August 11, 2017

Parish celebrates unity as a ‘sign’ of the times

As the pastor of St. Mary Parish in Indianapolis, Father Carlton Beever has led his parish in displaying signs of “acceptance, tolerance and welcome” throughout the downtown area. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

As the pastor of St. Mary Parish in Indianapolis, Father Carlton Beever has led his parish in displaying signs of “acceptance, tolerance and welcome” throughout the downtown area. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

Father Carlton Beever was on vacation in Virginia when the colorful yard sign caught his attention.

Divided into three sections of green, blue and orange, the sign offered a message of unity in Spanish, English and Arabic—a message of unity embraced in the English translation that declares, “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.”

As he absorbed that message, Father Beever felt it struck to the heart of the atmosphere of “acceptance, tolerance and welcome” that he believes marks St. Mary Parish in Indianapolis, the faith community he serves as pastor.

After researching the origins of the yard sign, Father Beever returned from vacation and asked his parish council to approve buying 200 of them—an approval that came quickly.

“We’re in a very diverse area—downtown,” Father Beever says. “More and more people are coming from different backgrounds and countries. We’ve had a strong Hispanic presence, and there are people from Korea, Japan, China, Nigeria, Holland and Poland.

“We have homeless people who come here to worship, white members, black members, professional people, poor people. Our parish is kind of a melting pot.”

It’s also a parish whose members quickly dotted their yards and the downtown area with the signs, which were made available at cost.

“Anything we can do to reach out to others and make them feel welcome is important,” Father Beever says. “Our parish is known for immigration. First it was the Germans, who originally founded and built the church. The second wave was the Hispanic community. And now the third wave is multi-cultural and multi-country.”

The pastor is also encouraged that similar signs have appeared in other areas of Indianapolis. He believes the message on the sign is an important one at this time in American society. He’s also proud that St. Mary Parish is trying to live that message.

“It really shows hope for the world—that people can accept each other and worship together with each other. We’re open to anyone who wishes to be here, and we’re trying to share that sense with others.” †

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