September 14, 2018

Angels of Grace recipients reflect dignity for those on the margins

By Natalie Hoefer

Throughout the Bible, three archangels are listed by name: Gabriel, messenger of good news to Mary and Zechariah; Michael, defender of heaven who cast the devil into hell; and Raphael, the traveling companion of Tobias.

Since 2007, the Sisters of St. Benedict in Beech Grove have annually identified three women serving heroically in the roles of messenger, defender and companion, and recognized their service with an “Angels of Grace” award.

This year’s recipients are longtime Helping Our Own People (HOOP) volunteer Karen Beckwith for the “defender” Archangel Michael Award; community organizer and social justice advocate Providence Sister Tracey Horan for the “messenger” Archangel Gabriel Award; and GiGi’s Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Center volunteer coordinator and board member Kathleen Yohe for the “companion” Archangel Raphael Award.

These women will receive their awards on Sept. 29 at a fashion show and luncheon fundraiser honoring all women and benefiting women’s programs at the Benedict Inn Retreat & Conference Center in Beech Grove.

Fashions by The Secret Ingredient in Indianapolis will be modeled by friends of the Benedict Inn and will be available for purchase, with 10 percent of the proceeds going toward the cause. Gift baskets and prizes will be raffled.

Here are the stories of this year’s messenger, defender and companion.

‘That human connection’

What started out as a volunteer effort with her small church community (SCC) at St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis has become a passionate cause for Karen Beckwith.

In 2004, she learned of HOOP’s efforts to collect and deliver needed items to those living on the streets of Indianapolis.

Her SCC group and members of the parish collected items for the cause.

“It was stacking in my garage and growing beyond what I had imagined,” says Beckwith. “This went on for about three months. I just felt like I was asking all these people to collect, but I didn’t know the group. I thought maybe I needed to get more involved.”

But she resisted until she received a phone call from someone inviting her to help deliver items for HOOP.

“It was God speaking to me saying, ‘You know you need to do this,’ ” says Beckwith.

She and her husband Don started to help delivering items and food to the homeless through the organization.

“We go out in the evenings, so it’s dark, and the places we went were scary,” she says of that first experience. “I was scared and nervous, but I still felt it was God calling us to go do this.”

That first night, Beckwith recalls thinking, “We’ve got 50 sandwiches and 50 bananas, and we’re going to find 50 people.

“I realized after a while, the people we were meeting just wanted to talk—about the Colts game, the weather, what’s going on. They wanted to tell their story. They were happy to get the stuff, but they were really wanting that human connection.”

Fourteen years later, Beckwith is still involved with fundraising, collecting, sorting, and delivering items—and sharing that human connection—with HOOP. She says her parish is “a huge part of HOOP,” and her husband is currently president of the organization’s board.

“We get so much support from our parish and other [parishes and faith communities],” says Beckwith. “We just couldn’t do it without all the support we get. This award is not just for me, but for my husband and the parish and all those who help.”

For more information on HOOP, go to www.hoopindy.weebly.com.

‘It’s about announcing the dignity of people’

In her four short years as a member of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Sister Tracey Horan has made headlines for leading peaceful protests and efforts of nonviolent action on behalf of immigrants. At 31, she has only just begun sharing the message of support and dignity to those seeking a better life.

“What drives me most is the courage of the people I work with who take risks,” says Sister Tracey, who is a bilingual community organizer for Faith in Indiana (formerly known as Indy-Congregation Action Network, or Indy-CAN) and the contact for the archdiocese’s Justice for Immigrants ministry. “People who every day live in fear of being pulled over, just going through their daily lives and knowing they are at risk, and putting themselves at risk by being public figures and recognizable around the city.”

Sister Tracey appreciates that she was chosen specifically for the Archangel Gabriel “messenger” award.

“So much of the work we do at Faith in Indiana and with the archdiocese is about sending a message,” she explains. “It’s about announcing the dignity of people and really fighting against some hateful rhetoric against people of color and immigrants.

“A big piece of [what we do] is telling stories, sharing the good news of who people are, the immigrant family in our community and all the ways they contribute to making our community better.”

Receiving the award left Sister Tracey “surprised, and also just affirmed. I think it speaks to not just the work I’ve been doing, but the work we’ve been building with people of color and immigrants in the city and now the state.”

She admits she “was a little hesitant at first to receive it because I see myself as a coach for people who are doing the real leading. I feel like I am receiving it on behalf of the hundreds out there having conversations, sitting in rooms across from leaders, those sitting in the pews.”

Sister Tracey also has the unique perspective of being a religious sister receiving an award from another order of sisters.

“It was special to be affirmed from a group of women religious,” she says. “I see this common mission and what women religious have done. It’s great to have that connection to religious women.”

For more information on Faith in Indiana, go to faithinindiana.org. For more information on the archdiocesan Justice for Immigrants ministry, go to www.archindy.org/immigration.

‘Companionship on this road’

Kathleen Yohe, the recipient of the Archangel Raphael “companion” award, appreciates the value of having fellow travelers on a journey.

“Since having our daughter with Down syndrome [four years ago], companionship has been absolutely instrumental in the sense that so many of us families have so many emotions from the moment our kiddos are born, or [from when] you get the diagnosis,” she says. “It’s so important to have the feeling of knowing you’re not alone on the journey.”

Yohe receives, and more importantly offers, such companionship by offering her time as the volunteer coordinator and serving on the board for GiGi’s Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Center facility on the northeast side of Indianapolis. The organization, which operates 24 locations in the United States and Mexico, provides free programming to those with Down syndrome and to their families.

“GiGi’s Playhouse is a place for companionship to really take place,” says Yohe, who with her husband and children is a member of St. Louis de Montfort Parish in Fishers, Ind., in the Lafayette diocese. “The programming is of course beneficial, and we’re very thankful for those [programs] for our kids and families. But number one is the sense of companionship and community on this road.”

Raising a family of three children ages 6 and younger takes time and energy. One of them having special needs is even more challenging. But Yohe continues to serve at GiGi’s Playhouse.

“I’ve always been raised to be a servant of God and to always give back, to realize the blessings we have in our lives and to be that blessing for others,” says the graduate of St. Pius X School, Cathedral High School and Marian University, all in Indianapolis

Because of her belief in serving others, Yohe says she was “humbled” and “really taken aback” when she was informed of the award.

“I don’t really feel like what I do is that much out of the ordinary, lending a helping hand as people do every day.

“For me, this is more about an opportunity to tell people about GiGi’s. … [The organization] gives you so much more hope, and that’s what other moms have done for me and continue to do for me, and what I hope to do for those to come after me.”

For more information on GiGi’s Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Centers, go to gigisplayhouse.org.
 

(The Angels of Grace awards luncheon and fashion show will take place at Primo Banquet and Conference Center, 2615 National Ave., in Indianapolis, from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. on Sept. 29. The cost is $35 per person, or $260 for a table of eight. For more information or to register, call 317-788-7581 or go to www.benedictinn.org.)

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