Taking pictures of churches brings Indiana photographer closer to God

INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) – As he pursues his goal of visiting and photographing 100 churches, Max Schroeder always returns to the same place when he needs to heal his heart and restore his soul.

He seeks that connection with God and Mary at the end of another night of tragedy across central Indiana as a press photographer for an Indianapolis television station.

With the images of murders, fatalities and grieving families fresh in his mind, Schroeder, 23, goes to Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Church in Indianapolis knowing he will find there a sense of peace and comfort as he visits a shrine in honor of Mary. In front of the church.

“Sometimes you can’t get the bodies out of your head,” he said. “I started going to the Holy Rosary after a double murder. A man and a woman were shot dead.

“I feel safe there,” he told Criterion, the archdiocesan newspaper in Indianapolis. “I feel a presence, may God watch over me, may Our Lady watch over me. I need a place to regroup. I sit there and contemplate, looking at the statue of Our Lady. I pray for those whose lives were suddenly taken, for their family and friends. “

“For me, being a strong Catholic, I have to do something positive because I am surrounded by negatives in my work,” he added.

Beyond his visits to the Holy Rosary, the need for balance – for something uplifting – fueled his desire to capture the beauty and artistry of at least 100 churches across Indiana and Ohio. .

Schroeder’s spiritual quest began in the place where his love for his Catholic faith was born and grew, the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio.

In 2019, as he pursued a dual major in media production and film production at Bowling Green State University, his eyes focused more intensely on the artistic details of the altars, chapels, caves and steeples of the churches that are at the heart. of his life: the church where he received his first communion, the cathedral where he was confirmed, a church that has been part of his family’s patrimony on his mother’s side for five generations.

He marveled at the intricacies of artistic details and stood in awe of the Creator who had trained people with these abilities and gifts. And he decided to use his own god-given skills and talents in film and photography to capture the beauty of churches.

“I thought, ‘This is my calling,’” he said. “I do this as a way to honor God, to give him back the skills he gave me. I’m not doing this for the show. I’m doing this for God. I show the world the beauty of what his people have built.

At the same time, Schroeder sees this effort as his way of building a closer relationship with God. Whenever he visits a new church to photograph it, he strives to align the visit with a church mass.

“I want to go to mass to receive the Eucharist as much as I can. When I was in college, I went to mass almost every day. I come for the Eucharist, then I take the photos. Not only does it help me spiritually, but it helps me artistically.

Schroeder has visited and photographed 98 churches so far. Fifty-five of them are in the Diocese of Toledo and 23 in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, where he moved in July 2020 to begin his current job at Fox59 / CBS4 in Indianapolis.

His quest also took him to churches in Carmel, Fort Wayne and South Bend, Indiana, including the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame.

Asking Schroeder to list a few of his favorite churches is painful for him. Yet he gave in, starting with the Cathedral of Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary of Toledo, because “there are so many works of art and details in it”.

In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, he focused on four churches in Indianapolis, including the two where he venerates: the Holy Rosary and Saint John the Evangelist.

He names St. John, where he is part of the group of young adults, “because it feels like home”. And Holy Rosary – where he is a bailiff, young adult leader and member of the Knights of Columbus – is on his list because of his Latin Mass and “his beautiful works of art.”

He also mentioned the Church of St. Joan of Arc, as it reminds him of churches in Rome, and the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as his German heritage reminds him of his father.

Photographs of Schroeder’s church can be viewed by anyone on his Facebook page, under his name.

“I want people beyond my Facebook friends to see it,” he said. “There was a time when I posted a photo of St. Stephen’s Church in Toledo. It was at a time when churches were closed due to the pandemic. A parishioner commented on it. She said looking at this photo “makes me cry because I don’t like being away from my church for so long.”

“It was a big moment for me. That’s why I’m making them public,” he said.

As important as his cinematographic and photographic work is to him, Schroeder longs for something more in his life.

“I want to work on my relationship with God. I want to get as close to him as possible. I want to go to heaven. I want to be a saint.

Schroeder paused for a moment, making it clear that holiness is the real goal of his life. He smiles at the thought of that goal.

“I really want to be a saint. I want to lead people to the faith and help them be stronger in their faith.

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Editor’s Note: To view a selection of photographs of Schroeder’s churches in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, visit the website cutt.ly/ChurchPhotos.

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Shaughnessy is associate editor of The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

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