May 7, 2010

Spirit of Service winners committed to helping others

Spirit of Service winners, seated from left, are Maria Pimentel-Gannon, George Jennings, Maryfrances “Mike” Jennings and Margie Pike. Standing, from left, are Tom Hirschauer Jr., Indiana University head football coach Bill Lynch, Msgr. Joseph F. Schaedel and Julie Molloy. (Photo by Richard Clark)

Spirit of Service winners, seated from left, are Maria Pimentel-Gannon, George Jennings, Maryfrances “Mike” Jennings and Margie Pike. Standing, from left, are Tom Hirschauer Jr., Indiana University head football coach Bill Lynch, Msgr. Joseph F. Schaedel and Julie Molloy. (Photo by Richard Clark)

By John Shaughnessy

It was a story about a special trip, a story that showed how the influences in our lives can lead us to a moment when we try to make a lasting impact on others.

Indiana University head football coach Bill Lynch shared the story during his keynote speech at the Spirit of Service Awards dinner in Indianapolis on April 28, an event that celebrated the volunteer spirit of several Catholics and raised about $140,000 to benefit Catholic Charities Indianapolis in its efforts to help the poor and the vulnerable.

Lynch told the audience how he recently had the members of the IU football team board two buses for a trip to Indianapolis—a trip he hoped would make a difference in their lives.

Lynch mentioned that returning to Indianapolis is always special for him because it’s the place he considers home. And it’s the place where his life was shaped by so many Catholics.

He recalled growing up in Christ the King Parish, where he learned from his parents the importance of extending hope and compassion to others—as they always opened their home to someone down on their luck who needed a place to stay.

He reminisced about his years at Bishop Chatard High School, where his coaches not only strived to make him a better athlete but also to show him how important character, discipline and integrity are in life.

All of those elements came into play recently as the two IU buses filled with college football players left Bloomington and headed to Indianapolis where the team was scheduled to spend a couple of hours visiting boys and girls at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.

“When they went up there, they were singing and hollering,” Lynch noted about his players. “When they left, they realized how fortunate they are.”

For Lynch, it was a life-building moment for his players.

“When you’re a young coach, it’s all about winning and losing,” he said. “If you’re fortunate enough to be in this long enough, you realize it’s about more than that. We do have a great impact on people. The responsibility is to build great leadership.”

Lynch finished his talk by sharing what he considers to be the key characteristics of a Christian leader.

First, a great leader must have a passion for what he or she does.

Secondly, a strong leader must have intelligence and a desire to continually learn.

“You need to be passionate,” Lynch said. “You need to know what you’re talking about. But it means nothing without integrity. Integrity ties it together. Follow that moral compass that is taught to us.”

Lynch said that moral compass guides Catholic Charities Indianapolis and the 2010 winners of the Spirit of Service Award.

During the dinner, the executive director of Catholic Charities Indianapolis, David Bethuram, talked about how the recent economic difficulties have led the agency to help 33,000 people in the past year—a 20 percent increase from the previous year.

“During this period of economic uncertainty, we have seen thousands of people in our community losing their jobs, health insurance and, in many instances, their own homes,” Bethuram said. “This economic reality has created a new influx of people coming to Catholic Charities who have never before needed our services, and struggle to maintain a quality of life for themselves and their families.”

In the midst of that rising demand, the archdiocese continues to increase its commitment, Bethuram said.

That deep commitment also marks the lives of the 2010 Spirit of Service Award winners, according to Msgr. Joseph F. Schaedel, vicar general.

He spoke on behalf of Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, noting that the archbishop is recovering well after his April 22 surgery to remove a small, benign tumor from his stomach.

“When economic times get tough—as they are now—we know that even more people need our help,” Msgr. Schaedel said. “All of our honorees remind us that we are called to help care for those in need.”

Those words—and the qualities that Lynch defined—are evident in each of the award winners.

Consider the lives of George and Maryfrances “Mike” Jennings. During the decades they owned and operated a grocery store in a struggling area of Indianapolis, these parents of 12 children often “loaned’ groceries to people in the neighborhood, trusting them to pay when they could.

When St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis has needed their help in any way, George and “Mike” have always responded. In more than 50 years at their parish, their contributions have included sponsoring engaged couples preparing for marriage, singing in the church choir, serving on parish and school committees, and preparing and donating countless pounds of their family’s made-from-scratch, made-with-a touch-of-heaven barbecue pork for the annual parish festival.

“We’ve had a lot of people help us in our lives,” “Mike” says about all their efforts for others. “That’s what you have to do.”

Maria Pimentel-Gannon has followed that same approach as a volunteer during the past three decades. While active in many community organizations in central Indiana, she has particularly dedicated her efforts to the archdiocese and her parish, St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis.

A past president of the archdiocese’s multicultural ministry committee, she now serves on the archdiocese’s Christ Renews His Parish committee. Her many parish volunteer efforts include her work with Hispanic families, teaching sacramental preparation to adults and helping with the religious education of children. Those efforts are a special ministry for Pimentel-Gannon, a native of Mexico who immigrated to the United States with her family when she was a child.

“My faith is seen in the efforts and the work that God has me doing,” she says. “I’m defined by my faith.”

Faith and the inspiration of two special people have helped to create the generous spirit of another award winner, Julie Molloy of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis.

Her loving efforts for the poor and for special needs children are reflected in her work as the director of Anna’s House, a community service center for people in need in Indianapolis.

Her dedication also reflects the legacies of her two inspirations—Lucious Newsom and her daughter, Anna. Newsom was the retired Baptist-minister-turned-Catholic who taught Molloy how to care for the poor with dignity. And everyone who knew her was touched by Anna, who lived her too-brief life of 12 years with a remarkable spirit that defied the odds from the time she was born with a rare genetic disorder. Both Anna and Newsom died in the summer of 2008.

“They both guide me every day with what we do,” Molloy says.

The volunteers of the Cathedral Kitchen also received the Spirit of Service Award for serving more than 45,000 free meals each year to the homeless and needy in Indianapolis. Its food pantry also provides food for about 300 families each week. Both ministries are the efforts of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral Parish in Indianapolis.

As the volunteer director of the Cathedral Kitchen, Margie Pike accepted the award.

She also shared the spirit that guides the work of the volunteer staff in helping people who are homeless and needy.

“We provide food, we welcome them, we respect them and we love them,” she says. And they’re very kind to us. I’ve learned that Christ is in each of us.”

Tom Hirschauer Jr. received the Community Service Award. A member of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, Hirschauer is the chairman of the board of Right to Life of Indianapolis. He is the vice chairman of the board of Catholic Charities Indianapolis and a member of the St. Luke Parish stewardship commission.

His extensive list of contributions has also included serving as a board member of the Catholic Community Foundation and as a cabinet member on three capital campaigns for the archdiocese.

“As a Catholic, I believe strongly in what the Church does,” he says. “Think of what the Church does for the community through Catholic education, Catholic health care and Catholic charities. It’s really quite remarkable. As Catholics, we should be proud of who and what we are.” †

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