June 12, 2009

Mickey Lentz named new chancellor for archdiocese

By John Shaughnessy

When Annette “Mickey” Lentz was asked to be chancellor of the archdiocese by Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, she responded in the way that she always has in 48 years of serving the Church.

She said yes, believing she was answering God’s call to make a difference.

“There’s this over-used phrase of servant-leader, but that’s what I am,” Lentz said. “Serving the Church is my call, my vocation. As long as God will let me, I’m here for that call.”

As chancellor, Lentz assumes the third highest position in the archdiocese, following Archbishop Buechlein and vicar general Msgr. Joseph F. Schaedel. She succeeds Suzanne Yakimchick, who retired last year.

At 67, Lentz will also continue to serve as the interim executive director of the Office of Catholic Education and Faith Formation for the archdiocese until her replacement is scheduled to be hired in the spring of 2010.

Her appointment on June 4 as chancellor reflects the archbishop’s great faith in Lentz, who has excelled in leading several of the archdiocese’s major initiatives in recent years.

During her 12 years of leadership as the executive director of Catholic education, 25 of the 71 Catholic schools in the archdiocese have earned recognition as a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education—a distinction that no other diocese in the country can match.

In 2008, she led the effort to bring the National Catholic Educational Association Convention to Indianapolis—the first time it was held in the city in the association’s 105-year history.

She was also the co-chair—with Msgr. Schaedel—of the archdiocese’s 175th anniversary celebration at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on May 3.

“Mickey is a tremendously capable leader with a wealth of experience, excellent interpersonal skills, and a great passion for serving the people of the archdiocese with integrity and compassion,” the archbishop said in announcing her appointment.

As chancellor, Lentz will oversee the canonical and archival records of the archdiocese, according to the archbishop.

“Other duties include collaborating with the deans of the 11 archdiocesan deaneries, and oversight of youth, young adult and campus ministry, multicultural ministry, human resources and lay ministry,” the archbishop noted.

The Catholic Youth Organization will also be under her guidance.

That emphasis on people appeals to Lentz, who first established her relationship-building approach to education as a young teacher leading a classroom of 54 students at St. Patrick School in Indianapolis in the 1960s.

“I can see so many positive things coming out of this,” said Lentz, who was the principal of St. Mark School in Indianapolis from 1977 to 1989. “To really reach out and be connected to the clergy is one of my goals. And the young adult, youth and campus ministries are initiatives that we have just started and I want to see through.”

It’s a full plate of duties, especially when combined with her continuing leadership responsibilities for the Office of Catholic Education and Faith Formation.

When a new school year begins in August, she will delegate more of her educational duties to members of her administrative team. By January of 2010, the plan is to begin a search for a new executive director—a search that is designed to hire the new leader during the spring of 2010.

“It will be a challenge for a while,” Lentz noted about her double duty. “But I have a great staff. We’ve been together for a while, and I let them do their jobs. It works. I rely on them. If I didn’t have that confidence in them, this would be a different scenario.”

When she previously thought about this point in her life, Lentz often imagined a different scenario for herself. One constant dream has been to retire so she could own and operate a clothing boutique. Now, she talks about tailoring her life so she can reach a seamless 50 years of service to the Church and the archdiocese.

In many ways, Lentz’s change of heart shows how the Church has become an even more significant part of her life since 1995 when her husband of 31 years, Jim, died. Her strong bonds with her two children and four grandchildren continue as great blessings in her life. At the same time, deep connections have also grown while serving the archdiocese in a leadership role.

“The Church has become my family, too,” she says. “It always has been, but it’s become heightened because of the increased time I can give to ministry. It’s back to service for me. You’re supposed to try to respect the wishes of the bishop, and I’m trying to do that in my own way.”

She just never expected that her path would lead to becoming chancellor of the archdiocese. It’s another interesting part of the journey for the longtime Catholic educator who once earned a license to drive school buses so she could make a special connection with her students and the regular bus drivers.

“Being chancellor is a very prestigious position as it ranks in the archdiocese,” she says. “It’s nothing I ever planned to become. I’m very humbled by it.” †

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