September 13, 2019

Benedictine sisters to honor ‘Angels of Grace’ on Sept. 28

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.

For the last 12 years, the Sisters of St. Benedict in Beech Grove have annually identified three women who have heroically served in the roles of messenger, defender and companion, and recognized their service with an “Angels of Grace” award.

This year’s recipients are The PourHouse founder Andrea DeMink for the “defender” Archangel Michael Award; Grit Into Grace founder Stefanie Jeffers for the “messenger” Archangel Gabriel Award; and 83-year‑old volunteer extraordinaire Celia “Ceil” Woodard of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis for the “companion” Archangel Raphael Award.

These women will receive their awards on Sept. 28 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 also be raffled.

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

Archangel Michael Award winner Andrea DeMink: See them as ‘peers, not projects’

Andrea DeMink gushes when she talks about her friends.

“I know the most fascinating, kind, wonderful people in Indianapolis, probably in the whole state,” says the 50-year-old married mother of two.

She meets with them downtown every Sunday and Wednesday evening for food, friendship and coffee—“lots of coffee,” she adds with a laugh.

By “lots,” DeMink means 20 gallons, and by food she means about 250 meals—one for each of her friends who are experiencing homelessness in Indianapolis.

More than coffee is poured at the bi-weekly community gatherings offered by The PourHouse, which DeMink founded in 2004. She says the name itself is a play on words for what the organization does: “We pour out kindness, and other services too.”

These outpourings are all based on one framework: relationships.

“We focus on finding out from [those living on the streets] what their vision is for their life, what they want their next step to be, and how we can walk with them and help them accomplish that vision,” explains DeMink, executive director of The PourHouse.

In addition to peer relationships, the organization also offers services such as housing and addictions referrals, legal and health care advocacy and more. It works in partnership with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, local health care providers and numerous other organizations.

DeMink, a member of Indy Vineyard Community Church in Indianapolis, says she wants “other people in the community to see the people I’m friends with on the street as people and peers, not projects.”

With such a desire, she admits it “gets hard to take in” the reactions of those who “don’t understand homelessness and the burdens that come with that. … I find myself constantly defending and explaining and trying to educate the general public.”

In light of her self-acknowledged role as a “defender,” DeMink’s voice is emotional when expressing her thoughts on receiving the “defender” Archangel Michael Award.

“For me, it’s important because it places the work that’s being done in a place of importance,” she says. “And that means the people I’m serving are in a place of importance.”

For more information on The PourHouse, call 317‑537-7727, e-mail, or go to

Archangel Raphael Award winner Celia “Ceil” Woodard: Doing many ‘little things’

Celia “Ceil” Woodard struggles when it comes to volunteering and helping others.

She is 83—but age is not the issue.

She also has had seven back surgeries—but health is not the obstacle either.

The concern, Woodard confesses, is commitment—or rather, an overabundance thereof.

“I sometimes think I’m involved in too much,” she admits. “But I don’t know what I’d give up.”

Woodard’s approach to helping others hinges on the example of St. Thérèse of Lisieux: to do little things with great love.

“It’s easy to get overwhelmed thinking of doing one big thing,” says Woodard. “But I can do little things.”

One might question her definition of “little.” For instance, Woodard, her late husband Melvin and their four children cared for more than 60 babies from St. Elizabeth|Coleman Pregnancy and Adoption Services in Beech Grove, taking in and caring for infants as young as 2 days old until each child was adopted or the mother changed her mind.

Another effort others might question as “little” is Woodard’s volunteer work—sometimes as often as four times a week— at the Indiana Women’s Prison. And now, twice a year she facilitates a 14-week program there, walking women through the “intense challenge” of reviewing the consequences their actions have had on their families, friends and the community, ultimately to help the women heal and turn their lives around.

One little thing can have a way of leading to another little thing. Such was the case with Woodard’s service at the women’s prison.

“She was someone I mentored, and I agreed to continue,” she says of an inmate who was moved to Craine House, a “halfway house” for convicted mothers, offering them a work-release program and the ability to care for their children in a group-home setting. Woodard drives to the northwest side facility to take her friend to job interviews, find clothing and other needed items, and simply to be a friend to someone in need.

Other “little things” fill Woodard’s time, too: bringing the Eucharist to the sick; storing items donated to the Helping Our Own People ministry for the homeless in Indianapolis; helping with rosary ministries at St. Barnabas and at St. Joseph School in Shelbyville; sending gifts and home-baked bread to archdiocesan seminarians.

“I don’t think I’m doing anything out of the ordinary,” she says, noting she was “dumbfounded” by the award. “But one thing I hope comes out of [receiving] the award is that people will see they can do little things instead of one big thing.”

Archangel Gabriel Award winner Stefanie Jeffers: ‘The healing we offer is hope’

Every thief by definition steals from a victim.

For Stefanie Jeffers, that thief was the commercial sex industry she fell prey to nearly two decades ago. It robbed her of “everything,” she says, including her sense of hope.

She left the industry after three years “through the gift of God’s grace,” she says. “And I found my hope in Jesus Christ.”

Now Jeffers, 48, and a married mother of two, helps other such women find hope and healing in Christ through the non-profit organization she founded in 2017 called Grit Into Grace.

After several years working for organizations that helped women caught in the commercial sex industry, Jeffers sensed God wanted her “to step out on my own.”

In her discernment process, she says, “God planted an image in my head and heart.” It was a home with “a front porch, two bedrooms and a driveway on the right.

“God said, ‘This is what I want, and this is what needs to happen, and it isn’t happening in [Indianapolis] for these people.’ ”

From the image that she calls a “dream house,” Jeffers envisioned a home offering a unique form of healing for women affected by the commercial sex industry—those who worked, are currently working or are considering working “in a strip club, in prostitution, in porn, in massage parlors, as an escort or outcall,” as defined on the Grit Into Grace website.

“So many important things have to happen for these women to heal,” she says. “Basic needs have to be met—getting clean from drugs, housing, therapy.

“The healing we have to offer is hope, and that hope is found in Jesus Christ.”

The organization extends such hope through social gatherings for these women and their families, survivor-led mentoring, Bible study, art therapy, and accompaniment in finding existing resources for the specific type of help a woman needs.

“Hope sometimes holds hands with hopelessness,” she explains. “Even when we feel hopeless, as long as there’s breath in our lungs, there’s hope.

“So many [women] ask if I have hope for them. I do, because I lived it, because of the strength God gives us. I’ve seen darkness in my life, and I know what it is to have light in life. If God can do that with me, he can do that for anyone.”

Jeffers says she was stunned at the news she was chosen to receive an Angels of Grace award.

“The thing that I love the most is that the one I’m getting is for the messenger of hope,” she says enthusiastically. “Hope is so much a part of what we do. That made me so happy!”

She directs the honor to God, noting that he “does everything—I just get out of the way!”

Jeffers gives credit to her pastor and fellow members of Heartland Church in Fishers, Ind., for their active support and “just embracing these women. They love and accept them just as they loved and accepted me,” she says.

Many also support Grit Into Grace financially. One person even donated a house to the organization where the women can gather. It’s called the “Dream House.”

And it just happens to have a front porch, two bedrooms and a driveway on the right.

For more information on Grit Into Grace, go to, e-mail, or call 317-331-8334.

(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. 28. The cost is $40 per person, or $300 for a table of eight. For more information or to register, call 317-788-7581 or go to

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