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Remembering St. John’s, Indianapolis

On Wednesday, March 2, the new Auxiliary Bishop of Indianapolis, Christopher Coyne said in this remarks:

Today in this sacred space I have committed myself to join with Archbishop Daniel in his work as principle shepherd of this archdiocese. This is a place with a lot of history. St. John’s is the oldest Catholic parish in Indianapolis and its former pro-cathedral. Many happy events including this one have been celebrated here. There are many words that seem to echo in this building: the words of Scripture, the words of ritual, words of prayer, words of encouragement, all captured in the faith that we share in the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ.

Bishop Coyne’s words ring true and the link between him, his work as a new bishop, and the history of St. John’s and the entire Archdiocese was present that day.

The present Saint John’s Church was built, beginning with the cornerstone being laid on July 21, 1867. That ceremony saw the link between the past and the present since the cornerstone was laid by then Bishop Maurice de St. Palais and the pastor, August Bessonies, both of whom were acquainted with Servant of God, Bishop Simon Brute. In 1871 when the new church was opened, the ceremonies were presided over by Archbishop Purcell of Cincinnati, who had studied under Bishop Brute and who was one of the co-consecrators of Brute at his ordination in St. Louis, in 1834.

The church saw more links between the past and the present in 1878 when the new Bishop of Vincennes, Francis Silas Chatard, moved his ‘residence‘ from Vincennes to Indianapolis and St. John’s became the pro-cathedral. Bishop Chatard, Fathers Bessonies and Denis O’Donaghue lived in the rectory at St. John’s. Father O’Donaghue would go on to become the Auxiliary Bishop (and later Bishop of Louisville). He too was ordained auxiliary bishop at St. John’s.

However, the real link, I believe is the fact that within the Church of St. John’s lies the grave of Fr. Bessonies, not only the longtime pastor of the parish, but also the early pioneer in the missions of Indiana. He came to Indiana at the request of Bishop Brute, he served in Indiana under four bishops. He resided in this parish for almost 50 years. There is a link between us and those who have gone before us.

The tablet, located in the side chapel says:

To the Memory of Rt. Rev. Msgr. August Bessonies V.G.
Whose remains are buried here
From 1857 til 1890
The devoted pastor of St. John’s Church
Born in France, June 14, 1815
Ordained priest February 22, 1840

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