Our Lady of the Lakes

 

Each church that has become part of Our Lady of the Lakes has its own history. For instance, St. Januarius' was a parish by itself for most of existence. On the other hand, St. Andrew's was always a mission church of St. Michael's, with priests from St. Michael's celebrating the Masses and providing for all the sacramental needs. St. Patrick's shared a priest with St. Gabriel's in Hammond sport before being united with St. Januarius' in Naples. St. Mary's and St. Theresa's, formed independently, had worked together for many years.

Each with its own story, the six churches of St. Andrew's, St. Januarius', St. Mary's, St. Michael's, St. Patrick's, and St. Theresa's began to work together. Changing demographics, declining attendance, and reduced number of clergy called for collaboration and sharing of resources. In 1997, our diocese called for every parish in the diocese to undergo a planning process, first as individual parishes reviewing strengths and weaknesses, and then together as regions. Our diocese is made up of twelve regions. Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community is one of these regions.

We are called to be good stewards of the gifts God has given us. Our coming together has not been an easy process. Some may see it as something we had to do only because we have fewer priests. Certainly that is a significant driving force. However, it is more than that. We must ask ourselves, "How do we continue to be a place where people can come to deepen their relationship with God?" We have to use our limited resources wisely. An example of this is sharing of staff. We have one business manager who serves the business needs of all our churches. Another example would be sharing a Director of Faith Formation. Similarly, we share both professional and our lay leadership resources with a combined RCIA program, and one quality sacramental preparation program, which is beyond what we could do individually.

We also needed to ask ourselves about our Mass schedule. This meant looking at the attendance figures versus the capacity of each church, asking how many Masses each church needed for its parishioners. Included in this was a very difficult question, "Is there a need for six churches?" Nobody ever wants to close a church. Yet, there are expenses that go with maintaining six churches. Each building needs electricity, heating fuel, and maintenance. Are there enough people to keep each church open?

So we have reduced our Mass schedule. Unfortunately, St. Mary's in Rushville no longer has a Sunday Mass, and St. Andrew's in Dundee has been closed. These were not easy decisions. Even when it became evident that either St. Mary's or St. Theresa's would no longer have a Sunday Mass, outside help was needed to help decide which would no longer have a Sunday Mass.

We have also been merging the various committees of the parish. For instance, we had three parish councils (St. Michael, St. Januarius and St. Andrew), one combined parish council for St. Theresa and St. Mary, and a ‘parish forum’ structure at St. Patrick’s. There is now one pastoral council that includes membership from around the Our Lady of the Lakes. The Pastoral Council deals with the issues of the parish at large. There are also Care of the Community groups that address the issues particular to each individual church.

Likewise, we now have other combined parish committees into one, such as Finance, Social Ministry, and Liturgy. We are also working towards having one combined RCIA effort for the whole parish.

Combining these groups does not mean each church does everything exactly the same. Each church has its own history and traditions. Each church has a different floor plan. Our combined Liturgy Committee develops ideas that may be achieved in slightly different ways. Likewise, our Social Ministry Committee does not dictate the ministry at each church. We seek to work together in a way that respects the traditions of each church while working together, pooling our resources to achieve the greatest benefit for the people we serve.

After twelve years working together, in 2010 we began the process to formally reorganize as one parish known as Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community. It has been a difficult process and will continue to bring new challenges, challenges that we face together united as one family through our common baptism. May the Holy Spirit always give us the gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord (CCC, 1831) to live as Christian disciples and to deepen our relationship with our Lord.

The following links provide some of the documents that reflect the many considerations that were part of the decisions we have made since coming together.