As I mentioned last week’s column, I recently attended the International Catholic Stewardship Conference in Dallas, Texas. One of the highlights of the Stewardship Conference is the presentation of the Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy Award. This award is presented to a parish for its outstanding work in Christian stewardship formation in honor of the late Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy. Archbishop Murphy was an ardent supporter of ICSC and a passionate promoter of Christian stewardship. He died in 1997, and this award is a fitting tribute to his memory.
The award this year was presented to Saint Paul Catholic Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. Saint Paul Catholic Church began as a community of German, French and Irish settlers, served by Holy Cross Fathers who traveled dirt roads to bring the sacraments from the small college that is now the University of Notre Dame. Mass was initially held in a grove of oak trees, eventually moving to a courthouse basement and then a blacksmith shop.
The church was established in 1858, then in the Diocese of Fort Wayne, Indiana. By the 1870s, a pastoral residence, a school, Saint Paul Academy, and a cemetery were established. The present church, the community’s third structure, was dedicated in 1967 with 2,000 members. The parish is now part of the Diocese of Gary, Indiana
A Newman Center was established at Valparaiso University in 1973 and the parish opened Saint Timothy Center in 1994, providing a preschool program, a day care and a kindergarten. A church renovation was completed in 1994, and in 1997 Saint Agnes Center was established. It provides respite to caregivers of the elderly.
With Father Joseph M. Pawlowski’s arrival in 1998, a deeper stewardship commitment began. The parish welcomed a pastoral associate for stewardship and a stewardship committee. The first ministry fair was hosted in 2002. The parish expanded a free clothing center for the needy and in 2006 completed the new Saint Paul Education Center and school with parishioners’ gifts of $11,000,000.00.
The community received a bequest in 2008 for over $212,000 from a parishioner’s estate to be used to assist seniors through the Marjorie Clifford Senior Circle. Saint Agnes Center received an endowment of over $722,000 to provide tuition help for seniors unable to pay for their day care.
Other areas of ministry outreach include a food pantry which delivers 10 tons of grocery items yearly and a family mission trip to Kentucky, now in its third year. Celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2008, the parish community of some 2,670 now has over 700 parishioners involved in more than 60 parish ministries.
It just so happens that one of our very own staff members used to be an employee at Saint Paul Catholic Church and actually grew up in the parish. Tom Oram, our Director of music and liturgy, served under Fr. Pawlowski for several years as the assistant director of music before entering the seminary. Considering that many of our seasonal parishioners are from this area, I would imagine that more than a few of you are familiar with Fr. Pawlowski and Saint Paul Parish.
I think about the 150 year history of Saint Paul Parish and immediately think about our 25 year history. Although we are a very young parish, we have grown exponentially and accomplished many accolades in our brief history. With our countless ministries, outreach programs and developing stewardship program, I can see St. John the Evangelist Parish receiving the Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy award at some point in the near future.
In His work together,
Scott Schlossberg, MBA