May 5, 2006

Spirit of Service winners’ legacy is commitment to others

By John Shaughnessy

Peyton Manning had already congratulated the Spirit of Service Award winners for their dedication to people in need.

The Indianapolis Colts quarterback had already told a joke about God, football and homes in heaven—using his hands animatedly as he shared the punch line with the sold-out crowd at the awards dinner that raised a record-breaking $307,000 to benefit Catholic Charities Indianapolis.

Now, as he sat comfortably at center stage of the Indiana Roof Ballroom in Indianapolis, Manning turned toward a theme that served as an undercurrent for the event on April 26.

The theme of legacy.

With self-deprecating humor, Manning compared himself to some of the great quarterbacks who have played in the National Football League.

He said that Joe Montana will always be remembered for his great calm under pressure while John Elway will always be remembered for leading long, end-of-game drives that resulted in winning touchdowns.

Then, a smiling Manning shared what he feared will be his legacy: his whirlwind actions while constantly changing plays at the line-of-scrimmage—barking different signals, gesturing at his teammates and pointing at the defense.

“I really don’t like doing all that,” Manning said, blushing.

Yet while the All-Pro quarterback undoubtedly thinks about his legacy as a player, Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein drew attention to Manning’s impressive legacy as a person.

At the dinner, the archbishop referred to Manning’s PeyBack Foundation, which has distributed more than $1 million to fund various programs to improve lives and communities, including programs in Indiana, Louisiana and Tennessee—states where Manning has lived and contributed.

“I think Peyton should also be applauded for the excellent role model he has been for our youth,” the archbishop noted. “We all strive for success in our chosen careers, but it takes real character to make faith, family and helping others the top priorities in our lives. The kind of achievement that has a lasting effect is the victory that comes from being of service to those in need.”

Those words—and that legacy—certainly apply to Catholic Charities Indianapolis and the 2006 Spirit of Service Award winners, according to Cathy Langham, the chairperson of the dinner celebration.

“Last year, Catholic Charities served over 17,500 of central Indiana’s poor and vulnerable,” Langham said. “Over 70 percent of those they serve are not Catholic, the majority of whom are women and children.”

Commitment to others connected the six Spirit of Service Award winners.

Consider the work of Don Striegel, a member of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis who has strived tirelessly for 32 years for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul—an organization that helps distribute furniture, appliances and food to about 50,000 low-income families in the Indianapolis area each year.

Consider the efforts of Patty Yeager, a member of St. Roch Parish in Indianapolis who served for six years as the co-chairperson of the Catholic Charities Christmas Store—the archdiocesan effort that gave more than 500 needy families free clothes, toys and other gifts in 2005.

Gerardo Dimas earned his award for his outreach to fellow Hispanics, which included establishing a Spanish Mass at St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis.

Father John Mannion, a priest for the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana, was saluted for the care he brings to all his relationships with people, including his work as the director of spiritual care services at St. Francis Hospital and Health Centers in Beech Grove.

Fred Glass received the Community Service Award for his contributions to Indianapolis and the Catholic Church, including serving as the president of the Marion County Capital Improvement Board of Managers and a member of the finance committee at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Indianapolis.

The Corporate Leadership Award was given to OneAmerica Financial Partners Inc. for its many contributions to the archdiocese and the Central Indiana community, including the archdiocesan fundraising campaigns Legacy of Hope, Building Communities of Hope and Legacy for Our Mission.

“You have served the poor, welcomed the stranger, found time to help the homeless, and have helped the sick and grieving,” the archbishop told the award winners. “You are humble servant-leaders who have truly answered God’s call to be compassionate toward others.”

Beyond their service, all the award winners seemed bonded by a sense of humility.

Each of the award winners made a videotaped acceptance speech that was shown to the audience as they received their honors. None turned the spotlight on themselves. Instead, they focused on their Catholic faith and praised the support of spouses, children, parents and God.

“We are all created in God’s image,” Father Mannion said. “That’s the care we give. That’s the care that others give.”

The need for that care continues to grow in today’s world, said David J. Bethuram, the executive director of Catholic Charities Indianapolis.

“The majority of the individuals and families we serve live below the poverty level,” Bethuram said. “The needs of the poor and at-risk youth and families grow every day. More people than ever before are requesting our services, and we continue to address the growing complexity of their problems.”

Against the backdrop of that reality is the legacy of five people and one corporation trying to make a difference.

It’s also the legacy of Manning, who in February received the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, recognizing the quarterback’s excellence as a player and as a contributor to the community.

During the Spirit of Service Awards dinner, Manning was asked this question by Anthony Calhoun, sportscaster for WISH Channel 8 in Indianapolis:

“What continues to make you want to give back?”

Manning, who credits the influence of his parents, answered, “I just believe in thanking people and giving back to people who helped me.”

Manning sees no reason to change that winning legacy. †


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