Future focus: $10,000 grant will help parish develop facility plan


FORTVILLE — With a rich history behind it, St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church is looking to its future, with a grant to help it embark on its next chapter.

The congregation in Fortville has received a $10,000 matching grant from the Center for Congregations to help develop a facility plan.

The Rev. Robert Hankee, priest of the parish, wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter that Entheos Architects met with representatives from the parish last week to begin developing a master plan.

According to a press release from the church about the grant, the master facility plan “will consider updating and modifying existing structures as well as exploring new construction on property the church owns fronting Fortville Pike and Garden Street.”

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The 1916 church building rests in the 500 block of Maple Street (also known as Fortville Pike). The parish offices are housed in a building west of the church.

The church owns the block bordered by Maple, High, Merrill and Garden streets. According to Hancock County records, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis owns 2.3 acres at the southwest corner of Maple and Garden, and the church owns five acres south of that along Fortville Pike.

St. Thomas celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2019 and the 100th anniversary of its church building in 2016. Its annual summer festival draws crowds every August.

The parish is also involved in cooperative ministry in the community, one of a number of Fortville churches organizing mobile food pantry events. It also participates in a ministerial council that will unite local Christians for a community worship service at 6 p.m. Sunday at Mt. Vernon High School Auditorium.

The grant is from the Center for Congregations, which is funded by Lilly Endowment. The center, launched in 1997, awards grants and offers educational opportunities to Indiana churches, synagogues, mosques or other houses of worship.

Among the other recipients through the years have been other Hancock County churches. For example, in 2008, McCordsville United Methodist Church received a $15,000 matching grant from the center to help with renovation and expansion.

The money came as the McCordsville church kicked off a capital campaign for an 11,000-square-feet addition, more than doubling the size of the building. The church recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of the addition.

Kara Faris, director of resource grants and resource consulting operations at the Center for Congregations’ Indianapolis office, said the center has awarded 1,900 matching grants to Indiana congregations since 1997.

“Our grants fund their matching grants up to $15,000, and they fund expenses related to capacity building,” Faris said. That could include leadership development, hiring architects, attending conferences, updating software and other ways to position congregations to move forward effectively.

Hankee is enthusiastic about the grant and the start of this journey for his parish.

“While we do not know what the future holds,” he wrote, “we are excited in moving forward with this project.”

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The Center for Congregations seeks to strengthen Indiana congregations in several ways, among them educational events and matching grants.

Grants applications are evaluated monthly, January through November, as they are received. Congregations have 12 months to implement the project the grant helps fund. Along the way, they submit quarterly reports on their progress and a more in-depth report at the end of a year.

To find out more about whether your congregation’s endeavor would be eligible for a grant, write to Kara Faris at [email protected] or call the Center for Congregations at 317-237-7799.

Information: centerforcongregations.org