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Good Shepherd Chapel formally blessed

Sisters of Providence, joined by friends and neighbors, gathered Sunday, Aug. 30 for the dedication and blessing of the Good Shepherd Chapel at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana.

The chapel is part of what is now called the Providence Community Cemetery, located in the southwest area of the Motherhouse grounds, on a small knoll across from the Sisters of Providence Cemetery. Specially designed columbaria have been built in proximity to the chapel where cremains will be placed in an urn and laid to rest in a niche.

General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski (right) speaking during the blessing of the Good Shepherd Chapel as Sister Ann Casper (left) looks on.

As part of the Aug. 30 event, the Sisters also invited the family of Michael Tindera to participate in a committal service and inurn his cremains in the new cemetery. Michael had been instrumental in the development of the new cemetery but died before it was completed.

Sisters of Providence General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski explained that Michael’s role in the project was part of a “confluence of providential moments” that helped create the new cemetery.

The first moment came in 2017, following the passing of Providence Associate Heather Marie Tetzlaff-Smith, a resident of South Bend, Indiana, and a graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. Heather’s family requested that her remains be laid to rest at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

Because the practice of the Congregation had been to inter only its own members at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, a two-year consultation process was set in motion.  Sisters Connie Kramer, Marie Grace Molloy and Rosemary Schmalz, as well as Providence Associate Jane Fischer, assisted with that research and work. They also assisted in the dedication ceremonies Aug. 30.

Sister Joan Slobig (RIP), then parish life coordinator at St. Mary’s Village Parish, aware of the committee’s work suggested they contact Michael Tindera, who has assisted with her own efforts with the Village Parish cemetery.

Sister Dawn recalled the first meeting that Michael and his good friend Rich Hersha, an architect from Fort Wayne, Indiana, attended, “They walked into that first meeting with blueprints to this chapel and a plan that would enable us to lay to rest the remains of 7,000 persons in columbarium walls that would eventually encircle the current Sister of Providence Cemetery!”

General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski.

Ultimately, the committee recommended that the Sisters of Providence receive for inurnment at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, the cremains of persons other than members of the Congregation, particularly those who have had a significant and/or long-standing association.

 “This new cemetery celebrates these significant friends of the community and enables us to honor their loved ones during a difficult time,” Sister Dawn said.

Because the committee had never considered building a chapel, funding was an initial concern, but that too turned into a providential moment and led to the chapel being dedicated to Father Bernie Head (RIP).

Sister Dawn explained, “Once again, Sister Joan Slobig came to see me; this time holding a generous bequest from Father Bernie Head.”

Father Bernie, who passed away in 2017, ministered as the chaplain at the Congregation Motherhouse for 16 years and was also pastor at St. Mary’s Village Parish for 14 years. A priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis for 63 years, he also was one of Michael’s teachers when Michael was studying for the priesthood and they remained dear friends.

Sister Marie Grace Molloy offered a reading during the blessing of the Good Shepherd Chapel on Sunday, August 30, 2020.

A plaque providing a description of Father Bernie’s connections to the Congregation is enshrined in the chapel and states, “In his priestly vocation, Father Bernie exemplified the religious leadership Jesus talks about in the parable of the Good Shepherd. He related to people in a loving, self-giving and caring way. Father Bernie’s homilies always engaged others, broke open the Word and left listeners with nourishment for their journey. Father Bernie truly knew Christ and the power of his resurrection.”

Sister Dawn also recognized Earl Rodgers and Associates (the contractor for the chapel), Michael Shaw (project manager), Brad Bowen (director of the Congregation’s Facilities Management Department), and Hank Metzger (president of Hank Metzger Landscape), all of whom collaborated on the project.

Oversight was provided by a small committee including Traci Tucker, the SP CFO, and Sister Ann Casper, who now ministers as the director of the community cemetery. Sister Ann led the prayers at the dedication and committal service.

Sister Rosemary Schmalz (left) and Sister Connie Kramer providing the blessing of the Providence Community Cemetery on Sunday, August 30, 2020.

During the service for Michael Tindera, his wife Sol Angel and daughter Elizabeth spoke of Michael and his absolute insistence that everything you do should be done well.  “He was the best father anyone could ever have and I miss him every day,” said Elizabeth.

In addition, a number of Michael’s friends, colleagues and neighbors shared their memories of Michael. Family friend Haley Chubb, a music education student at DePauw University, sang Sarah McLachlan’s “In the Arms of an Angel.”

Heather and Michael are the only two persons whose cremains have been inurned at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods thus far. Currently, 61 of 192 niches on the first columbarium wall have been reserved by friends of the Congregation. Learn more or call Sister Ann Casper at 812-535-2828.

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Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, are a congregation of Roman Catholic women religious (sisters) who minister throughout the United States and Taiwan. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence in 1840. The congregation has a mission of being God's Providence in the world by committing to performing works of love, mercy and justice in service among God's people.

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