INDIANAPOLIS - Parishioners at on central Indiana church said goodbye to their leader on Sunday as the church's longtime priest prepared to retire.
After 31 years serving the community at St. Christopher Parish in Speedway, his congregation says Father Mike Welch leaves behind a lasting legacy.
At the corner of 16th Street and Lynhurst Drive, families filed in Sunday for one final Mass with Welch. The standing-room-only space was a testament to the fixture he was in his faith community.
"We've been holding on to one another in spots, haven't we?" Welch said to his congregation. "It's probably time that I let go, and you all let go."
On this Father's Day, his parishioners prepare to say goodbye and thank you.
"We will never ever forget your service and your great love for this community," said Barbara Leek, principal at the St. Christopher School.
Parishioner Pam Pontones agreed.
"His warmth, his spirit, his involvement, his leadership … certainly all will be remembered for years to come here," Pontones said. "We definitely will miss him."
"It's almost like going to a funeral," added fellow congregant Joe Hudson. "I know he will always live, there's just not words to describe what he's done."
After turning 70 this year, Welch says his prayers guided him to the decision to retire.
"You just come to the conclusion that it's time," he said. "It's time. I'm an old guy. So it's time to bring some young people in and bring new life to them."
The St. Christopher Parish presented Welch with a personal blessing from Pope Francis, as well as a cash gift of more than $20,000 for retirement.
Welch says he plans to get back in shape during retirement, and to fill in for Mass when needed.
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