “Our mission is to catechize and share the Good News of the Incarnation.”

He recalls a volunteer telling the story of overhearing a child at the event last year “saying to his parents, ‘Mom, Dad, these people are so happy. I like this place.’

“It’s as simple as that,” says Father Nagel. “The Catholic Church gets such bad news and black eyes. This [event] turns it so that even a little kid can see the Catholic Church is alive and well and joyfully living the Gospel.”

The festival, which is free and runs this year from 5-9 p.m. on Dec. 16 and noon-9 p.m. on Dec. 17, developed out of the parish’s 175th anniversary in 2013.

“We had a planning team for the whole year,” says Father Nagel. “One of the ideas that came up was to start a festival.”

The idea of a German Christkindl (“Christ child”) Market was offered.

“The market idea wasn’t appealing because it supports the consumerism [of Christmas],” Father Nagel says. “We wanted to focus on a Christkindl Village, a real experience of Christmas with a live Nativity, kids learning about the symbols of Christmas, have caroling and sacred music. What a better way to share the Good News of the real meaning of Christ the Incarnate in the streets of Indy.”

The timing was fortuitous. When members from St. John approached the community improving non-profit organization Downtown Indy in October of 2013 about using Georgia Street for a Christkindl Village event, they were told that then-mayor Greg Ballard wanted to start a holiday festival in the city that very year.

With just two months to make it happen, the parish “jumped in,” says Father Nagel. With the help of Downtown Indy, the festival came to life.

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

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