October 17, 2008

Joan Byrum was a dedicated pro-life and Church volunteer

Joan ByrumSt. Luke the Evangelist parishioner Joan D. Byrum of Indianapolis, who served as the volunteer president of Right to Life of Indianapolis for 20 years, died on Oct. 9. She was 74.

The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Oct. 13 at St. Luke the Evangelist Church. Burial followed at Our Lady of Peace Cemetery in Indianapolis.

Msgr. Joseph F. Schaedel, vicar general, was the principal celebrant for the funeral Mass.

“Joan was an outstanding Catholic lay leader,” Msgr. Schaedel said. “Her devotion to the Gospel of Life helped make Right to Life of Indianapolis the solid organization that it is today. Whenever and wherever she could, Joan spoke out about the need to protect the vulnerable, especially the pre-born. … For years, Joan gave her time to teach in the religious education program at St. Luke Parish. She was a wonderful lady.”

St. Luke the Evangelist parishioner Marc Tuttle of Indianapolis was hired as president of Right to Life of Indianapolis earlier this year when Byrum’s health worsened. She suffered from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

“Joan was clearly driven by her love for the youth of our community,” Tuttle said. “She was acutely aware of how abortion was shaping our culture, particularly future generations, to have a callous disregard for life. … Joan knew abortion was at the root of most of our social ills, and she knew the mentality behind abortion would lead to increased euthanasia, a disregard for the poor and handicapped, and in general a more violent future.”

Servants of the Gospel of Life Sister Diane Carollo, director of the archdiocesan Office for Pro-Life Ministry, praised Byrum for her tireless defense of life issues.

“Joan’s faithfulness to God was so great that she wholeheartedly defended what God loves—the innocent unborn who have no voice,” Sister Diane said. “She will be missed for her commitment to life and her tenacity to speak the truth about the value of human life in a society that is infected by the culture of death.”

In a videotaped speech for the organization’s 26th annual “Celebrate Life” fundraising dinner on Sept. 16, Byrum emphasized that, “Education is so important … with life issues because abortion has been legal for so many years. … Each generation that comes along has to understand the intricacies of what is going on with the abortion issue and how it is so detrimental to our society.

“… The more you learn about life issues, the more offensive you realize it is to our Lord,” she said. “… We cannot kill our own babies, and the handicapped and our elderly, so I’m counting on you to help the Lord. … I thank you so much for all the years that you have worked with me.”

The former Joan Dalton was born on Jan. 8, 1934, in New Castle. Her family later moved to Marshall, Mich. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education at Indiana University in 1956, and was married to Clark Byrum on June 8, 1957.

In addition to raising five children, she volunteered for a number of Church and community organizations, including serving as president of Right to Life of Indianapolis from 1988 until 2008 and teaching religious education classes at her parish from 1985 until 2003.

Right to Life of Indianapolis volunteers said Byrum revitalized the organization.

She also served the Church as a member of the archdiocesan Pro-Life Activities Advisory Committee for several years.

Among her numerous honors, she received the archdiocese’s Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Respect Life Award in 1999, the archdiocese’s Outstanding Education Award in 1994, the Charles E. Stimming Pro-Life Award from Right to Life of Indianapolis in 1994, the Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award from Legatus International in 2007, and the Sagamore of the Wabash Award from Gov. Mitch Daniels in 2008.

Also in 2008, Right to Life of Indianapolis honored her with a youth scholarship in her name.

Surviving are her husband, Clark H. Byrum Sr.; five children, Laura Manning, Amanda Montgomery, Mary Ann Smith, Kathleen Suss and Clark H. Byrum Jr.; and 12 grandchildren.

Memorial gifts may be sent to the Joan Byrum Right to Life Scholarship Fund in care of Right to Life of Indianapolis, St. Luke the Evangelist Parish, Marian College in Indianapolis or the ALS Association. †

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