November 23, 2018

Statue honors Bishop Bruté in church he dedicated in 1838

Altar server John Crawley, left, Father Jonathan Meyer, Archbishop Charles C. Thompson and Deacon Robert Decker pose on Nov. 6 in St. Paul Church in New Alsace, a campus of All Saints Parish in Dearborn County, after a Mass in which Archbishop Thompson blessed a statue of the Servant of God Bishop Simon Bruté. Deacon Decker carved the statue. John built a shrine for the statue in the church, which was dedicated by Bishop Bruté in 1838, for an Eagle Scout project. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Altar server John Crawley, left, Father Jonathan Meyer, Archbishop Charles C. Thompson and Deacon Robert Decker pose on Nov. 6 in St. Paul Church in New Alsace, a campus of All Saints Parish in Dearborn County, after a Mass in which Archbishop Thompson blessed a statue of the Servant of God Bishop Simon Bruté. Deacon Decker carved the statue. John built a shrine for the statue in the church, which was dedicated by Bishop Bruté in 1838, for an Eagle Scout project. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

NEW ALSACE—It was a labor of love—and of faith.

Earlier this year, Deacon Robert Decker spent 300 hours carving a wooden statue of the Servant of God Bishop Simon Bruté.

And on the evening of Nov. 6, emotions tied to the past, present and future flowed through him as he witnessed Archbishop Charles C. Thompson bless his creation in St. Paul Church in New Alsace, which Bishop Bruté dedicated 180 years ago, the church in which Deacon Decker was baptized as an infant in 1951.

Bishop Bruté served from 1834-39 as the first shepherd of the Diocese of Vincennes, Ind., which later became the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

“The emotions were so high, knowing he was in this church at one time,” said Deacon Decker after the Mass. “All the people. All the people in the whole archdiocese, the whole state of Indiana, all the priests and seminarians that he taught. What a privilege it was for me to have that gift to be able to do that.”

While thoughts of Bishop Bruté and the faithful of Indiana that he served 180 years ago were in his mind when his statue was blessed, Catholics of the present and future of All Saints Parish in Dearborn County filled St. Paul Church for the liturgy.

St. Paul Church is on one of four campuses of All Saints, which is led by its pastor, Father Jonathan Meyer.

At the start of the liturgy, Father Meyer looked out on a congregation filled with many young families and brought the past and present together.

“If these walls could speak, they would speak volumes of those who were baptized, married and buried, affirmed and confirmed in their faith here,” Father Meyer said in welcoming Archbishop Thompson. “What a blessing it is to be one of them and to stand here tonight.”

Archbishop Thompson reflected on his predecessor during his homily, comparing his easy drive to the church in southeastern Indiana to the long horseback journey that Bishop Bruté made there from his home in Vincennes 180 years ago when he was in poor health, less than a year before he died.

“He gave his very life for the people of God,” Archbishop Thompson said. “He staked everything he had for the Church here in Indiana. The fact that you can claim a church dedicated by this saintly bishop is a thing to take great pride and joy in.”

Father Meyer learned of the close connection between Bishop Bruté and All Saints Parish when he became its pastor four years ago. From the start, he wanted to honor the first bishop in Indiana with a statue in St. Paul Church.

An opportunity for one emerged as Deacon Decker, who has also served at All Saints since 2014, began to learn wood carving during the past two years.

In January, Father Meyer asked Deacon Decker to consider creating the statue he had long desired. Although he had never carved a statue so large, Deacon Decker accepted the invitation.

He soon found a sassafras tree on the property he owns near New Alsace that he thought could serve well for the statue, cut it down and went to work. Although he did not consider himself an artist, he trusted that God would guide his hands.

“I can’t even draw a horse,” said Deacon Decker. “So it was God in the Holy Spirit, I truly believe, that helped me to make that carving. It’s a gift that God gave me.”

Late in January, Deacon Decker took special care in carving the face of Bishop Bruté. He spoke to him in prayer, asking for his intercession in the work of creating this statue for All Saints Parish.

Another shepherd was also in Deacon Decker’s mind at that time—Archbishop Emeritus Daniel M. Buechlein, who died on Jan. 25.

Archbishop Buechlein, who had ordained Deacon Decker in 2008 as part of the first class of permanent deacons in archdiocesan history, had a great devotion to Bishop Bruté, opening his canonization cause in 2005.

“That’s all I did that whole week,” recalled a tearful Deacon Decker. “I carved that face. Archbishop Daniel’s presence was there. It was really something.”

Instead of attending Archbishop Buechlein’s funeral, Deacon Decker stayed at home, continuing to work on the statue of Bishop Bruté. He somehow knew that this is what Archbishop Buechlein would have wanted.

“That’s what he wanted me to do,” Deacon Decker said. “I know how he loved Bishop Bruté.”

Although shepherds of the far and recent past of the Church in central and southern Indiana played an important role in the creation of the statue of Bishop Bruté, so did the work of a 16-year-old member of All Saints Parish.

In July, Father Meyer asked John Crawley, a sophomore at East Central High School in St. Leon, to consider creating a shrine in St. Paul Church for the statue of Bishop Bruté as a project to help John become an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts.

John took up the challenge, working for about three months to turn a broom closet into a fitting home for a statue of the bishop who dedicated St. Paul Church.

As Archbishop Thompson blessed the statue, John stood close by as an altar server.

“It was a pretty good feeling, knowing that something that I made in the church is going to stand there for a long time,” John said. “It’s nice.”

At the end of his homily at the Mass, Archbishop Thompson invited his listeners to follow, now and into the future, Bishop Bruté’s example of faith.

“As we gather here tonight, we celebrate this 180th anniversary … of the dedication of this church,” he said. “But it’s also an opportunity for us to rededicate ourselves, inspired by the example of Bishop Simon Bruté to continue to answer, ‘Yes,’ constantly to the invitation of God to be the holy people we are called to be, growing each day, nourished by the word of God and the sacraments of the Church.” †

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