May 10, 2019

Spirit of Service winners live out their faith by helping others

By John Shaughnessy

Four individuals were honored for their contributions to the community during a celebration of the 100th anniversary of Catholic Charities in central and southern Indiana. (Related story: IndyCar driver lauds Catholic Charities’ legacy of creating hope for those in need)

Here is capsulized information about the award recipients, who were each featured in front-page stories in The Criterion in March and April.


Robert “Lanny” Rossman, Spirit of Service Award

His joy for life often radiates from the face of Robert “Lanny” Rossman, and it was on high beam as he stood in front of a house on the near west side of Indianapolis in early March.

Rossman and his nephew Steve Adams had spent 14 months tearing down and building up the interior of the once‑abandoned house—a complete overhaul that gave the 75-year-old Rossman an overwhelming sense of satisfaction.

Yet what brought the true joy to Rossman is knowing that he not only helped to transform the house, he helped to transform a family’s life. The house became a home for a single mother and her three children, a home that the family couldn’t otherwise afford.

“I remember she was extremely excited and thankful when they moved in,” says a smiling Rossman, one of the founding members of Hearts and Hands of Indiana, an organization that buys abandoned houses in the area and rehabilitates them as homes for low-income families. “I don’t think there’s a greater feeling than that, knowing you can provide a home for someone.”

A father of four, Rossman has also coached football and basketball in the archdiocese’s Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) for more than 40 years. And for the past 20 years, he has served as a volunteer with the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Brown County.

“You got to be willing to help people,” says Rossman, a member of both St. Agnes Parish in Nashville and St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis.

“We’re only here for a short time, and I want to do what I can.”

(Read more about him here)


Liz Stanton, Spirit of Service Award

As she neared her retirement, Liz Stanton offered God a deal she hoped he couldn’t resist. She just never expected that God would make her a counteroffer.

“When I retired at 66, I told him I would give him my time, energy and prayer, in exchange for him guiding me into opportunities to serve others—ultimately serving him,” Stanton notes.

She smiles as she shares God’s counteroffer: “You have to be very careful when dealing with God. He believes you can do much more than you believe you can do.”

Consider everything that the 78-year‑old Stanton has done in the nearly 13 years since her retirement.

She seeks bargains and calls upon friends and neighbors to donate clothing, toiletries and food that she then delivers to Holy Family Shelter in Indianapolis and Operation Leftover, a monthly homeless outreach in downtown Indianapolis.

A great-grandmother, Stanton also tutors first-, second- and third-grade children at a public elementary school.

A member of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, she has served as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, bringing the Eucharist to people in hospitals and nursing homes.

She also works to help people who are trying to change their lives after serving a prison sentence. She collects donated furniture, kitchenware and bedding to help them as they move into an apartment.

Stanton is also the “Crime Watch” captain for her neighborhood, patrolling the streets with her 10-year-old dog that she has dubbed “Deputy Harry.”

Stanton looks forward to the daily adventures that await her and God.

“We’re going to find someone at some place who needs something,” she says. “And we’re going to cheer them up.”

(Read more about her here)


James Morris, Spirit of Service Award

On every mantle in the home of James Morris, this saying is ingrained: “Thank God for faith, family, friends, community and vocation.”

That focus has guided the 76-year Morris during a career dedicated to making the world better at every turn, including: helping to transform Indianapolis into a major city, serving as the executive director of the United Nation’s World Food Programme to lessen worldwide hunger, and being the United States’ permanent representative to the executive board of UNICEF, which focuses on improving the lives of children around the world.

“It’s important for everyone to be driven to make a difference in the lives of those around them, to build great communities and great institutions,” Morris says. “None of that can be done alone. When I was at the World Food Programme, my motto was, ‘Do more. Do it better. And do it together.’ ”

Among his many influences in Indiana, Morris has served as the president of Lilly Endowment, Inc., founded the Indiana Sports Corporation and helped bring the Pan American Games and the National Collegiate Athletic Association headquarters to Indianapolis.

Currently the vice chairman of Pacers Sports & Entertainment, the father of three and grandfather of eight also is focused on reducing hunger among children in the city.

Morris considers all his outreach as an extension of his faith in God, and what God calls people to do in life.

“God loves us. God expects us to love each other, and that means having our arms open, being sensitive and caring, serving, sharing and doing the best we can with all that’s given us, and having respect across the board for each other.”

(Read more about him here)


Yan Yan, Young Adult Spirit of Service Award

For Yan Yan, the tattoo on his right leg represents his approach to serving others and honoring God. The 20-year-old’s tattoo features the Latin phrase Imago Dei.

“It means image of God,” he says. “Since everyone is created in the image of God, every action I take should be for God. I got the tattoo on my leg because it’s a reminder that every step I take is to serve God.”

That philosophy has guided his efforts to help children from Burmese families in Indianapolis to improve their English and their academic skills, all in the hope of aiding them to adapt to life in America and pave the way for a better future.

Yan’s concern for youths who are struggling stems from his own struggles upon arriving in the United States when he was 13. His family’s journey to freedom began when his father—a Catholic—fled Burma because of religious persecution. Yan and his parents became refugees in Malaysia before moving to America.

A turning point in his life came when he attended St. Mark the Evangelist School in Indianapolis for eighth grade. His year there strengthened his faith and his resolve to make a difference. As a student at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, he volunteered as an English instructor for younger Burmese children.

That commitment has continued while he’s a student at Marian University in Indianapolis. He’s the after-school program coordinator for Hope for Tomorrow, an organization that helps Burmese children with their homework.

Yan is also a teacher’s aide at St. Mark School, focusing on the Burmese students.

“We have so many great things that have happened to us here,” he says.” But there are so many potentials our Burmese community has, too. I’m trying to lift that up in any way I can.” †

(Read more about him here)

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