Thousands of Super Bowl Village zip line riders will get a rare, bird’s-eye view of the Saint John the Evangelist Church as they whiz by this week. Saint John’s was the first Catholic parish in Indianapolis and is one of the last congregations to remain downtown. Being located just three blocks from Lucas Oil Stadium and on the northeast corner of Capitol Avenue and Georgia Street in the thick of Super Bowl Village, the church is in a unique position to participate and they are making the most of it. (Are you too chicken to ride or not willing to wait in line? Take a virtual ride with Jeff from Visit Indy with this video:

After beginning at Washington and West Streets in 1837, the church purchased the current site in 1846. The first church at this location was too small for the growing congregation and leaders hired architect Dietrich A. Bohlen to design the current sanctuary in 1867. Although the brick and stone, Gothic Revival structure was mostly finished by 1871, the spires were not added until 1893. The plan for this church to become the Cathedral of Indianapolis never materialized, however it served as pro-cathedral for the Diocese from 1871 until 1907, when the SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral on North Meridian was completed. For decades the church thrived with a school (now gone) and a large, active congregation. (Above postcard circa 1910)

By the 1980s, the church membership dwindled as families moved away from the heart of the city. Fortunately, the congregation is now growing and feels that the Super Bowl and improvements downtown will only strengthen the church. A raffle of four Super Bowl tickets will raise some of the $600,000 needed to restore the spires.  (Wikipedia)

Donna Winsted, a Historic Indianapolis reader, shared a photo of her visit to Super Bowl Village. This view looks north on Capitol Avenue and shows Saint John Catholic Church in the distance and two zip liners passing by overhead.  The four, 800-foot long temporary zip lines end just beyond the church and the congregation has embraced their pivotal location by offering more Masses, adding Eucharistic adoration hours, and increasing confession time.  Hot chocolate is available from their welcome tent. You can even have a Kodak moment with a life-sized cutout of Pope Benedict XVI.  (Photo by Caren Lettofsky)

Who doesn’t love a church with a sense of humor? Taking advantage of their front-and-center spot, the church has opened their beautiful wood doors to the public for the Super Bowl and other public events. Over 70 trained volunteers guide visitors on tours of the church revealing their history, the function of different interior spaces, and the beliefs of the Catholic faith. The church used to sit closed-up and empty as the streets swarmed with convention goers and sports fans. One day during the Future Farmers of America convention in late 2011, Father Rick Nagel decided to open the doors and was pleasantly surprised to see the pews fill with visitors. A short documentary, formerly available on youtube, tells about Saint John’s “Open Wide the Doors” outreach program, also providing a glimpse of the beautiful interior.

Learn more about Saint John the Evangelist Catholic Church and their Super Bowl activities at their web site.

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