July 18, 2014

Endowment makes mission trips possible for teens, young adults

Colleen and Mark Lahr, at right, pose in February at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis with four young women who were awarded scholarships to go on foreign mission trips. The awardees are, from left, Rebecca Doyle, Mary Carper, Shannon Jager and Nicolette Peters. They received the scholarships from the Brooke Nicole Lahr Memorial Fund for International Mission Work. It is named after Mark and Colleen’s daughter, who died in Mexico in 2013 while doing mission work. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Colleen and Mark Lahr, at right, pose in February at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis with four young women who were awarded scholarships to go on foreign mission trips. The awardees are, from left, Rebecca Doyle, Mary Carper, Shannon Jager and Nicolette Peters. They received the scholarships from the Brooke Nicole Lahr Memorial Fund for International Mission Work. It is named after Mark and Colleen’s daughter, who died in Mexico in 2013 while doing mission work. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

Brooke Lahr died in a traffic accident more than a year ago while doing mission work in Mexico. But her spirit of faith-filled service lives on in several young women who have made or will make international mission trips this year.

Each received a scholarship to make their mission trip possible from the Brooke Nicole Lahr Memorial Fund for International Mission Work, which is managed by the archdiocesan Catholic Community Foundation.

Those who received the scholarships were Rebecca Doyle, a member of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis; Mary Carper, a member of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis; Shannon Jager, a member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington; Nicolette Peters, a member of St. Matthew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis; Megan Strobel, a member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington; and Carrie Zanone, a member of St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Louisville, Ky., in the Louisville Archdiocese.

At the time of her death at age 25, Lahr was a member of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis. In the wake of her death, her parents, Mark and Colleen Lahr, spearheaded an effort to have an endowment established that would allow high school and college students to have life-changing experiences on international mission trips similar to those that Brooke experienced in Honduras and Mexico.

In the days immediately after Brooke’s death, some $7,000 was donated by friends, family and other people moved by her story. When the first scholarships were awarded earlier this year, there was more than $29,000 in the fund.

Rebecca Doyle’s scholarship allowed her to participate in a spring break mission trip to El Salvador sponsored by Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis, where she completed her junior year last spring.

During her trip, she spent time with children there and experienced the ongoing effects of a devastating civil war that occurred in the Latin American country nearly 30 years ago.

“A lot of their life is centered around faith in God,” Rebecca said. “They have so much trust. They had everything taken away from them in the war. They trust that they will be provided for.”

Although her trip was a relatively short one, Rebecca knows that it changed her.

“You can’t really be the same when you come back,” she said. “I was so inspired by that trip. I don’t want to be the same or as materialistic.”

Around the time that Rebecca took her mission trip to El Salvador, Carrie Zanone traveled to Guatemala with fellow students at Bellarmine University in Louisville, which is Brooke Lahr’s alma mater.

The mission trip participants helped residents of Zacapa and Antigua, Guatemala, receive physical therapy and dental care. They also helped paint a mural in a school there.

The trip helped strengthen Zanone’s faith.

But the trip wouldn’t have been possible without the scholarship she received. She’s grateful for the way that the Lahrs have memorialized their daughter.

“I’m a really poor college student,” Zanone said. “Both of my parents are on disability. It’s great that, in the midst of all of their grief, [the Lahrs] took the time to honor her in some way. So many lives are affected by this.”

Later this summer, Shannon Jager will travel on a mission trip to Uganda with members of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington.

“My parents have always taught me that the way to happiness is by serving others,” said Jager, who recently finished her freshman year at DePauw University in Greencastle. “I really think it’s true. I really like working hard and being able to have an impact on people.”

While in Uganda, Jager hopes to help improve the shelter and medical care of disadvantaged children in the village of Kopeeka.

“As long as I can make some kids feel loved and give them some attention and possibly some health care and shelter … that would definitely be enough,” Jager said. “The impact that I want to make is by spreading our message just by acting. Maybe one person can see that this girl is working for Jesus and Catholicism.”

Mark and Colleen Lahr have enjoyed hearing about the experiences of the scholarship awardees.

“We realize that they’re reaching a lot of different people,” said Mark Lahr. “The mission that our daughter, Brooke, had is being extended through other people’s hands. That’s what makes us both satisfied.”

“We’re very pleased,” added Colleen Lahr. “It’s just so exciting when the students get back and show us pictures. We read the heartfelt messages in their thank you notes. It’s very joyful.”

As director of the archdiocesan Catholic Community Foundation, Ellen Brunner has been privileged to work with the Lahrs in helping high school and college students following Brooke Lahr’s footsteps.

“I feel like this is a healing experience for the Lahr family,” Brunner said.

“They’re able to translate what was a very dramatic and terrible incident in their lives. They’re able to re-route that energy into something a lot more positive for other young people.”
 

(Donations to the Brooke Nicole Lahr Memorial Fund for International Mission Work are still being accepted. For more information about donating, call Ellen Brunner at 317-236-1427 or 800-382-9836, ext. 1427, or send her an e-mail at ebrunner@archindy.org.)

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