Footprints of our Catholic brethren

Jim Schroeder


St. Boniface Church, Evansville

The birds were roosting in the trees. The incessant cackling was audible up and down Wabash Avenue underneath the dual, towering spires. As the door opened to the grotto, we descended into 100 years of history beneath the church floor. The grey, stucco-like walls welcomed us into the tiny chapel, where people had come for marriages, baptisms and solemn prayers for a century. After exploring the hollowed cavity, our kids began the Rosary – one Glorious Mystery at a time. Louis lay asleep on my shoulder, hidden beneath a heavy coat to ward off the morning chill. Above, we could hear faint noises of the congregation assembling, and as our Rosary concluded we made our way to the nave of the church.

From the time I was a small boy and grew into junior high at St. Boniface, I entered the church with my chin held high and neck arched. On this day, I was again taken to splendid sites and horrific realities as my eyes scanned the interior again. The sun gleamed off the newly laid tile, and the numerous statues and scenes peered over us. Louis remained asleep as the choral voices rose from our right.

It would be a day of challenges put forth by St. Paul, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” But none was greater than the one that Christ proclaimed, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” Twenty-five years ago this day, the Berlin Wall had crumbled. Around us, the seasons were changing and our diocese was continuing to discern just how its temple would appear.

I looked across the way. My grandparents had arrived in their frailty – and in their witness. My aunt and uncle were there – she with her neurological challenges and he with his stoic struggles. I loved them deeply. I wondered what their temples would become.

The temple on my shoulder stirred. His head swung upward. His brilliant blue eyes widened and he stared at the choral sector. I waited for the exhausted cry. It never came. His eyes remained fixed; yet slowly, a discerning smile crept on his face. His pupils began to bounce in a registered way, and as his chubby cheeks tightened; a familiar face snuck a kiss to him. He had risen from his sound slumber to behold this sacred place for the first time. Joy emanated from his face. I wondered what his temple would become.

As the Mass closed and many of the congregants shuttled to the Christmas bazaar, four generations posed for a picture on the front steps. The birds had gone quiet for the moment. Later that evening, Amy and I attended a Cursillo closing as her sister walked in to the sounds of “Oh, when the saints, oh when the saints, oh when the saints go marching in. Oh, I want to be in that number….” Tears flowed, friends had grown old. What would their temples become?

This is the cover of Jim Schroeder's book, "Footprints of Our Catholic Brethren."

As the festivities ended, I walked past the pictures of many of the churches we had seen, many of the temples that now hung in the balance as our diocese evolved. A late fall chill greeted me outside. The full moon had just passed. Another week was gone. Just how would my temple carry on?

This reflection is from Jim Schroeder’s book “The Evansville Diocese Historical Tour: Footprints of Our Catholic Brethren.” Jim, his wife, Amy, and their kids live in Evansville. They are parishioners at Holy Redeemer Parish. Jim is a pediatric psychologist and Vice President of the psychology department at Easterseals Rehabilitation Center. “The full story, including illustrations, is available on Amazon or with his other books and articles at”