October 23, 2009

Education awards honor people who make a difference

By John Shaughnessy

As he recalls growing up in a tough Indianapolis neighborhood, Oliver Jackson thinks about a friend who was killed and others who struggled on the streets.

He also remembers how he was spared those painful realities.

“I was living with my grandmother,” says Jackson, a member of St. Rita Parish in Indianapolis. “I was always aware of God because of her. I was looking for a church home myself, and I went to St. Rita’s when I was 12 or 13. I was overwhelmed. I felt such a presence there. I learned you could turn to good people and they would help you. As I grew up in the Catholic faith, I saw how it changed my life.”

So have many others. Indeed, the way that Catholic education and faith changes lives will be celebrated on Nov. 10 when Jackson, Patricia “Pat” Cronin, Charles “Chick” Lauck, and Eleanor and Robert McNamara will be honored during the archdiocese’s Celebrating Catholic School Values: Scholarship and Career Achievement Awards dinner.

(Related story: Late Philip Wilhelm to be honored at Celebrating Catholic School Values dinner)

The 14th annual event—which has raised more than $4 million to support need-based education scholarships—honors individuals who have used the foundation of their Catholic education to make a difference in the world.

This year’s event will also pay tribute to the Indianapolis Colts organization for its extensive efforts in community service.

Colts’ president Bill Polian will be the featured speaker at the event, which begins at 6 p.m. on Nov. 10 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.

The late Philip J. Wilhelm, a generous, longtime supporter of Catholic education in the archdiocese, will also be remembered and honored during the dinner. (See related story below.)

Here is a glimpse of this year’s winners:

Oliver Jackson

Oliver Jackson has never forgotten his childhood days on the street or the people who helped him. In fact, Jackson has dedicated his life to being the kind of person who turns around the life of a youth.

In his 39 years as a member of the Indianapolis Police Department, Jackson worked tirelessly to establish after-school tutoring and athletic programs in community centers, public schools and Boys and Girls Clubs in Indianapolis.

“I always emphasized that we care for the kids at all times,” says Jackson, a father of three children and a grandfather of nine children. “I wanted to let them know [that] they always have someone to come to when they’re having trouble. We would show them the human side of the police. That’s especially important for minorities.”

The other part that has always been important for Jackson is sharing his faith, which he also credits for leading him to his wife of 41 years, Cora.

At St. Rita Parish, Jackson has served on the parish council, the finance committee and the spirituality committee. He has also planned retreats, revivals and prayer services.

“I’m just trying to promote Christianity, especially to the young people,” Jackson says. “Christ has entered my life, and I want to do the same for others. God has been good to me. There are so many things that have happened in my life that if God wasn’t there, I don’t know where I’d be. If you don’t put your faith in God, you won’t be able to make it. If you trust in Jesus, he’ll be there for you.”

Patricia “Pat” Cronin

Among the many Irish-related items in her home, this saying may best reflect the approach that Patricia “Pat” Cronin brings to life:

“May your troubles be less
And your blessings be more
And nothing but happiness
Come through your door.”

At 83, Cronin continues to touch many people’s lives with her smile and her heart, living up to the words that a friend used to describe her, “Pat is what a Christian should be. If someone needs help, she’s always there.”

She has been there for her Church, too. In the 1950s, she helped to start the Maria Goretti Club for business women in Indianapolis. She was involved with the Catholic Youth Organization. She has also been a longtime supporter of Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis.

“I think Fatima is the spiritual jewel of the archdiocese,” says Cronin, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis. “Retreats are great for your spirituality. It’s about you and God.”

Her Celebrating Catholic School Values Award comes in the same year in which she became the first woman to be honored as the Irish Citizen of the Year in Indianapolis.

“My faith and the people I’ve met through my faith, my Church and my Catholic education are very important to me,” she says. “I’m just a single lady who enjoys life. I try to live my Catholic education and my Catholic principles. When I went to Catholic school, we went to Mass every day. I still go to church every day. I don’t know what people do without their faith.”

