March 2, 2018

Love of faith, spirit of caring are evident in 2018 CCSV award winners

An archdiocesan celebration of Catholic education on Feb. 22 honored three individuals and a parish group whose Catholic values mark their lives. Sitting, from left, are honorees Ody Oruche, Dan and Jan Megel, keynote speaker St. Joseph Sister Carol Cimino, and Gary Ahlrichs, representing the men’s group of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Indianapolis. Standing from left, are archdiocesan superintendent of schools Gina Fleming, Archbishop Charles C. Thompson, and Father Jeffrey Godecker, who helped found the men’s group of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in 2001. (Photo by Rob Banayote)

An archdiocesan celebration of Catholic education on Feb. 22 honored three individuals and a parish group whose Catholic values mark their lives. Sitting, from left, are honorees Ody Oruche, Dan and Jan Megel, keynote speaker St. Joseph Sister Carol Cimino, and Gary Ahlrichs, representing the men’s group of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Indianapolis. Standing from left, are archdiocesan superintendent of schools Gina Fleming, Archbishop Charles C. Thompson, and Father Jeffrey Godecker, who helped found the men’s group of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in 2001. (Photo by Rob Banayote)

By John Shaughnessy

A parish men’s group, a couple and an individual were honored during the archdiocese’s 22nd annual Celebrating Catholic School Values reception and awards program on Feb. 22 at Union Station in Indianapolis. (Related story: Catholic education is a ‘most valuable gift of the Church’ to the world, speaker says)

Here is capsulized information about the award recipients, who were prominently featured in the Jan. 12 issue of The Criterion.
 

The men’s group of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Indianapolis, Community Service Award

Background: Believing “life has been so good to me,” Gary Ahlrichs has made it his goal to make life better for others.

So the 78-year-old grandfather of 11 tutors a fourth-grade student, teaches a woman to learn to read and mentors a high school student who is a refugee from Africa.

“At some point, you have to give back,” says Ahlrichs, a member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Indianapolis. “It’s the right thing to do. I feel it keeps me connected to the world. And it gives me pleasure.”

So does seeing how members of the men’s group of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish make a difference in the lives of at-risk children at St. Anthony School in Indianapolis.

Service: When Ahlrichs helped re-start the parish’s men’s group in 2001, then-pastor Father Jeffrey Godecker suggested the group have an outreach mission, which spurred Ahlrichs’ desire to help a Catholic school in the inner city.

Seventeen years later, that commitment continues as the men’s group and other parish members have painted, raised funds, cooked lunches, granted scholarships, bought sports equipment, conducted health screenings and provided support for artistic and musical programs at St. Anthony.

For Ahlrichs, the efforts of the men’s group represent the difference that Catholic education has made in many of their lives. He wants that same gift for the children at St. Anthony School.

Quote: “The idea of sharing your experiences with young people—and helping them—is a good reason to get out of bed in the morning.”

Ody Oruche, recipient of a Career Achievement Award

Background: Oruche shares how his grandfather influenced him as he was growing up in the African country of Nigeria.

Although his grandfather didn’t have any formal education, he listened intently as an Irish priest serving in their African community stressed the need to build Catholic schools for the children. So his grandfather and others donated the land and the labor to build the schools.

That example has led Oruche to embrace a defining way to live his life.

“We are put on this Earth to build communities,” says Oruche, now a member of St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis.

Service: At St. Andrew Parish, Oruche has prepared children for their first Communion for 10 years and served as finance council chairman for 20 years.

He is a loyal supporter of Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis, where his two children have graduated and where he was a member of the Board of Regents for eight years.

He also served for 15 years on the archdiocese’s development and loan fund committee, helping parishes, schools and agencies complete their capital projects.

And he helped to form—and served as president of—the Umunna Cultural Association of Indianapolis, “the oldest and most publicly active African organization in central Indiana.”

He and his wife Ukamaka also return at least once a year to Nigeria, taking medicine and supplies to a primary care center they helped to open.

Quote: “I’m going to make myself and my family better, but I’m also going to make my community better. If the big community is not better off, it does not matter what happens to my family.”

Dan and Jan Megel, recipients of the Career Achievement Award

Background: When Dan and Jan Megel first met at a college party, they soon learned how important faith and family were to both of them. Through the 46 years they’ve been married now, the foundations of faith and family have continued to mark their relationship.

So has another cornerstone—combining their efforts for the good of their community.

“With good things, you have to pay it back,” Jan says.

Service: Dan taught confirmation classes for youths at St. Mary Parish in North Vernon for more than 30 years while Jan served as a second-grade teacher at the parish school for 21 years, preparing her students to receive the sacraments of reconciliation and their first Communion.

Since retiring in 2014, Jan continues to volunteer at the school as a librarian, and Dan continues his dedication to the Knights of Columbus.

The parents of four grown children also help people in need through a local Society of St. Vincent de Paul chapter, and they’re regulars at the parish’s perpetual adoration chapel.

The grandparents of nine also serve as extraordinary ministers of holy Communion at parish Masses, and Dan makes visits and takes Communion to homebound members of the parish.

The couple has also traveled on mission trips to Jamaica and Haiti, where they have helped build houses and wells.

Quote: “We were building houses in Jamaica in 2012, and I asked a priest there why the people were so happy when they have nothing, and so many people in our country who have a lot of money and possessions look so down,” Dan recalls. “He said, ‘You know, it took a while for me to figure it out. They have nothing between them and God. When they get up in the morning, they look up to heaven and thank God for another day.’

“We saw the same thing in Haiti. We’ve tried not to make money and possessions our goal because they block us from God.” †

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