News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

April 9, 2012

Easter services at St. Mary-of-the-Woods: A Miracle Retold

Hundreds visit church for special service

TERRE HAUTE — The miracle of a risen Christ doesn’t stop at an empty tomb, church leaders told the devout on a brilliant Sunday morning.

Giant bells ringing called Christians to worship, and hundreds streamed into the Church of the Immaculate Conception tucked behind the trees of St. Mary-of-the-Woods. The 172nd observance of Easter Sunday rose with a bright sun and cool breeze, surrounded by the blossoms of an early spring.

Rev. Dan Hopcus took his homily from the Gospel of John 20:1-9, reminding rows full of participants that witnesses to the tomb found empty were quite surprised at first. The body of Jesus Christ, which was placed therein after his death by crucifixion Friday, was missing, only to be discovered later as he appeared to them resurrected.

And that, he explained, is when their work really began.

“The same holds true for us. We cannot stop at the empty tomb,” he said, later invoking the writings of the Apostle Paul which remind Christians to focus on another resurrection to come. “Our resurrection.”

For more than 2 billion Christians worldwide, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is key to the faith, and its observance an integral tradition. Denise Wilkinson, General Superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, said the first Easter services were offered there in the woods west of the Wabash River 172 years ago. She herself has been to each during her 49-year tenure there.

“And that’s always a good reason to celebrate,” she said of the tradition’s longevity.

Hundreds turned out in agreement, filling the sanctuary. Belief in the resurrection was attested to by the gurgle of babies held by fathers, and announced through the pipes of an organ.

Meanwhile, the scent of brunch floated past the church, out from the Providence Center’s open doors, which began serving at 10:30 a.m.

Hopcus remarked that ritualistic preparations for Easter take a full 50 days.

“And so it’s a monumental celebration,” he said, stating that Christ’s resurrection is what God does for people. What people do in turn for God is up to them. “If we expect our world to be a good place, a holy place, then it is up to us to be witness to the tomb of the risen Christ.”

Amber Scott brought her children, Jarrett, 11, and Abigail, 9, to the service, singing along with the prayers of praise.

“We’ve come out on Christmas and other times,” she said of the Church of the Immaculate Conception. Not a Roman Catholic herself, nor a member of any other church, the health care worker said her family has been attending services of significance there since she began working for the Sisters of Providence six years ago. “It’s nice and we always feel welcome.”

Jarrett said he enjoyed the morning’s service about Christ’s victory over death.

“I think it’s amazing,” he said.

Abigail too said she enjoyed the service, particularly the singing, and Easter in general.

“I like spending time with my family,” she said.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or


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    March 12, 2010