Charles “Chick” Lauck

The special moment surrounding the death of his mother still touches Charles “Chick” Lauck.

“When my mother passed away several years ago, she was in St. Paul Hermitage [in Beech Grove],” recalls Lauck, a member of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis.

“While she was on her death bed, the family was there. Sister Sharon [Bierman, the hermitage’s administrator] came in and said we should sing a song. Before long, we were all singing out of hymnals. The place was just roaring with spiritual music. She made it such a spirit-filled event when our mother passed.”

For Lauck, that moment represented the essence of his Catholic faith and the Catholic community he has come to rely on in his life.

“The Catholic community is strong and it’s healthy and it’s good,” he says. “You can lean on one another.”

The Catholic community has also learned it can lean on Lauck. Long active in the Catholic Youth Organization, he has served on its board and as the board’s president. He has also been the chairperson for capital campaigns at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, helping raise more than $8 million.

At St. Barnabas Parish, he has served on the parish council, the athletic board and the school commission. He currently is the parish’s athletic director. He also is a substitute teacher at Roncalli and St. Barnabas schools.

Still, he is most proud of his wife, Jan—who has taught 18 years at Roncalli—and their five children and 15 grandchildren.

“I want to share this honor with all teachers, especially my wife,” Lauck says. “I know she does a wonderful job.”

Eleanor and Robert McNamara

Ever since they met in a church choir in college, Eleanor and Robert McNamara have hit high notes in making a difference for the Church and their community.

Married for 56 years, the couple has been active in the Cursillo Movement, which is dedicated to helping people form a closer relationship with Christ.

The members of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis also serve as extraordinary ministers of holy Communion at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, visiting about 30 to 40 Catholic patients once a week.

“It’s just amazing the people we meet,” Eleanor says. “They’re in a scary time in their lives. To be able to share your beliefs with them and then give them the holy sacrament, it’s wonderful.”

The McNamaras are also involved with seminarians, serving on the archdiocesan interview committee for men discerning the priesthood.

“You get to know these young men,” Robert says. “I always tell them, ‘We’re cheering for you and praying for you.’ We’re at every ordination, just about. We get as choked up as their families.”

In a life in which the couple has seen the family flower business grow into one of the top 10 florist companies in the United States and Canada, the McNamaras also appreciate the roots of their faith and their family—a family that includes their seven children and 24 grandchildren.

“I feel so blessed to be born and raised a Catholic,” Eleanor says. “I just love the Church.”

Robert nods and adds, “We’re just very grateful for the faith our parents have given us.”

They are also thankful for being honored as a couple with the Celebrating Catholic School Values Award.

“We’ve been blessed to do so much of what we’ve done together,” Eleanor says. “Having this honor together is just great.”

Indianapolis Colts organization

The Indianapolis Colts organization will receive the Community Service Award for its extensive efforts to make a difference throughout Indiana.

According to the organization, the Colts’ contributions to the community include:

  • The team hosts one of the largest single-day blood drives in the country every December.
  • Through their Books for Youth initiative, the Colts have collected more than 360,000 books for foster children in Indiana.
  • Every Tuesday during the regular season, the players take part in community outreach events. Players and coaches also donate about 3,000 Colts tickets to underprivileged youths and families during the football season.
  • Each year, the Colts participate in more than 1,100 community events across Indiana. They host nearly 100 free football and fitness clinics in Indiana schools.
  • Through more than 25 community programs, the Colts provide a variety of school initiatives, youth service grants and holiday outreach efforts to Indiana communities.

Concerning its involvement in the community, one part of the team’s mission statement reads, “The Indianapolis Colts take great pride in playing an active role in the community and are committed to corporate citizenship throughout Indiana. Leading by example, we hope to encourage and inspire our fellow Hoosiers to participate in the practice of giving back.”

(For sponsorships and ticket information, contact Rosemary O’Brien at the archdiocesan Office of Stewardship and Development at 317-236-1568 or 800-382-9836, ext. 1568, or e-mail her at robrien@archindy.org.)

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