September 3, 2010

‘Divine’ inspiration leads to completion of Eagle Scout project

After 17 years working at one of the most popular country music radio stations in the country, Vicki Murphy felt called to use her talents to spread the message of Catholic education on behalf of Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School in Indianapolis. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

New Eagle Scout Peter Conerty of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis poses by the wood case that he created with members of Boy Scout Troop #400 to display and protect this Divine Mercy image of Jesus in front of the St. Francis Center in Indianapolis. Peter began his senior year at Cardinal Ritter High School in August. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

By Mary Ann Wyand

Boy Scout Peter Conerty of Indianapolis had a problem, but with God’s help he was able to transform it into a challenge, an opportunity and a gift.

His first five ideas for potential Eagle Scout projects at several Catholic schools and parishes in Marion County didn’t work out for various reasons.

So Peter and his father, Joe Conerty, sat down to discuss the dilemma again late last year.

The Cardinal Ritter High School junior from St. Michael the Archangel Parish wanted to do an Eagle Scout project that would benefit the Church in some way—a service project that he could organize, supervise and complete with help from members of Boy Scout Troop #400 in the Indianapolis West Deanery.

And he wanted it to be the kind of project that would make a lasting difference in people’s lives, especially in their faith lives.

“I had some good ideas for projects, but for one reason or another they didn’t work out,” Peter recalled. “I was getting kind of frustrated about it.”

His parents offered encouragement to Peter, who has been active in the Boy Scouts for six years.

“Our whole purpose was to do something for the Church or the school or something else in the Catholic community because we are Catholic,” Joe Conerty explained. “One of the things we talked about is how it must follow the tenets of the Boy Scouts—God, country and self. Scouts have a duty to God, and his project needed to show that.”

What the Scout needed was a little divine inspiration, which came late last year—not long after the father-son discussion about his project—in the form of a request from someone that his family knows well.

Anchoress Sister Mary Ann Schumann, the caretaker of the Divine Mercy Chapel at the St. Francis Center in Indianapolis, had received a unique gift from a benefactor, but she had no way to display the large, marble, bas-relief Divine Mercy image of Jesus, which features the words “Jesus, I trust in you.”

Sister Mary Ann asked Joe Conerty, a regular adorer at the perpetual adoration chapel adjacent to St. Michael Church and Cardinal Ritter High School, if his son, Peter, was still looking for an Eagle Scout project.

She needed a way to share the image of Jesus with the public, and Peter was happy to help her with the outdoor project at the chapel.

“Sister Mary Ann came to me one day and asked me to build something that would hold the [Divine Mercy] image in the garden,” Peter said. “The project took a lot of planning. I think I started planning it sometime in December and carried it through for several months because we had to get approval and buy the wood. I enjoyed doing the carpentry work.”

The St. Francis Center, which is located at 3356 W. 30th St. behind St. Michael Church, houses the perpetual adoration chapel as well as two tabernacles in small convent chapels cared for by Sister Mary Ann and the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from India.

With Peter’s supervision, 14 Scouts helped him build the sturdy wood and plexiglass case to display and protect the Divine Mercy image on May 22 then install it in front of the St. Francis Center.

“Creating a special display for Jesus made me feel good,” Peter said as he prepared his presentation for the Scouting board review committee on Aug. 18, which resulted in him achieving his Eagle Scout rank at the start of his senior year in high school.

Thanks to Peter’s project, countless people will see the Divine Mercy image of Jesus when they go into the St. Francis Center or pass it on their way to Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School.

“His mother, Kathleen, and I are very proud of what he’s done,” Joe Conerty said. “We’re proud of the fact that it is something for the Church and the Catholic community in this area. I’m hoping that it will inspire more people to want to inquire about the adoration chapel. We want to invite people to come and join us. God knows we can use more people as adorers [of the Blessed Sacrament displayed in the monstrance].”

Sister Mary Ann is especially thrilled that the large Divine Mercy image of Jesus is prominently displayed in a weather-proof case angled toward the street and the center’s entrance.

“As you come into the building, you see the image and it prepares you to spend time with God,” she said. “It reminds you that Jesus is present and his greatest mercy is the Eucharist, his presence with us. I am really proud of Peter because of his faithfulness. He worked really hard on this project. The troop has been so good to the parish, the Church, the school and to God.”

The installation of the display case near the center’s front door was especially challenging, Peter said, because underground roots and pipes limited its placement in the flower bed on the left side of the concrete sidewalk.

“We had to go with the angle that we used because there were old tree roots and pipes in the way,” he said. “We had to turn it until we found a place where we could dig the post holes.”

As the late May afternoon turned to evening, Sister Mary Ann said she became concerned because there wasn’t a special light to illuminate Christ’s image at night.

“But when it got dark, a light from the building somehow shone right on it,” she said. “It was just amazing. I couldn’t believe it. It was installed at the perfect angle right where Jesus wanted it.” †

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