Dearborn County Catholic Parishes Celebrate Legacy of Preservation

Congregations in southeast Indiana honor 200 years of Catholicism and restoration of their historic churches during bicentennial celebrations.

St. John the Baptist church, Dover, Dearborn County
St. John the Baptist, Dover

Keeping Faith

Now two centuries old, St. John the Baptist parish in Dover has called its Romanesque Revival-style church home since 1874, a spiritual centerpiece in the small Dearborn County community. Whether this community cornerstone would endure, however, wasn’t always certain.

In June 2013, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis announced a plan to change operation of the southeast region’s parishes, citing declining attendance, a concentration of parishes serving a small geographic area, fewer clergy available to staff them, and economic and facility challenges. At the time Most. Rev. Joseph W. Tobin, Archbishop of Indianapolis, wrote, “Pastoral planning recognizes the need for the Church to adapt its structures to a changing world. We understand that today’s mission and the viability of the Catholic Church in the future requires that we reposition our structures and marshal our forces in a new way.” Ominous words for parishioners and local preservationists.

The decision would ultimately spell the closure of 12 parishes in the Batesville Deanery, and lead to the merger of four historic parishes: St. John in Dover, St. Joseph in St. Leon, St. Paul in New Alsace, and St. Martin in Yorkville. The affected congregations were given until 2017 to decide upon a single place of worship — one of the existing historic churches or a newly constructed building. Led by Father Jonathan Meyer, the congregations proposed a winning alternative that saved all four of their historic churches: consolidating their parishes into one and continuing to celebrate Mass at each of the historic buildings weekly.

Now unified as All Saints Parish, parishioners rallied to restore each of the four historic churches with the help of volunteers from the growing consolidated congregations.

Today, Father John Hollowell joins Father Meyer in leading All Saints Parish. “I know that restoring the four church buildings was one of the first priorities, and the project involved every parishioner,” says Father Hollowell. “The buildings are stunning, and it is a gift to celebrate Mass in them on a regular basis!”

St. Martin Church, Yorkville, Dearborn County

St. Martin Church, Yorkville

Fathers Hollowell and Meyer jointly shepherd the Dearborn County Catholics (DCC), a conglomeration of All Saints and three fellow county parishes, overseeing all seven Catholic campuses in the county, six of them historic. “Our Catholic faith is about preservation. We are about preservation of the family, faith, tradition, and community,” says Father Meyer. “Our buildings are places where these sacred truths have lived and have been passed on.”

St. John the Baptist, Dover, Dearborn County

St. John the Baptist, Dover

To honor 200 years of Catholicism in Dearborn County, DCC formed a Bicentennial Committee to share their collective history. The celebration kicked-off in January with a special Bicentennial Mass honored St. John the Baptist Parish’s 200th anniversary, attended by Archbishop Charles Thompson, Fathers Meyer and Hollowell, and more than 1,500 parishioners.

The occasion also served, if unofficially, as a celebration for the parishes’ preservation efforts over the past decade to save the beautiful historic churches that they call home.

“In 1824 the faith of a few grew to seven different congregations. This year is a moment to pause and celebrate that!” said Father Meyer. “We appreciate Indiana Landmarks and their mission to support communities and business. As we look to the future, our eyes are set on continuing our congregations’ legacy of preservation.”

To learn more about DCC and upcoming bicentennial events, visit

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