Editor’s Note, June 2016: The Closing of Holy Cross
In the middle of the night last March, my husband and I awoke to a window-rattling boom. The sound had not been a plane crash (my first guess). Instead, the Church of the Holy Cross’s gorgeous decorative molding—part of its 1922 Italian Renaissance design—had fallen from the facade, littering the sidewalk and street with a pile of brick and stone.
Before the incident, Holy Cross was already in trouble. “Fewer people in the pews” led the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to merge Holy Cross with St. Philip Neri in 2014, says the parish’s Father Chris Wadelton. The church countered with its own proposal to keep the building open, but this past April, Archbishop Joseph Tobin denied the request, saying the $3 million capital campaign needed to repair the structure would not be a “prudent way forward.”
The news made my heart sink. The church is a landmark, its bells tolling to signal mass on Sunday mornings as much a comfort as spying the 136-foot tower that houses them on my evening commute. My husband and I are not Catholic, but the Holy Cross members welcomed us and ministered to neighbors through meals for the needy and invites to the annual St. Patrick’s Day Party, where this former Baptist gasped when raffle items like a wheelbarrow full of liquor rolled across the gym’s stage. The gym and the school will remain open, says Father Chris. But the church building’s fate remains up in the air.
Last month, I wrote about Bethel A.M.E. leaving its home on the canal, and the pastor there reminded me that the people are the church, not the building. But it’s hard to let go of a place your heart has called home—harder still to “recognize inevitabilities with grace,” as writer M.F.K. Fisher put it. Perhaps we could learn something from Bill Hudnut, whom Craig Fehrman interviews in this issue. Faced with the ailments of age, the former mayor approaches each day with grace—a good lesson no matter what you believe.