Archbishop to celebrate Mass on the Hill

Students and staff will gather in the WAC on March 22


Photo submitted

During a visit to the Hill during the first semester, Archbishop Charles Thompson, left, stands with President Dr. Robert Bridges, Principal Mrs. Julie Barthel and Fr. Emmanuel Kallarckal.

Liam Eifert, Managing Editor

Cathedral High School has a unique place in the history of Catholic education in Indianapolis. The visit of Archbishop Charles C. Thompson to the school on March 22 will reinforce that relationship, even though some might say that relationship has seen some bumps in the road over the last few years.

Religion teacher Mr. Matt Cannaday said, “Cathedral was initially the primary boys’ Catholic school in town when it was Downtown right across from the Cathedral.” The Archdiocese had direct control of the school.

Although our Holy Cross connection runs deep, the Holy Cross brothers were not initially in charge of the school. Cannaday said, “It was staffed by Holy Cross Brothers so that’s where we get our Holy Cross background from.” Then, from 1964 to 1972, the Holy Cross brothers were given the school to run as an “independent, private school,” according to the school website.

The archdiocese, meanwhile, had opened Scecina Memorial, Roncalli, Bishop Chatard and Cardinal Ritter. Religion teacher Mr. Marc Behringer ‘84, who has worked for the Archdiocese, said, “People started to move away from the city. The Archbishop realized that those (newer schools) were going to be the high schools moving forward because in the city, the population was dropping and he needed to put his attention on those schools.”

By 1972, the Holy Cross brothers could no longer sustain the school. Cannaday said, “(The school) merged with Ladywood (in 1976) which was a Sisters of Providence school, and a lay board was formed.”

The role of the Archdiocese, though, was not entirely removed. Cannaday said, “We remained Catholic because the archbishop allowed it. There’s no such thing as a Catholic high school without the support of the bishop. That’s because the role of the bishop is to teach and govern his particular area, his particular geographic location.”

Behringer echoed Cannaday’s comments. He said, “People, for a long time, have thought, ‘We’re not really affiliated with the Archdiocese,’ when, in reality, you can’t be a Catholic school without (being affiliated).” He later added that people sometimes think that “we don’t really fit into (the Archdiocese), but we do. As does Brebreuf, as does Providence High School down south (in Clarksville). It’s a different relationship, but one that is very important, particularly to our identity as a Catholic school.”

President Dr. Robert Bridges said Diococean schools have much more direct contact with the Archdiocese. He said, “Being an independent Catholic school, we have to make sure we’re teaching what the Church teaches, but other than that, we decide. Like we decided we wanted to build the Innovation Center. We raised the money for it. People wrote checks to Cathedral High School.”

Bridges also noted that the school is totally financially independent. He said, “As a nongovernmental agency, we do have tax free status. Tax free status for all the Catholic schools and agencies in each Diocese go through the Archdiocese. But we actually have a foundation that has our own tax free status, which is kind of nice.”

Two other Catholic schools in the area that are similarly disconnected from the Archdiocese are Guerin Catholic in Hamilton County and Brebeuf Jesuit in Marion County. Guerin is a Diocesan school, but because it is north of 96th Street, it lies in the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana. Cannaday said, “What’s weird is that the priests (from the two Dioceses) don’t even converge (as) 96th Street is that firm of a dividing line between arch-Indy and the Diocese of Lafayette.

Brebeuf, however, like Cathedral, is located within the archdiocese limits. Unlike Cathedral, “They started as a Jesuit high school, a Jesuit college prep school,” Cannaday said, “Rome is trying to determine how much influence the bishop has over (Brebeuf) in that situation because they have such a strong community of Jesuits.” As reported by the National Catholic Register, Brebeuf announced in August of 2019 that it had appealed to the Vatican. The Congregation for Catholic Education has allowed Brebeuf to continue to call itself Catholic while it deliberates.

Director of campus ministry Mr. David Neeson said the Archdiocese comes into play only because, as he said, “To stay in unison with the Catholic Church we would be obedient to our bishop and we would lean on his guidance as a shepherd.”

Neeson is familiar with the complexities surrounding staying in union with the Catholic Church. He said, “I got into ministry because there was a woman who was married once, divorced her husband, fell in love again, (then) married another man without getting an annulment and she was working as a public minister.” Neeson said the priest in charge of the parish fired her. “Even though government eyes would say, ‘Well, she’s divorced and remarried,’ the Church would say ‘she’s still married, she’s committing adultery right now.’”

Neeson called this kind of disunion with the Church “public sin.” He said, “We know that everybody sins, we know we fall short of where we should be, that’s just our natural tendencies, which is why we offer Reconciliation.” But, Neeson thought this “public sin” is something difficult to minister towards and which the Church is still figuring out how to address in a way consistent with both a firm moral stance and an appreciation for our fundamentally flawed human nature.

According to Neeson, disunion with the Church would mean that the school could not hold any of the sacraments, including Mass and reconciliation.

Cannaday said, “The bishop is coming here (on March 22).” The archbishop will preside over Mass with the school. Cannaday suggested that this visit could bolster communication between the student body and the Archdiocese.

Responding via email, Archbishop Thompson wrote, “I look forward to celebrating Mass at Cathedral High School on Tuesday, March 22. The Church considers Mass to be our greatest form of prayer.” On behalf of the Archdiocese, he also wrote, “Our hopes for the future of the relationship between the Archdiocese and Cathedral High School is to continue with a common Christ-centered vision of Catholic formation and education.”

Cannaday maintains that a vast majority of Cathedral students are very much supportive of a close relationship with the Archdiocese. He said, “I think that on both sides that his visit should be one that hopefully introduces some healing.”

Bridges, who has worked for both Catholic and public schools, said, “I think (Catholic) education is the best education because we educate the heart and the mind. That’s what (the Blessed Basil Moreau and) the Holy Cross congregation (have) said. I think it’s true. We can’t just educate your brain and then your heart does something else. I think it’s best if the whole person is educated together, and that’s why I love Holy Cross education.”