Lauren Caggiano
Freelance Writer
October 13, 2017 // Parish

A consistent commitment to grow in the spiritual life

Lauren Caggiano
Freelance Writer

St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church has experienced significant growth in recent years, in its spiritual life particularly, and the church community is bullish on the future.

Located on the northwest side for Fort Wayne, St. Vincent is a parish of approximately 3,200 families. Father Daniel Scheidt has presided as pastor since the summer of 2013. What he calls “a parish of doers,” St. Vincent is an active and dynamic parish.

Parish history

The roots of the parish run deep, a point which Father Scheidt does not take lightly. French Catholics migrated to this area in the 1830s. At that time, there was no diocese and few priests. Yet the early parishioners took their faith seriously. From the outset, Mass was said in local Catholic homes. As the numbers grew, the first church was built in 1846 and the first pastor named in 1843, according to parish records.

Father Benoit is remembered as the founder of St. Vincent parish. It’s reported that he traveled in a 100-mile radius of St. Vincent to serve the spiritual needs of the Miami Indians and French immigrants alike. He built St. Augustine church in the inner city, which is now known as the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

Father Benoit laid a firm foundation for both the spiritual and physical growth of the parish. By 1900 the church had 70 members. It more than doubled by 1946, with about 200 souls. By 1974, the parish served more than 5,400 people. Today, more than 10,600 people call St. Vincent their parish home.

Sometimes the parish dedicates its resources to local causes, and other times it thinks and acts more globally. For example, a medical mission trip to Honduras is a humanitarian effort sponsored by the church. Pastoral Associate Dorothy Schuerman said that mostly recently, in November 2016, about 10 people — alongside a doctor — made the trip to bring medical and dental care to people of church’s sister parish there. St. Vincent parishioners helped raise funds to offset the cost of the trip.

Whether it’s tending to the needs of the faithful in their own parish or one thousands of miles away, St. Vincent is about showing God’s love to all people — from all walks of life and faith backgrounds.

St. Vincent’s today and tomorrow

Society may have changed since the 19th century, but Father Scheidt said it all goes back to one longstanding priority: “This parish has had a consistent commitment to grow in the spiritual life,” he said.

It’s also multifaceted, which means it serves a wide variety of interests and spiritual needs. About half of the parish tithing goes toward ministries and other parish organizations and activities, he said.

He cited the parish’s vibrant chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society as one example of its dedication to the work of the Holy Spirit. The organization assists the needy within parish boundaries, regardless of religious affiliation. Members respond with home visits to those who call for help with food, household items or clothing, and work with the township trustee in assisting with basic needs. They tend to the needs of the vulnerable population who may require lodging or food on an emergency basis, and also assist with other special projects throughout the year.

Christ Renews His Parish has been another successful means to reach people on a deeper level, he said. CRHP is a spiritual renewal process that has been alive at the parish since 1986. Semi-annual weekend retreats, held in the spring and fall, provide opportunities to experience personal conversion and Christian community in a casual, friendly atmosphere. In his words, “it creates a network of friends who grow together in Christ.” What’s especially noteworthy is the fact that children of the first group of retreat attendees are now getting involved, which means there’s a multigenerational cohort of faithful.

CRHP has done some great things for the parish, he said, because many vocations and programs have grown from that initial community. Many parishioners are answering the call to married life — St. Vincent clergy preside over about 50 weddings a year. There are currently 10 seminarians who originated from the parish, and he said an additional four men and women are currently in formation for religious life.

According to Father Scheidt, the parish has done a masterful job in fostering growth of young people discerning vocations from the Lord. In the same vein, he said he takes pride in the success of the school, religious education program and teen ministries. Current school enrollment is at 750 students, which makes it among the largest schools in the diocese.

While these vocations represent the future of the parish, other efforts focus on maintaining the current health of the flock. For example, the Called and Gifted program engages about 700 parishioners, according to Schuerman. This ministry has been well-received and helps people discern and exercise their gifts. In the Called and Gifted discernment process, participants learn that every lay Christian has been given a unique and deeply personal call to work with the Lord. Discerning one’s call provides a new perspective on life and can help to be more fulfilled in one’s work, volunteer activities at St. Vincent’s and personal relationships. Workshops are held periodically at the parish.

Speaking of gifts, the Career Ministry helps people make the most of their current skills while providing tools and resources necessary to acquire additional ones. It’s a monthly program held at the parish and is dedicated to providing coaching, networking and educational resources so that all job seekers feel enabled and empowered to successfully find and secure a job. This is an all-volunteer effort, in partnership with the Associated Churches of Fort Wayne and Allen County, and is supported by parishioners and community members. The ministry has been fruitful, with many success stories, and that momentum is continuing.

The Career Ministry is a shining example of what can happen when people give of their time and resources to others. “St. Vincent’s is very generous in offering the gifts it receives as a whole,” Father Scheidt said.

The giving nature of the parish calls to mind the church’s call for Catholics to show charity toward others. “All of these initiatives are ultimately an extension of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy,” the pastor said.

Calling the parish “vibrant” and “spiritually mature,” Father Scheidt said he has high hopes for its future. He said the next big priority is construction of an adoration chapel. He realizes this is no small undertaking, and that’s why he’s calling on the support of the local Catholic community. In particular, he said, helping to build a perpetual adoration chapel at St. Vincent would allow it to become a refuge of prayer at all hours for smaller area churches, as well as for all of those connected in any way to Parkview Regional Medical Center or Dupont Hospital.

St. Vincent de Paul
1502 E. Wallen Rd.
Fort Wayne, IN 46825

Mass Times:
Saturday: 8 a.m., 5 p.m.
Sunday: 7:15, 9, 11 a.m.; 6 p.m.; (12:45 p.m. Oct-April)

Holy Day: see website

Weekday: M-Th 6:30, 8 a.m.;
F 8 a.m., 5:30 p.m. 

Reconciliation: Sat. 8:45-9:45 a.m.; W 4:30 p.m. to last penitent

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