Built in 1947, St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church is located at 535 East Edgewood Avenue on the Southside of Indianapolis. At the time of the groundbreaking, it was the southernmost Catholic Church in the expanding Diocese of Indianapolis.

Prior to the establishment of St. Mark, the only southside Indianapolis parishes were St. Catherine in the Garfield Park Neighborhood, Holy Name in Beech Grove, and Saint Roch on the southwest side of the city. The well-established southern suburbs of Homecroft and Southport lacked Catholic churches. Residents of these two suburbs attended St. Catherine parish and asked as early as 1926 for a parish of their own. The “Good Will Club,” a woman’s social club received permission from St. Catherine’s priest to fundraise for the construction of a new parish. These women met monthly to socialize and play games at a cost of 25 cents per person, the proceeds of which were deposited into an account at the Celtic Building and Loan Association.

The group was ready to form a new parish, but the diocese was not. It was not until 1938 that the Catholic population in the southern part of the state warranted a new ecclesiastical province. Adding Evansville as a “See city” meant Indianapolis would become an Archdiocese and that the Catholic church would consider adding new congregations south of the city (see Catholics).

In February 1941, Bishop Joseph Elmer Ritter approved a five-acre plot south of the city on newly built US Highway 31. The diocese purchased the land from Nicholas P. Linder, whose construction company built the church. The diocese originally intended to build a church, a school, a rectory, and a convent for nuns who would teach at the school. Although Ritter became archbishop in December of 1944, World War II postponed construction.

In 1946, Ritter ordered Priest Leo Schafer, who had served as a U.S. Army Air Force Major Chaplain during the war, to form a new parish on the grounds. The archdiocese first completed the school as a six-room structure for 102 students at a cost of $300,000. The ground was broken on November 2, 1947, and the school was dedicated on September 12, 1948. The “Good Will Club” kept true to its promise and turned over the $971.00 it had accumulated to the new school.

In 1950, the archdiocese completed the construction of the convent. Four nuns from Sisters of St. Francis, whose motherhouse was located in Oldenburg, Indiana, lived in the building. The ground was broken on April 1, 1951, for the church. The archdiocese dedicated it on July 27, 1952.

The parish quickly doubled in size. Beginning with 101 families, it had already grown to include 352 families by the time of the church dedication. The community continued to grow during the 1950s and 1960s, and the school thrived. By the 1960s, the school had twenty-two classrooms.

By 1992 the Catholic population on the southside of Indianapolis and northern Johnson County had grown such that the archdiocese made plans to add another parish in Greenwood. The Archdiocese also approved plans to expand St. Mark by building a new and bigger church. The contract to build the new portion of the church went to Greg Linder, president of Hillard-Kosene General Contractors. He also was the grand-nephew of Nicholas Linder who originally sold his land to the archdiocese to build the original church. The new church building was dedicated on September 26, 1993.

The new building connected to the existing church to the west. The original church building was converted to a multipurpose gymnasium, and the basement was turned into a cafeteria for the school. The repurposed space garnered a new name identified at its dedication as “Monsignor Schafer Hall,” after the founding priest Leo Schafer. Schafer served the archdiocese for 45 years and St. Mark specifically for 33 years. He retired in 1981.

What started as a dream for a handful of Catholic southsiders had become a parish that served more than 1,200 families in 2020. The school had more than 400 students and was continuing to grow.

Revised March 2021

Help improve this entry

Contribute information, offer corrections, suggest images.

You can also recommend new entries related to this topic.