Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana Archives

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), 2022-2024
Jennifer Fulton, 2024-

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