Our Heritage, Our Faith, and Our Promise . . . Rooted in Love
The Saint Michael story began in the later 1800’s when Schererville was mostly farmland and rolling prairie. Forced to travel to distant churches over bad roads with only primitive transportation, the German Catholic pioneers of the fledging town petitioned Bishop Dwenger of Fort Wayne for the establishment of a parish in Schererville in 1873. Permission was granted and a church was constructed on land donated by the town founder, Nicholas Scherer. On September 29, 1874, the feast day of St. Michael, our first church was blessed and a parish of eighty families was formed. These first parishioners possessed a faith that was central to their lives.
Fr. Gottfried Kueng became our first pastor in 1875 and that same year a new rectory was built. History was made when Bishop Dwenger appointed Fr. William Berg as pastor on May 28, 1881. Fr. Berg would go on to serve our faith family for 48 years. He was to become one of the most remarkable and renowned figures in Schererville history. During his tenure many improvements to our church were made, among them a new altar and new windows. A great believer in Catholic education, in 1886, Fr. Berg arranged for Franciscan Sisters to teach in the town school. On September 16, 1900, St. Michael School opened as a full time parochial school.
A tragic event occurred on September 27, 1893; extensive vandalism was discovered in the church and in cemetery. Two lay religious brothers from The Divine Word Society were deeply moved when they heard about this vandalism. Even though they usually worked in seminaries and motherhouses, they came to our cemetery and helped erect Mount Calvary, cast and installed the Stations of the Cross, the Lourdes Grotto, the Garden of Gethsemane Grotto and the Resurrection Grotto. They worked as a team with Brother Fridolin Ifen’s specialty being grotto design and construction and Brother Paul Tanner’s specialty being the sculpting of statues and crafting the reliefs found outside and inside the Grottos.
By 1920, the St. Michael Community had grown to approximately 400 parishioners and Monsignor Berg, recognizing that the 50 year old church building was becoming too small to meet the needs of the parishioners, began plans for the new church. With each influx of population this once little country parish struggled to be home to them all. By the time of our 100th anniversary, St. Michael parish had grown to 734 families and had a school enrollment of approximately 400 students. Over the ensuing years, St. Michael Parish has been honored with the foresight and leadership of many wonderful pastors. We have also been blessed with a faith community dedicated to sharing their time, treasure and talent.
“Be fruitful and multiply,” said God—and we were fruitful and did multiply. By the time Fr. Patrick Connolly became our pastor in 1987, we had grown to nearly 2,000 families and had for a third time outgrown our worship space. Looking to the example set by our predecessors, we saw that our parish has always changed to meet the needs of the faithful. At the same time, we wanted to preserve our rich heritage.
Our stunning collection of colorful stained glass windows –excellent examples of fine European craftsmanship—were restored and reinstalled in our new worship space. The ornate altar was moved from the old church along with refurbished statuary, light fixtures and other items to provide an important link to our parish’s long heritage. Our new church was dedicated by Bishop Dale Melczek on November 3, 1999. On November 12, 2000 the new Bell Tower was blessed by Father Patrick Connolly.
The St. Michael parish community learned a difficult yet heartfelt lesson in the illness of Fr. Pat Connolly. He returned to his home at St. Michael’s and was cared for by many, many parishioners and parish nurses. It was a blessing to be able to minister to the one who had ministered to the “flock.”
Fr. Martin Dobrzynski is presently the pastor of the parish and he continues to inspire the parish to be a place of prayer, hospitality and charity. On April 14, 2006, Fr. Marty blessed the refurbished Stations of the Cross, which were cast in bronze from the originals, in a special dedication service on Good Friday. The installation of brick pathways and lighting have made the Stations of the Cross more accessible to visitors.
In 2008, we launched the “Building Faith, Families & Future” stewardship program to raise money for three of the most pressing needs identified in a parishioner questionnaire and feasibility study: 1. Completing interior construction of the south end of our church. 2. Make repairs to and upgrade the overall condition of the parish school building. 3. Remove the old church structure, dedicating that land to future cemetery use.
On September 27, 2009 – as we gathered to celebrate the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel – Fr. Marty blessed and christened our new “St. Patrick Social Hall”, along with three adjacent meeting rooms and a full-service kitchen.
School renovations funded by “Building Faith, Families & Future” included the installation of energy efficient lighting in classrooms and hallways, a new boiler, new windows and façade surrounding the windows, and the addition of six interactive Smart boards.
In late autumn of 2011, the progressive deterioration of the old church’s infrastructure was becoming unsafe and plans for its removal and renovation of the space for cemetery use were expiated. The funds needed to do this were meant to come from the “Faith, Families & Future” Campaign; however, because we fell short of our pledged goal, the parish needed to secure a loan. Demolition began in late December and was completed in January of 2012.
Fr. Marty initiated the “Set Your Legacy in Stone – Inscribe & Donate a Paver” Project in the Fall of 2011 because two of the original walkways in our cemetery – a historic landmark with gravestones dating back to the 1880s – had nearly disappeared due to the ravages of time and needed to be replaced. The plan is to replace the walkways with inscribed pavers.
The St. Michael Catholic community of today remains a faith-filled, family centered and educationally enriched parish. It is composed of our founding families, recently moved families, young families, and many single all representing many ethnic and professional areas as well as other walks of life. Services and service opportunities are abundant. There are a variety of ways that people of all ages can get involved in the parish community, become educated, enriched and reach out to those in need.
Jesus said, “They will know you by your love.” We pray that our home will always be rooted in that love.