News and Tribune

June 8, 2014

AREA PRIESTS ON THE MOVE: Three local parishes to get new leaders

By CHRIS MORRIS
chris.morris@newsandtribune.com

CHARLESTOWN — The Rev. Steven Schaftlein was at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Charlestown on Friday, March  2, 2012, preparing for the weekly fish fry when he heard a tornado had touched down in Henryville, causing severe damage.

His second parish, St. Francis Xavier, which sits near Henryville Jr.-Sr. High School, was almost destroyed.

He drove to Henryville to survey the damage at his church, and to help begin the process of rebuilding a community that was devastated by the storm. But as one of the spiritual leaders, Schaftlein made sure residents kept their faith despite being surrounded by devastation and loss.

While his church was badly damaged, he managed to hold Mass there two days after the storm.

“I think from the very beginning the residents of the town decided they were not going to be victims of this storm,” he said last year in a story to mark the one-year anniversary of the tornado. “The whole community responded that day. Everyone pitched in.”

The man who helped keep the town together will soon be leaving. He has been reassigned by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. His last Mass at St. Michael’s and St. Francis will be June 29.

Beginning July 1, Schaftlein will be the new priest at St. Rose of Lima in Franklin and Holy Trinity in Edinburgh. The two parishes are about 10 miles apart, Schaftlein said.

This will be his sixth placement in 36 years of being a priest. He has been at St. Michael’s and St. Francis for 10 years.

“With everything that went on here, when you go through a tragedy together, there is a lot of bonding that goes on,” Schaftlein said.

According to the Archdiocese website, St. Michael’s has a membership of 150 families while St. Francis has 108 families.

Another local priest has also been reassigned. The Rev. Henry Tully, the administrator at St. Mary’s in New Albany, will replace Schaftlein at St. Michael’s and St. Francis. His last Mass at St. Mary’s will also be June 29.

Tully has been at St. Mary’s for six years. He was not available for comment for this story, but several  parishioners at St. Mary’s said he will be missed.  

“Father Tully has been very instrumental in my RCIA [Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults] training and converting to Catholicism. He has also became a very good friend and person to talk to about life or whatever you need to discuss,” said St. Mary’s member George Ott, who has spent his career in the military. “I personally am going to miss him but also know that priests are moved from parish to parish every so many years, just like the Army does our leaders, to keep the leadership fresh and growing the organization.”

Tonya Boley is president of the parish council at St. Mary’s and also said members will miss Tully. She said when the Archdiocese decided to close St. Mary’s Academy at the end of the 2012-13 school year, Tully kept the parish moving forward.

“When the Archdiocese announced that our school would be closing, Father Tully was distraught,” Boley said. “It was tough on our entire parish. Everyone has pulled together, with Father’s support, and began to move forward.”

The Rev. Thomas Merrill, a Conventual Franciscan, will be the new priest at St. Mary’s.

Schaftlein, 62, said he hopes this will be is last reassignment before he retires in eight years. He also said he hopes the number of priests increase in the next decade.

“Our numbers have gotten thinner,” he said. “It’s been very flat [numbers] for several decades.”