Oldest Catholic church in Indy plans $2.7M parish center downtown

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The new parish center will connect the church with its rectory and parish office building. (Rendering courtesy of St. John the Evangelist)

The oldest Catholic church in Indianapolis plans to construct a $2.7 million parish center as part of its downtown campus, with a goal of completing the project in time for a major conference slated for the city next summer.

St. John the Evangelist, 126 W. Georgia St., is making the investment in the 2,800-square-foot facility as part of a larger $5.5 million renovation to the property that started in 2021. The one-story center—which will also feature a rooftop terrace—is expected to occupy a portion of the church’s parking lot on the northeast corner of South Capitol Avenue and West Georgia Street.

Immediately adjacent to the south side of the church, the parish center would be used for gatherings and events, as well as an access point into other parts of the campus. That would include the rectory and parish office building on the east side of the property.

The hall would sit between the church and the rectory building and flush against both structures. It also could include a rooftop terrace for outdoor events.

The project also includes a two-story tower that would conceal an elevator providing access to both floors of the rectory and parish building.

“The new parish hall really has a three-fold [mission], which is to support youth and adults within our parish, fellowship gathering within the community and our campus ministry program at IUPUI,” said Rev. Rick Nagel, pastor at the church.

The church building dates to 1871, but the parish was established in 1837 with its first home located at Washington and California Streets, just south of Military Park. The first church building on the current campus was a brick structure constructed in 1850, where the parking lot is located now. It was later replaced by the current church, with the spires added in 1893.

The church served the function of cathedral for Indianapolis from 1898—when the Vatican moved the home base for Indiana’s diocesan operations from Vincennes to Indianapolis—to 1906, when construction was completed on the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral on North Meridian Street.

Nagel said the church’s Emaus Ministry, which supports hundreds of homeless people by providing meals and access to other resources, will be put on a temporary pause during construction to ensure the safety of the population it serves. He said the church is also looking for a new longterm home downtown for the program.

Plans for the parish center come as St. John sees continued growth of its membership, with over 2,500 parishioners. The entirety of the funding for the project came from parishioners and other local benefactors, as part of a campaign that initially kicked off the week before the pandemic in 2020.

At that time, the overall goal for the three-phase Preserving our Heritage and Inspiring Hope campaign was $4 million. But inflation and rising construction costs drove the goal higher to the $5.5 million mark. Nagel said the project is fully funded.

The church spent $2.8 million to renovate the spires on the church, which were completed in 2022, as well as make improvements to the rectory and office building.

“We’ve been blessed to be able to just chip away [at our goal] and have it come to reality,” Nagel said, adding that the construction timeline for the project is “aggressive” in hopes of completing the project ahead of the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress, slated for July 17 to 21 in Indianapolis.

The church is directly across Capitol from the Indiana Convention Center.

The gathering, the first of its kind in more than 80 years, is expected to draw more than 80,000 Catholics to the city, including church leaders from across North America.

The plans for the parish center are expected to be considered by the city’s Regional Center Hearing Examiner on Thursday.

Indianapolis-based StudioAxis is the architect on the project.

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