September 16, 2005

Celebrate Life dinner to honor Little Sisters
of the Poor, Jack and Melanie Esselman

By Mary Ann Wyand

Right to Life of Indianapolis will honor the Little Sisters of the Poor and Immac­ulate Heart of Mary parishioners Jack and Melanie Esselman of Indian­apolis for distinguished service to the cause of life during the 23rd annual Celebrate Life dinner on Sept. 27 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.

The event begins with a social hour at 6 p.m. followed by dinner at 7 p.m. then the awards presentations and keynote address.

The Little Sisters will receive the Charles E. Stimming Sr. Pro-life Award and the Esselmans will receive the Respect Life Award from the pro-life organization.

Suzanne Schindler Vitadamo—the ­sister of the late Terri Schindler Schiavo, who died by court-ordered dehydration and starvation on March 31—is the keynote speaker and will discuss her family’s personal experience with euthanasia.

Through the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation established by the Schindler family in 2000, Vitadamo and her family continue to wage a battle to save other people with disabilities so that Schiavo’s court-ordered death will not happen to other persons with disabilities.

“Right to Life of Indianapolis is proud to have this courageous woman share her time with us,” said St. Luke parishioner Joan Byrum of Indianapolis, president of Right to Life of Indian­apolis, “and we are truly grateful for her untiring efforts on behalf of the preservation of life.”

Catholic recording artist Sarah Bauer, who is also the youth ministry coordinator for Holy Spirit Parish in Fishers, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese, will entertain the crowd with songs from her two CD’s—Delighting in Dreams, released in 2004, and Lead Me Home, released this year—during the fundraising dinner.

A Cathedral High School graduate, Bauer also was a featured performer during World Youth Day in August in Cologne, Germany.

Byrum said the Little Sisters of the Poor will receive the Stimming Award for lovingly caring for the elderly poor in the Indianapolis area for the past 133 years.

She said Immaculate Heart parishioners Melanie and Jack Esselman have been dedicated volunteers for Right to Life of Indianapolis for many years, including serving as chairpersons for the organization’s Indiana State Fair exhibit each year.

Sister Geraldine Harvie, superior of the Little Sisters at the St. Augustine Home for the Aged, said the sisters have cared for more than 5,000 elderly persons with minimal financial resources in central Indiana, regardless of their religion or ­ethnic origin.

She said 10 Little Sisters work with more than 100 staff members and hundreds of volunteers to provide a loving home for 90 elderly residents in independent living apartments, assisted living units or in nursing care.

Sister Geraldine said the Little Sisters have no fixed source of income and must depend daily on the generosity of others for the funds necessary to manage the home.

She said each sister, volunteer, employee and donor contributes time, talent and treasure out of genuine respect and concern for the elderly.

“In our vocation of Little Sisters of the Poor,” Sister Geraldine said, “when we hold in our hands that of an elderly person who is dying, we try by our presence to show him or her the tenderness of the Father and, in prayer, to transmit to him or her this unshakable confidence in [God].”

(For information about ticket availability for the Celebrate Life dinner, call Right to Life of Indianapolis at 317-582-1526 or contact


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