TERRE HAUTE —
The purpose of any parish is for mission, and since 1876, the community of St. Ann Parish has fulfilled its mission by taking care of those in need.
In days long gone, the parish operated an orphanage as well as a school for grades 1 to 8. These days, a clinic in the former school provides medical and dental care to those without insurance or financial means to pay for needed treatments.
But probably the biggest healing that the parish will begin comes next month, when the doors of St. Ann Catholic Church are closed, not because of low attendance or falling community support, but because the need to heal is greater elsewhere.
“We’re privileged to be part of a mission for a time,” said Sister Connie Kramer, parish life coordinator. “That’s just how it is. The broader church has to be taken care of.”
Kramer shared the future direction of the parish on Sunday during a homecoming service that brought more than 200 people to worship, fellowship and tour the former school and current clinic.
“We are going to be organ donors, and offer a transplant to others of the life we have here,” Kramer told the congregation. “Everything we have here is pure gift from a loving God.”
The gift will be shared with the congregation of St. Luke’s Catholic Church in Salyersville, Ky., which lost its church, parish hall, rectory and outreach center on March 2 in a series of storms and tornados that also devastated southern Indiana.
St. Ann’s altar, baptismal font, pews, tabernacle, some candles, vestments and robes will be loaded onto a semi arriving May 22 to take those items to the Appalachia Ministry Center to be stored during the rebuilding of St. Luke’s.
Some physical parts of St. Ann’s will remain at other parishes in Terre Haute. St. Patrick’s soup kitchen will receive a handstitched blessing prayer that hangs near the St. Ann kitchen in the fellowship hall. Sacred Heart, the daughter parish of St. Ann, will receive some candlesticks and a diorama of the Last Supper. St. Benedict’s will receive the Old Rugged Cross that stands at the front of the church during Lent, as well as a lectern for its small chapel. And St. Margaret Mary Hispanic Ministry will receive the Stations of the Cross.
The local congregation has known for about a year that the St. Ann Parish would be closed, and for many it has been hard to accept.
“Many in the parish are confused as to why the church is being closed,” said Ted Brentlinger, head usher during Sunday’s homecoming service.
Most Sundays, attendance is around 130 to 150, he said, and on Easter Sunday attendance reached 212.
But Kramer explained later that archdiocese leaders looked at the number of members and parishes in the Terre Haute area and saw that parishes could be merged, saving resources.
While many see it as a tragedy to close the parish, she said, “What I believe of our community is that it is of one mind and one heart. Our gift to each other is faith.”