October 13, 2017

New Albany park evokes both history and Trinity

A dedication Mass was celebrated on Sept. 20 marking the opening of Holy Trinity Heritage Park in New Albany. Shown giving a homily during the outdoor liturgy is Father Wilfred “Sonny” Day, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Starlight. The park is located next to St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities’ social services office building, which was once the church rectory. (Submitted photo)

A dedication Mass was celebrated on Sept. 20 marking the opening of Holy Trinity Heritage Park in New Albany. Shown giving a homily during the outdoor liturgy is Father Wilfred “Sonny” Day, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Starlight. The park is located next to St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities’ social services office building, which was once the church rectory. (Submitted photo)

By Patricia Happel Cornwell (Special to The Criterion)

NEW ALBANY—At noon on Sept. 27, an enthusiastic crowd gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to dedicate the new Holy Trinity Heritage Park on Market Street in New Albany. As dignitaries offered their opening remarks, the bells of St. Mary Church, one block away, rang the “Angelus.” The event marks the latest phase in the campus development plan of St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities.

The park is located on the site of the first Catholic church in the city, the former Holy Trinity Church, which was built in 1852 but burned in 1975. After the destruction of the church, its parishioners became part of St. Mary Parish. The design of the green space incorporates the destroyed church’s heat-cracked steeple bells, four original stained-glass windows and numerous large stones from its walls.

The park’s mulched flower and shrub beds are punctuated by newly planted saplings which will grow to shade the landscape. Many of the plants, including azalea bushes, are grouped in threes, evoking the Trinity.

The trees were planted by a professional nursery, but the rest of the plants, 912 in all, were planted in one week by youth volunteers from the Catholic Heart Work Camp (CHWC) program based in Orlando.

The teenagers, who hailed from Kentucky, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Georgia, attended the dedication as a group. They were one of 20 CHWC youth groups who came to Floyd County last month to do service work. Dawn Bennett, development director for

St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Charities, said the program sends youth volunteers to the community every year.

Paved walks converge on a central water feature with three small fountains rising out of a group of three stones, further references to the Holy Trinity. Among them stands a 2-foot-tall bronze statuette of a little girl raising her face and arms to the sky in the direction of a reconstructed brick wall where the back of the church’s sanctuary once stood. In the wall are ensconced the old church’s surviving stained-glass windows. At one side of the wall, the church’s two bells, cracked by the heat of the fire, rest beneath a plaque that describes the disaster.

Wrought iron railings are installed at several locations around the perimeter of the property, and the park’s walkways are tied into the handicapped access ramp in front of the former rectory. Four large buttress capstones from the old church mark the corners.

Members of the former parish decided to designate part of the insurance settlement funds to memorialize the site as “Holy Trinity Heritage Court,” and in 1977, two years after the fire, 150 hawthorn saplings were planted, a lawn installed and a brass plaque erected. Within several years, the trees began to die and had to be removed.

St. Mary Parish maintained the property until recently, when St. Elizabeth’s took over.

“Like all churches and agencies in the archdiocese, all our properties are owned by the archdiocese [of Indianapolis],” Bennett explained, “which asked that St. Mary’s transfer management and occupation of the two properties [the former church site and the rectory] to St. Elizabeth for our operations and [to] expand our shelter program to allow us the extra space to house more women and children.”

A dedication Mass was celebrated on Sept. 20 marking the opening of the park. A crowd of nearly 100 gathered for the outdoor liturgy. Following the Mass, attendees were able to tour the new grounds.

During the Sept. 27 ribbon-cutting ceremony, Mark Casper, executive director of St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities, welcomed the crowd, telling them that the park is “the final phase of our long-term plan for our campus.” The agency has renovated the former Holy Trinity rectory into offices and has acquired a total of 10 properties on the same block to accommodate services to its clients.

St. Elizabeth’s began providing shelter and support to pregnant women in 1989. The agency presently provides adoption services through Adoption Bridges of Kentuckiana, women’s and children’s emergency shelter, affordable supportive housing for women with children and adults with developmental delays, Court Appointed Special Advocates for children in the family court system, Marie’s Ministry Distribution Center for baby supplies and household goods, outreach counseling and other family support services.

Several officials offered remarks during the dedication ceremony, including Dr. Al Knable, a New Albany city councilman, and District 72 State Rep. Ed Clere.

“We are truly on hallowed ground here,” Knable said. “It’s wonderful that the Church has held onto this property, and now we can make it a place where anyone of any denomination can come for a moment of peace.”

Clere praised the project, saying, “It’s a great day for St. Elizabeth’s and for the neighborhood. I’m excited that so many elements from Holy Trinity were incorporated into the park, and I want to commend St. Elizabeth’s for investing in this neighborhood before it was cool.

This garden is just the latest chapter for ‘St. E’s.’ ”
 

(Patricia Happel Cornwell is a freelance writer and a member of St. Joseph Parish in Corydon.)

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