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Parishioners lend a hand, begin new legacy at 125-year old church with Irish, German roots

GREENSBURG, Ind. (The Criterion) - Eighty families in a small farming and railroading community in south central Indiana gathered together as one to leave behind a legacy.

PART OF A NEW LEGACY - Anthony Treash, a third-grade student at St. Mary School in Greensburg, leaves his “lasting impression” while his mother, Gina, and sister, Sara, wait their turn

PART OF A NEW LEGACY - Anthony Treash, a third-grade student at St. Mary School in Greensburg, leaves his “lasting impression” while his mother, Gina, and sister, Sara, wait their turn

Families of Irish and German descent, bound together by their Catholic faith, sacrificed their time, talent and treasure to build what would become St. Mary Parish in Greensburg, the largest church and congregation in Decatur County. That was the late 1870s and early 1880s.

Today, history is repeating itself.

Exciting times are coming to Greensburg, and St. Mary Parish is no exception. A new major auto manufacturing plant is moving to town, new construction and growth are everywhere, and change is in the air — in many ways the same kind of excitement and growth that was being experienced in the late 1800s.

St. Mary’s families are joining together yet again to leave their footprints, their legacy for generations to come.

The church building is nearly 125 years old, and discussions have been held for several years about whether to make expensive repairs, major renovations to update the campus or build a new campus with a church, office and school.

A feasibility study was conducted over the last few years followed by several parish “town hall meetings.” The final decision was to build a new parish campus.

But where? God provided the answer when a generous parish family donated 25 acres of land one mile from the current site. Their gracious gift creates a footprint to be left behind for those who come after this generation.

Awakening the spirit of excitement

The new St. Mary campus will include a church with a larger sanctuary and a separate gathering area. The modern school will be fully accessible to children and include many features not currently possible.

There will be adequate office space for both the church and school as well as increased gathering space and meeting rooms to serve the parish family. The 25-acre tract will give St. Mary Parish flexibility with parking, outdoor activities and ample space for generations to come, church officials said.

In conjunction with the Legacy for Our Mission: For Our Children and the Future campaign, the parish began its capital campaign in earnest in the spring of 2007 with the formation of several leadership committees.

The first step was the process of awakening the spirit of excitement within the parish. Since that time, more than 300 volunteers have been involved in everything from architectural drawings to youth programs and educational functions to a video production.

This fall, several “Pace Setter” and “Advance Commitment” gatherings were held in advance of the “Commitment Weekends.”

Jay Hatton, one of the campaign co-leaders, is excited by “the overwhelming support and warm acceptance of the parish family.

“I was getting nervous preparing for the fall activities,” he said, “but [was] so happy to see the parish joining together as a family, accepting the project with open arms.”

Steve Adam, the other campaign co-leader, said, “The campaign continues to gain momentum. I was so thrilled last weekend [on Nov. 10-11] to experience the fun and joy the parish family had with the ‘Lasting Impressions’ event.”

‘Not equal gifts, equal sacrifice’

“Lasting Impressions” coincided with the first commitment weekend. Each member of the parish, young and old, dipped their hand in paint and made an impression on a ceramic tile.

These tiles, with each person’s name added, will be “fired” and sealed then used on the walls of the new parish home.

Msgr. Harold Knueven, St. Mary administrator and the parish’s campaign chairman, said that “the enthusiasm of the parishioners was overwhelming.

“After each Mass, I led them out of the side door to the gym and they all happily followed. The elderly who couldn’t follow had their handprints made right in church. It was wonderful to see and be a part of.”

The campaign continues through January with volunteers getting hand impressions of the elderly and homebound.

Following Thanksgiving, volunteers were making telephone calls and personal visits to parish families who were unable to make it to church or who have not completed their intention card. At the completion of this phase of the campaign, a parish-wide celebration will be held in thanksgiving for everyone’s hard work and commitment to the Legacy campaign.

The unofficial theme for the campaign is “not equal gifts, equal sacrifice.” A DVD was produced and distributed to each parish family. The video presentation included pictures from the parish’s past, the parish today and the architectural site plan for the future.

Behind the pictures, a song challenges parishioners to leave a legacy:

“... may all who come behind us find us faithful,
“May the fire of our devotion light their way,
“May the footprints that we leave
“Lead them to believe
“And the lives we live inspire them to obey …”

(From the song “Find Us Faithful,” written by Steve Green)


Republished by Catholic Online with permission of The Criterion, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Ind. (



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