May 30, 2014

Woman’s story, teen’s work show spirit of Church

The 2014 St. John Bosco Award recipients pose for a photograph at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis with Bishop Christopher J. Coyne during the May 6 Volunteer Awards Ceremony sponsored by the archdiocese’s Catholic Youth Organization and the Office of Youth Ministry. The recipients in the front row are, from left, Dan Deak,  Kathleen Miller, Mark Liegibel and Kurt Smith. The recipients in the back row are, from left, Nick Wehlage, Patrick Soller and Ken Blackwell. (Submitted photo by Jennifer Peterson of Catholic Youth Organization)

The 2014 St. John Bosco Award recipients pose for a photograph at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis with Bishop Christopher J. Coyne during the May 6 Volunteer Awards Ceremony sponsored by the archdiocese’s Catholic Youth Organization and the Office of Youth Ministry. The recipients in the front row are, from left, Dan Deak, Kathleen Miller, Mark Liegibel and Kurt Smith. The recipients in the back row are, from left, Nick Wehlage, Patrick Soller and Ken Blackwell. (Submitted photo by Jennifer Peterson of Catholic Youth Organization)

By John Shaughnessy

Nearly everyone who has ever been a coach savors those moments when a former player tells them how their teaching and caring has had a lasting impact on his or her life.

For Kathleen Miller, one of those special moments came when she was at a party.

“One of the girls I coached way back was getting married this past winter, and we ran into each other at a party,” recalls Miller, who has coached kickball and other sports for 40 years at St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis.

“She said, ‘Remember when you brought us into the chapel before our kickball games, and we said that one prayer, the Memorare, for the Blessed Mother? I still say that prayer.’ I told her to say it before she got married. She said, ‘Don’t worry. I will.’

“For her to remember that was really special.”

So was the feeling that Hannah Ardery had when she helped with the Kenya Carnival, a fundraising effort in Indianapolis to help make it possible for 100 children in Kenya to attend school.

“What I loved the most about being part of this organization was that it was run by people my age,” says the 18-year-old Ardery, a member of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis. “It was a youth-led organization helping other youths.”

Ardery and the 60-year-old Miller come from different generations and have different interests. But they also share the gift of making a difference in the lives of others.

That bond led to both of them being among a giving group of adults and youths who were honored on May 6 during the Volunteer Awards Ceremony in Indianapolis that was sponsored by the archdiocese’s Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) and Office of Youth Ministry.

(Related: CYO recognition highlights work of both adults and young people)

Miller was one of seven individuals to be honored with the St. John Bosco Award—the CYO’s highest honor—during the ceremony at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

The other honorees were Ken Blackwell of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, Patrick Soller of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood, Kurt Smith of St. Christopher Parish in Indianapolis, Mark Liegibel of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis, Dan Deak of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, and Nick Wehlage of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Indianapolis.

“It’s very special,” says Miller, whose connection to CYO dates back to her involvement as an officer for the organization when she was a student at Bishop Chatard High School in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. “When I was in high school, it was so exciting to see people receive this award. And when I was told I was getting the honor, I was so humbled. I didn’t think I deserved it.”

Miller couldn’t be more deserving, says Ed Tinder, the CYO’s executive director.

“She is one of the greatest volunteers and servant leaders in our Catholic Church in the archdiocese,” Tinder said while paying tribute to Miller during the awards ceremony. “While it is undeniable that her passion is young people, she gives of her time, talents and treasure to many causes in our Church. The Catholic Church and schools have been her entire life.”

Beyond four decades of coaching at St. Luke, Miller served for nine years on the CYO’s board of directors. The mother of eight is also a member of the archdiocese’s education committee and was a co-chair at St. Luke for one of the archdiocese’s capital campaigns.

Miller is quick to credit her husband of 38 years, Tom, for all his support: “If it wasn’t for all his help, I wouldn’t have been able to do all these things. He’s just a special, special man.”

Miller’s approach to coaching is special, too.

“When you get them young and teach them how to get better and teach them to be good sports, that’s what it’s all about,” says the grandmother of nine. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m very competitive. I always wanted to win ‘City,’ but it’s more about having fun.

“I just think it’s neat to be able to do something to help children. They’re going to become adults. If there’s anything we can do for them or improve things for them, we should do them.”

That approach has already become a constant in the life of Ardery, one of 26 youths to earn the Spirit of Youth Award during the ceremony.

A member of the Archdiocesan Youth Council, Ardery has also been extensively involved at St. Monica Parish as a cantor, an altar server and a member of the youth band during Masses. She has been on service trips to communities in the United States and Honduras while also serving as a leader in the parish’s Life Teen youth group and the Indianapolis Catholic Youth Conference.

“Hannah’s faith is a vital part of her life,” says Mary Jo Thomas-Day, director of religious education at St. Monica. “She loves her Catholic faith and ‘walks the talk’ by her service.”

Ardery says her faith has grown through her volunteer efforts.

“When I was trying to build my faith, I would volunteer and get involved in organizations and various groups around my church to help it grow,” says Ardery, a Carmel High School senior who will attend Marian University in Indianapolis. “My faith is very important to me, and I try to keep it strong because I know I will need it when I am at a stressful or low point in my life.”

Her approach to serving others also reflects the attitude of many of the other Spirit of Youth Award recipients.

“It is very important to me to do volunteer work because I love seeing the smiles and the sparkle in people’s eyes. I love to be with people, to get to know their story and listen. It is one of my favorite things to do. I am going to do it for the rest of my life.” †

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!