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St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, South Bend
St. Michael and All Angels was founded in South Bend in 1956, when Bishop Reginald Mallett gave his house at the corner of Jefferson and Ironwood to become a new mission for the Cathedral. The church was formed in response to a request to have a mission serve South Bend residents living in the south and east of the city. To protect the Cathedral from losing too many members, Bishop Mallett set the boundaries for the new mission and ordered Cathedral parishioners living east of Miami Street, east of Twyckenham Drive, and west of Ironwood Drive to join the venture, cancelling their membership at the Cathedral. The Rev. Horace L. Varian of St. James, a former major in the 100th Bomb Group during World War II, was called to be its first vicar.
Much work had to be done to make the former residence into a church. Openings between the living and dining rooms and the center hall were made larger. Parishioners partitioned the sun room and draped it in order to turn it into a sacristy. Varian took up residence on the second floor with a living room, kitchenette, bedroom and bath.The remodeling cost $2,500.
Response to the new mission proved strong from the beginning. When Varian conducted the first service on 28 October 1956, fourteen attended at 7:30 and 176 at 9 A.M. Many parishioners donated items for the church, such as candlesticks, vases, a missal stand, a chalice, paten, and a paschal candle. The church house quickly exceeded its capacity, and the Cathedral made plans in 1957 to build a church while at the same time granting St. Michael parish status. Varian was forced out as priest in 1958 for sexual misconduct and defrocked the following year by Bishop Mallett.
On 29 September 1959, under the leadership of the Rev. Dwight Filkins, church leaders broke ground for a modern, rectangular-shaped building at 2117 East Jefferson Boulevard under a design by Charles Palmer of the architectural firm of Andrew Toth. Many parishioners contributed or manufactured items for the new building. A crucifix hung over the altar was carved by the Italian artist Aldo Tambolini, then on the staff of the University of Notre Dame. Several rectors followed Filkins, including Charles Dibble, George V. Johnson, and Hugh C. Edsall. During this time the vestry negotiated plans to build a rectory, and in 1964 it agreed to pay Glenn Nunemaker, a parishioner, $20,800 to construct it. Edsall, who arrived in 1963, was a popular priest but resigned from the parish abruptly in 1969 when he divorced his first wife and married a parishioner.
During the 1980s and 1990s, the parish experienced considerable growth under the leadership of the Rev. Dabney Smith. The parish attracted as members a number of faculty on the staff of the University of Notre Dame. In 1997, a new edifice was built at 53720 Ironwood, south of Cleveland Road. The contemporary-styled church was designed by the South Bend architectural firm of Mathews-Purucker-Anella and featured a high-vaulted ceiling with extensive windows and seating for 325. Perhaps its most striking feature was its baptismal font of grey slate, deep enough for full immersion for infants and a wading pool for adults. The font reflected evolving views about how baptisms should be performed at this time and the sacramental value of full immersion. Bishop Gray consecrated the building on 14 September 1997 and baptized his grandson at the service. The new church also featured a 16th-century stained glass window from a country church in France, which was placed near the font. A second phase of construction brought more classroom and kitchen space to what was arguably the most contemporary-designed church edifice in the diocese.
Beginning in 2009, the parish was ably served by the Rev. Matthew Cowden, who was elected Bishop Cadjutor of the Diocese of West Virginia in 2021. The congregation sponsors a free lunch program and partners with the Food Bank of Northern Indiana to provide food to the needy.
Horace Lytton Varian, 1956-1958
Dwight A. Filkins, 1958-1961
George V. Johnson, 1962-1963
Hugh Crichton Edsall, 1963-1969
Paul Edward Leatherbury, 1969-1986
Dabney Smith, 1989-1998
M. Randall Melton, 1999-2008
Matthew D. Cowden, 2009-2021
Mark Van Wassenhove (interim), 2022-
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Douglas Everett Sparks, Eighth Bishop
Bishop Douglas Everett Sparks, the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Northern Indiana, is the current incumbent. Born on 8 January 1956, he studied Philosophy at St. Mary's Seminary College, graduating with a Bachelor's degree in 1980. Subsequently, he received a Master's degree from De Andreis Institute of Theology in 1984. Ordained a priest in the Roman Catholic Church in 1984, he served parishes in Missouri, Colorado, and Illinois. In 1989 he was received as a priest into the Episcopal Church, serving as rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Whitewater, Wisconsin, from 1990 to 1995. He also married Dana Wirth and had three children: Christina, Graham, and Gavin.
Sparks later served at St. Matthias Church in Waukesha, Wisconsin, then went to New Zealand to become Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in Wellington. On returning to the United States, he became rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Rochester, Minnesota. From here he was elected bishop on 6 February 2016. He was consecrated at Trinity English Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne, on 25 June 2016 by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.
Bishop Sparks has adopted a five-point plan of mission that will guide his episcopate:
1. Tell the Good News of the Kingdom.
2. Teach, Baptize, and Nurture new believers.
3. Tend to human need with loving service.
4. Transform unjust structures of society.
5. Treasure God's Creation and renew the Earth.
Bishop Sparks has reversed previous diocesan policy and approved same-sex marriages being performed in the diocese with the consent of individual parishes. He was personally present for the wedding of South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg to Chasten Glezman on 16 June 2018 in a ceremony at the Cathedral of St. James in South Bend. He has also formed a strong pastoral partnership with Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows of the Diocese of Indianapolis, marching for social justice issues, against gun violence, and in favor of greater acceptance of all marginalized groups in the Church. He is an "activist bishop" and comfortable in that role, but he is always careful to ground that advocacy in his faith.
On a national level, the Episcopal Church began an initiative under Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to become a "Beloved Community" to promote racial reconciliation. Part of that process involved studying and apologizing for sins committed against minority groups throughout its history. During his sabbatical in 2022, Bishop Sparks walked the Potawatomi Trail of Death, traveling on foot from Plymouth, Indiana, to Kansas. He left an account of his pilgrimage. It symbolized the work of the Diocese of Northern Indiana to account for acts of racism in its past.
Episcopal News Service:
Consecration of Bishop Douglas Sparks, 25 June 2016, Trinity English Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne