June 15, 2007

SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral to close centennial year

Worshippers pray at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis during the funeral Mass of Bishop Joseph Chartrand, who died on Dec. 8, 1933. Bishop Chartrand led the Diocese of Indianapolis for 15 years. (Archive photo)

Worshippers pray at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis during the funeral Mass of Bishop Joseph Chartrand, who died on Dec. 8, 1933. Bishop Chartrand led the Diocese of Indianapolis for 15 years. (Archive photo)

By Sean Gallagher

SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral has been the setting of countless liturgies over the course of the past century.

Some, such as episcopal funerals, have been marked by great solemnity. Others, like the thousands of weddings that have taken place there, have been moments of great joy.

So it is appropriate that the year in which the centennial of the cathedral’s dedication has been celebrated should come to a close with a festive Mass, which will take place beginning at

6 p.m. on June 29, the patronal feast of the archdiocese’s mother church.

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein will be the primary celebrant of the eucharistic liturgy, which will be followed by a banquet at the Archbishop O’Meara Catholic Center Assembly Hall.

Father Patrick Beidelman has experienced many important moments in his life of faith in the cathedral.

He received the sacrament of confirmation there in 1988. A decade later, he came there to be ordained a priest. And now, nearly 20 years after completing his Christian initiation in the church, Father Beidelman is serving as the cathedral’s rector and pastor of Cathedral Parish.

Of the liturgy in which he was ordained a priest, Father Beidelman said, “It felt like I was celebrating a significant moment of Christ sharing his priesthood with me in a place that was very familiar, very comfortable, and a place where I experienced God’s holiness, God’s presence in a very profound way.”

Now he is looking forward to closing the cathedral’s centennial year with a Mass.

“It will draw people from throughout the archdiocese to the cathedral to acknowledge the blessings that our cathedral has known in the past, the blessings our cathedral has been to us and continues to be for us today,” Father Beidelman said. “I think that’s an important thing for us to do, to pause and give thanks and to ask God’s help as we move forward to the future.”

Just as people like Father Beidelman have a close connection to the cathedral today, certain individuals were closely connected to its early history.

Father Joseph Chartrand, ordained in 1892, was the cathedral’s first rector. He preached at the first pontifical high Mass in the cathedral, which was celebrated on Dec. 25, 1906.

In 1910, Father Chartrand was named coadjutor bishop with the right to succeed Bishop Francis Silas Chatard upon his death, which occurred in 1918. Father Chartrand’s episcopal consecration on Sept. 15, 1910, was the first such liturgy to take place in the cathedral.

Bishop Chartrand would lead the Diocese of Indianapolis for 15 years. He spent many hours in the cathedral, hearing confessions and celebrating Mass, sometimes for the students at Cathedral High School.

He established the school in 1918 and, for more than 50 years, it was located across the street from the cathedral.

When Bishop Chartrand died in 1933, the cathedral was filled with worshippers for his funeral.

A more recent episcopal funeral is a strong memory for current Cathedral parishioner Morna Patrick.

“I remember when Archbishop [Edward T. ] O’Meara died [in 1992], and [his body] laid in state in the middle of the cathedral,” she said. “He was a wonderful, warm person. And you really felt that it was a tribute to him. It was a very holy and sacred event.”

The cathedral has been an important place for many people throughout the archdiocese.

According to parish records, nearly 5,800 weddings have taken place there. That’s an average of more than one wedding celebrated in the cathedral per week over the past century.

The cathedral has also been the setting for key moments in the life of archdiocesan priests and bishops.

Priesthood ordinations did not take place on a regular basis in the cathedral until 1969. Before that, they often happened at the seminary where a priest received his formation.

Nevertheless, in the nearly 40 years since priestly ordinations have taken place in the cathedral, 124 men have been ordained to the priesthood there, according to archdiocesan records.

Joe Vitale, a member of Cathedral Parish who frequently leads tours of the church, recalls being impressed with the cathedral when he would visit it as a young boy in the late 1950s. He especially remembers visiting the cathedral at Christmas time to view its Nativity set, which he remembered as being “grand and magnificent.”

A member of Cathedral Parish since 1979, Vitale has come to appreciate the way in which the cathedral lends itself to liturgical processions, which he likened to making a journey.

“Brides walking down [the aisle] are making a life journey,” Vitale said. “People that are pulled in by the undertaker are making a journey with their family with them. And being in this space, and the size of it, is something that helps you become aware of that.”

(Those interested in participating in the June 29 Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral and attending the

banquet afterward should call the cathedral rectory at 317-634-4519 or send an e-mail to dhay@archindy.org. There is a $15 admission fee for the banquet for non-members of Cathedral Parish.) †

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