March 23, 2018

Rita Kriech combines caring and commitment for her extended ‘family’

By John Shaughnessy

Rita KriechAt 87, Rita Kriech could just focus on her family that includes 11 children, 28 grandchildren and 11 great‑grandchildren.

But the concept of family has never ended there for the lifelong member of St. Philip Neri Parish in Indianapolis.

For more than 25 years, she has served as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion to people who aren’t able to leave their homes, always staying an extra time to talk and pray with them, and occasionally bringing meatloaf or ham for dinner.

She has also driven the Missionary Sisters of Charity to doctor’s appointments and food stores, and she has served weekly at the St. Paul Hermitage in Beech Grove for about 20 years, helping the residents play games.

She has also volunteered in the kitchen at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis. And she has helped the senior citizens and children who come to Miracle Place, a ministry of two Providence sisters in a near-eastside Indianapolis neighborhood that provides a variety of services for low-income residents.

That combination of caring and commitment has led Kriech to be chosen for a 2018 Spirit of Service Award from the archdiocese.

“I wasn’t able to do this when the kids were growing up,” says Kriech, who has also volunteered extensively in her parish. “I always said when they were grown, I would start volunteering. God says that’s what we’re put on the Earth for—to serve whoever we could. It’s such a joy for me.”

While Kriech has found joy in being there for her ever-expanding “family,” her life has also been marked by a quiet strength in caring for that family.

In the home where she has lived for 61 years, she has been the caregiver for four people who were in the last stages of their lives, including her husband of 52 years, Jim.

“That was really a ministry,” she says. “I hated to see their suffering, but I hoped I could ease their pain.”

That approach of always putting others first—with such love—distinguishes Kriech, according to longtime admirer and friend, Father Glenn O’Connor, the pastor of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield.

“She truly has the heart of Jesus,” he says. “Rita’s whole life has been discipleship, caring and responding to the needs of others, with no requirement of thanks or credit. She has very humbly done everything out of love, and only looks to heaven for any reward.”

She regards her Spirit of Service honor with that same sense of humility.

“God has been so good to me in so many ways,” she says. “This is another one added to my list of blessings.”

She smiles as she makes this promise: “I’m still going to help people. I don’t want to give up now.” †

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