Located at 8300 Rahke Road on the southside of Indianapolis, St. Barnabas parish was the 44th built Catholic Church in Marion County for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Post World War II prosperity enabled the modernization of Indianapolis’s infrastructure, which led to explosive population growth in outlying suburbs. Center Township’s Catholic populations took part in the exodus to the suburbs.

The new Hilly Valley Estate neighborhood in PERRY TOWNSHIP was selected as the site for the construction of St. Barnabas. The neighborhood represented the growing trend that encouraged families to design and build custom homes using a model builder. Advertising in the Indianapolis Star, approved local homebuilders touted Hill Valley’s proximity to the “new St. Barnabas” school as well as its safety.

In 1960 Hill Valley was built on a 23-acre plot of land off State Road 135 just south of Stop 11. The neighborhood expanded to include over 1,100 homes. St. Barnabas developed its parish on an 11-acre tract at its center. Deliberately building in the center of the neighborhood allowed the parish to integrate within the growing Catholic southside community.

In February 1965, the Archdiocese received zoning approval to build the church and the attached school. The archdiocese targeted a September completion date to enroll the anticipated 350 students in the 1965-1966 school year.

The archdiocese commissioned local builder F. A. Wilhelm, of Wilhelm Construction in Indianapolis, to construct the church and eight-classroom school. Groundbreaking occurred in March 1965, and in May the archdiocese announced Rev. John Sciarra as the pastor-designate and Sister M. Carlene Eckert as head of the school. Unlike earlier archdiocese schools, St. Barnabas hired civilian teachers from Beech Grove Community Schools as well as nuns. The school opened in September. Archbishop of Indiana, Most Rev. Paul C. Schulte, blessed the parish in November.

Rev. Sciarra operated the school as a stewardship school. This format required families of those students benefiting from the school to follow the “four pillars” of stewardship, hospitality, prayer, formation, and service. Each family with children attending Saint Barnabas was expected to attend Mass every Sunday, volunteer in at least one church ministry, and tithe 10 percent of their income to support the school and the archdiocese.

Initial enthusiasm for the school waned within 15 years of its opening. Declining enrollment coupled with rising costs emerged as universal problems throughout the Catholic school system. By 1972 St. Barnabas faced the decision to either eliminate their middle school grades or redistribute the middle schoolers with those from five other south deanery Catholic schools to Central Catholic, serving as the direct pipeline to Roncalli High School.

Instead, Rev. Sciarra committed the school to a fundraising campaign and to adhere to a plan of austerity. Following this plan allowed the parish to continue to operate St. Barnabas as an eight-grade school. By 1985, the parish was one of the largest in the archdiocese serving more than 1,200 families, and parishioners raised enough funds between 1983 and 1985 to build a new 800-seat church facility. They subsequently converted the older building into a multi-use parish hall. Groundbreaking for the new church building occurred in April 1985.

The cornerstone was laid on Thanksgiving Day of that year. Archbishop Edward T. O’meara dedicated the new church in March 1986.

The new church building’s exterior exhibits a more modern circular design while the interior meets ADA compatibility standards. Rev. Sciarra served St. Barnabas parish until his retirement in 1989. As of 2020, the school served over 500 students. The parish included approximately 1,500 families and remained a pillar of the Hill Valley community.

Revised March 2021
 

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