Often referred to as the parish on the park, St. Monica Catholic Church is situated north of downtown Mishawaka, just across the river.
“St. Monica is very much a family,” said Father Jacob Meyer, who has been St. Monica’s pastor since June 2016. “The people are wonderful and it is nice to be in a parish that when people realize you are new they approach you and make you feel welcomed. Also, the church truly matches the people, beautiful! The choir is amazing, the different groups are growing and thriving. It is just a joy to be here.”
Built up a hill, the red-brick church can be seen from far and wide.
“The church itself is stunning. Built in the Romanesque style, it looks like it was dropped into Mishawaka from Rome,” Father Meyer said. “It is one of the only churches in the diocese that has a Baldacchino (canopy) over the altar made of marble and wood which makes the church unique amongst its Gothic neighbors. There is a large Italian population at St. Monica’s alongside many German, Irish and Polish as well.”
German and Irish Mishawaka residents founded St. Monica. However, shortly after it was built, a large influx of Italian immigrants came to Mishawaka.
“The southern Italians made their home on the north side of the river while the northern Italians made their home on the south side of the river (near St. Bavo),” Father Meyer said. “This is, of course, a generality but it has remained culturally true of the Italians of the area to this day.”
The school and old St. Monica church celebrated their 100th anniversaries this year, as both were consecrated on May 13, 1917 — the same day the first apparitions of Fatima took place.
At this time, the church was in the basement of the school. That way the parish could save for the much larger church that they use today, which was built in 1927. Since then, the parish has grown, building additions to the school in the 1950s and 1990s.
In the past, St. Monica was its own kindergarten through eighth-grade school; but since 2011 it became part of Mishawaka Catholic, serving as the campus for the middle school.
“Catholic Schools necessitate large sacrifices from the parishes that feed them,” Father Meyer said. “But it is completely worth it when we are able to see our kids not only grow in knowledge but, most importantly, in the Catholic culture and worldview.”
The parish is also working to establish this type of relationship with young adults.
“It is a definite goal to get a young-adult program off the ground,” Father Meyer said. “There is also a number of young families that get together for those with children who are not yet school-aged, to allow them a chance to get to know one another. At the Aug. 20 event, they were able to sign up for dinner clubs and a mom’s prayer group. My hope is to begin a similar event for young adults in September.”
Currently, the primary way the parish reaches out to young adults is through events such as trivia night and a euchre tournament.
Other parish groups include the Knights of Columbus, Sons of St. Monica, and Rosary Society.
“These three groups provide the backbone of support for all of the events that happen at the parish,” Father Meyer said.
One of the most impressive aspects of the parish is that it has one of the largest choirs in the area, with over 40 current members.
The parish also has several annual events.
“On Feb. 2nd we have our annual blessing of candles and Candlemas procession when the whole school processes with candles to mark our Lord’s presentation in the temple,” Father Meyer said. “There is also an annual Lenten Series where we have talks, confession and adoration.”
Each year there is also a parish festival and novena for the feast of St. Monica, which is Aug. 27. The novena is prayed for those who have fallen away from the church. Each year there is also the Jean Ellen Brown Award dinner, which is an award given to a teacher and sacristan of St. Monica School and Church.
Of course, none of these parish events would be possible without its staff, which includes Sharon Priemer, organist and choir director; Vicki Zmirski, bookkeeper; Katie Rohrer, secretary; Doug Eley, Mike Klotz, Mark Taylor, and Ann Taylor, maintenance; and Antonio Marchi, Antioch youth minister.
Even though the school has several large annual events, a growing congregation, a rich history and a number of other accomplishments, Father Meyer and the parish staff are far from complacent.
“My spiritual goals would be to continue to grow the prayer opportunities for the parish,” Father Meyer said, “increase a devotion and desire for the sacrament of confession, and have our school football team win the ICCL championship!”
222 W. Mishawaka Ave.
Mishawaka, IN 46545
Sunday: 8, 10 a.m.
Saturday: 4:30 p.m.
Holy Day: 8:15 a.m., 12:05, 6 p.m.
Weekday: M-Sat. 8:15 a.m.
Sat. 9-10 a.m.
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