INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - A historic Indianapolis church with a predominantly African American congregation is being forced to close its doors.
Holy Angels Catholic Church on 28th and Martin Luther King Jr. Street has been in its location since 1903. Over the years, a deteriorating roof led to extensive damage on the ceiling, the walls and even some mold in what's considered the only wooden church in the archdiocese.
The wood-frame building where parishioners have worshiped for the last 108 years is falling apart. An extensive study showed the only option was to demolish the building.
"Its home to us," said 55-year church member Amanda Strong. "My children went to school here, my family goes here, my sister and I converted to Catholicism here."
When Strong came to the church in the mid-1950's, it was in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement. In the 1940's and 50's a major social change slowly developed in the Northwest community, which eventually affected Holy Angels Church. As African Americans moved into the community, the white population moved out. What could have been a complete failure on the part of the Catholic Church was turned into a victory, when Bishop Joseph Ritter purposely issued a pronouncement regarding stricter following of parish lines. His actions along with a little help from Rome paved the way for Black Catholics to be welcomed as members of Holy Angels Church.
"When a lot of other churches didn't welcome us we were always welcome here," said Strong. "We were some of the pioneers because we wanted to be a church of all people."
Reverend Kenneth Taylor was not available to speak on Sunday's final mass, but the sentiment from other parishioners was one of understanding and sadness.
Sunday's 9am and 11am Mass services will be combined to one 10am mass to be held at the chapel at Marian University. The church's next step has not yet been decided.
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