November 9, 2012

Awards honor people who use Catholic school values to make a difference

An archdiocesan celebration of Catholic education on Oct. 30 honored three individuals whose Catholic values mark their lives. Sitting, from left, are honorees Dennis Sponsel, Providence Sister James Michael Kesterson and Fred Klipsch. Standing, from left, are featured speaker Rodney Byrnes and Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, apostolic administrator of the archdiocese. (Submitted photo by Rob Banayote)

An archdiocesan celebration of Catholic education on Oct. 30 honored three individuals whose Catholic values mark their lives. Sitting, from left, are honorees Dennis Sponsel, Providence Sister James Michael Kesterson and Fred Klipsch. Standing, from left, are featured speaker Rodney Byrnes and Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, apostolic administrator of the archdiocese. (Submitted photo by Rob Banayote)

By John Shaughnessy

His words were a tribute to the way that Catholic schools try to make a difference in the lives of children.

The words of Bishop Christopher J. Coyne also spoke to the heart of the lives of the three people who were honored during the 2012 Celebrating Catholic School Values Awards event on Oct. 30 at Union Station in Indianapolis.

“Our Catholic schools serve so many Catholic children, but they also serve a lot of children who don’t share our Catholic faith,” said Bishop Coyne, apostolic administrator of the archdiocese. “We’re committed to not only building up our Catholic community, but [also] building up the greater community. We’re committed to educating children to be good citizens in the fullness of what that means.”

As this year’s recipients of Career Achievement Awards, Providence Sister James Michael Kesterson and Dennis Sponsel have lived those words of Bishop Coyne. So has Fred Klipsch, this year’s recipient of the Community Service Award.

Sister James Michael has always directed her focus to honoring God and serving others, especially children, in her 83 years of life and more than 60 years as a Catholic educator in the archdiocese.

She was principal of Our Lady of the Greenwood School in Greenwood for 10 years. She also served as the principal of St. Jude School in Indianapolis for 32 years. During that time, the school earned two Blue Ribbon School awards for excellence from the U.S. Department of Education.

“My blessing was to be with the children all those years—to help them, to teach them, to see them grow,” said Sister James Michael, who also was a teacher at the former St. Andrew the Apostle School in Indianapolis.

She has continued that approach toward children and the faith even after she retired in 2010.

She teaches in the after-school religious education program at St. Anthony Parish in Indianapolis. She is on the planning committee for the 175th anniversary celebration of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis. And she volunteers part time in the archives department of the archdiocese.

“You have to stay active,” said Sister James Michael, who will be 84 on Nov. 21. “My family, my faith, my community and the children have been my priority in life. God has blessed me, and he continues to bless me.”

Dennis Sponsel was honored in part for his service as chairman of the Mother Theodore Catholic Academies board of directors.

In accepting his award, he paid tribute to his mom and dad—the parents of seven children—who started every weekday by receiving Communion at 5:15 in the morning at St. Philip Neri Church in Indianapolis.

He has also never forgotten the influence of the priests, religious sisters, teachers, coaches and other parents from his childhood and youth, who set an example of doing the right thing, giving from the heart and caring about others.

“Those are the values I believe in and try to live by,” said Sponsel, a member of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis.

Sponsel credits that foundation of Catholic faith and Catholic education for his commitment to numerous volunteer efforts, including United Way of Central Indiana and the Mother Theodore Catholic Academies, a consortium of Central Catholic School, Holy Angels School, Holy Cross Central School and St. Philip Neri School, all in Indianapolis.

“I’ve never let go of my connection to St. Philip Neri and the near east side being a major part of my life,” said Sponsel, who is also a graduate of the former Latin School in Indianapolis. “Everything I am today is because of my parents and my Catholic school education.”

Fred Klipsch received the Community Service Award for his leadership as chairman of School Choice Indiana and the Educational CHOICE Charitable Trust.

For 22 years, Klipsch served as chairman and chief executive officer of Klipsch Group Inc., a world-class speaker company based in Indianapolis. Yet, Klipsch is more concerned about helping to create success stories from the lives of underprivileged children in Indiana.

“Every child has the right—and should have the privilege—of a very good education that should be made available to them no matter where they live,” he said.

Klipsch has made that goal his passion as chairman of School Choice Indiana and the Educational CHOICE Charitable Trust, two programs that offer children from low-income families the opportunity to attend the school of their choice, including Catholic schools.

“Through Educational CHOICE Trust, we’ve given out $20 million in scholarships to 20,000 children in the first 20 years,” he said. “School Choice Indiana is helping 9,500 children this year get an average of a $4,500 scholarship or voucher.”

Klipsch chose a Catholic school education for his children at St. Pius X School and Bishop Chatard High School, both in Indianapolis. For him, Catholic schools offer a spiritual view that makes life more rounded. Still, his push for school choice for children and their parents is open-ended.

“I’m as concerned about public schools as I am about private schools and charter schools,” said Klipsch, a member of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Carmel, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese, who often attends St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis. “Every parent should have more than one choice.”

The award recipients were saluted by Harry Plummer, executive director of Catholic education and faith formation for the archdiocese.

“They have exemplified Catholic school values to an exceptional degree,” Plummer told the audience of 600 people at the event. “Through their witness, we can catch a glimpse of just how great an influence Catholic education has in the lives of so many people.” †

 

Related: Speaker says Catholic schools helped transform his young life

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!