May 27, 2011

CYO volunteers honored for service to community, Church

The 2011 St. John Bosco Award winners pose for a photograph with Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, auxiliary bishop and vicar general, during the Catholic Youth Organization awards ceremony on May 3 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. They are, from left, Larry Leonhardt, Pete Schroeder, Suzie Wells, Mark Meunier, Bishop Coyne, Bob Korson and Don Nester. (Submitted photo)

The 2011 St. John Bosco Award winners pose for a photograph with Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, auxiliary bishop and vicar general, during the Catholic Youth Organization awards ceremony on May 3 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. They are, from left, Larry Leonhardt, Pete Schroeder, Suzie Wells, Mark Meunier, Bishop Coyne, Bob Korson and Don Nester. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

As the executive director of the Catholic Youth Organization, Ed Tinder always looks forward to the May evening when several outstanding volunteers are inducted into the “CYO Hall of Fame.”

His anticipation soared again this year as he prepared to recognize the six individuals who received the St. John Bosco Medal—the highest recognition given by the CYO—on May 3 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (Related: CYO recognition highlights work of both adults and young people)

“It’s a powerful opportunity I have once a year to honor the people who have created the way we do things in CYO,” Tinder said before the awards ceremony.

“I don’t think there’s one thing that excites me more than this night. I personally prepare each of the remarks for the winners. I find myself getting really emotional when I’m reading them because I want to recall the impact they’ve had on children, the values they have and the standards they set at their parishes.”

This year’s award recipients are Bob Korson of St. Jude Parish in

Indianapolis, Larry Leonhardt of St. Lawrence Parish in Indianapolis, Mark Meunier of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg, Don Nester of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis, and Pete Schroeder and Suzie Wells, both of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis.

The group includes a volleyball coach who writes a weekly, full-page letter to each of his players, a woman who has been coaching since 1956, and a man who has recruited, trained and evaluated CYO basketball officials for 26 years.

Here is an edited version of the comments that Tinder made to describe the contributions of this year’s award winners to the children who participate in the CYO.

Bob Korson

Bob Korson received the St. John Bosco Medal for nearly 20 years of volunteer service to the CYO, starting at St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis, and continuing when he became a member of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis.

“His passion and commitment for working with the young people at his parish is simply a way of life,” Tinder noted. “He began his service at St. Simon Parish in the early ’90s. I recall he seemed to be involved in everything CYO. He was the athletic director and maintained the athletic fields, cutting grass and lining the fields. He coached. He was active in the fundraisers. He served on the parish council.

“To this day, he still coaches multiple sports, and is one of our CYO volleyball and kickball officials. He is absolutely serious about measuring success not in wins and losses, but in the growth of each child. Many of his players have now gone on to become coaches themselves, which is a compliment to his work at creating a great experience for the players.”

Larry Leonhardt

Larry Leonhardt has coached volleyball at St. Lawrence Parish for 21 years. He is also the head coach of the varsity girls’ volleyball team at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis. He leads a coaching clinic for CYO coaches, where he stresses the importance of helping young people show their Catholic values on and off the court. Then there are the letters that he writes to his players during the season.

“These letters are filled with specific examples of positive things that the players did during the prior week and, of course, suggestions on how they can improve, both as an athlete and as a person,” Tinder said. “The girls on his team generally share the contents of these weekly letters with their parents, who marvel at the impact he has on their daughter’s self-esteem.”

Leonhardt’s approach is reflected in another important way, Tinder said. “It probably does not come as a surprise to anyone that, over the years, many of his former players have chosen him to be their confirmation sponsor.”

Mark Meunier

In saluting Mark Meunier, Tinder noted his many diverse contributions to St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg.

Meunier is an usher at Mass on Sundays, organizes a cookout for seminarians, takes charge of parking for parish events and has served as a confirmation sponsor. Still, he makes the biggest difference as a CYO coach. He has coached football at the parish for 14 years and wrestling for five years.

“His sacrifices come even though he has no children of his own,” Tinder said. “As a coach, he has been able to walk the fine line between discipline and a trustworthy mentor of young people. The kids genuinely love him. He is a friend while maintaining the adult leadership role so important in working with youth.

“The treasures of his life are the memories of his players and the experiences they have enjoyed together. One parent writes, ‘I will never be able to adequately describe what he has meant to St. Malachy, the people he has mentored and the friendships he has forged.’ ”

Pete Schroeder

Noting Pete Schroeder’s 15 years as a wrestling coach at St. Barnabas Parish, Tinder said, “When you coach CYO wrestling, you are responsible for boys in grades three through eight. Also, there are distinctive skill level differences. As a result, many times you have to conduct two different practices, one in the late afternoon, and one in the evening. CYO wrestling coaches average about 20-plus hours a week between practices, meets and day-long tournaments on the weekends.”

Yet, his dedication to children hasn’t ended there for Schroeder, an attorney. He has served on the board of education at St. Barnabas School, and the board of directors at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis. He has also been a moderator for 13 years during Roncalli’s annual two-week summer trip to the mountains in Colorado to deepen the faith of high school students.

“Regardless of the talent level [that] he has coached or the camping trips he has helped supervise,” Tinder said, “his approach is always to make certain everyone has a rewarding experience. He makes sure every kid knows they are special.”

Suzie Wells

After mentioning that Suzie Wells has coached CYO sports since 1956, Tinder tried to put her longevity into perspective.

“I made my first Communion that year, and I am 62 years old,” he said.

“I am sure many of you are thinking that she probably has not coached for several years. You would be dead wrong. She coached kickball at St. Barnabas this past fall with her daughter. She had coached kickball and softball for seven years before her daughter was even born.

“She has coached at Holy Name, St. Jude and St. Barnabas. How many girls have come under her influence? We can only imagine. She could very easily be coaching someone from the third generation [of a family].”

Tinder then noted how Wells responded when she learned that the kickball team at another parish had struggled financially to participate in the CYO.

“Next thing you know, she’s organizing a fundraiser and giving generously herself to help purchase athletic equipment,” Tinder said. “She has provided quite a standard of achievement for CYO coaches.”

Don Nester

In recognizing Don Nester, Tinder gave this compliment, “In my opinion, our next recipient has done more for the CYO basketball program in the last 40 years than anyone.”

From 1972 to 1998, Nester coordinated the basketball officials in CYO.

“Keep in mind, the CYO basketball program is pretty big around here,” Tinder said. “This past year, for example, in girls’ and boys’ basketball, we had almost 600 teams in the program. That’s about 4,500 games during the season.

“He recruited, trained, scheduled and evaluated CYO basketball officials for 26 years. That was done prior to the use of computers. He spent, literally, hours every night and all weekends from October through the middle of February on the telephone with officials.

“Although he no longer handles the huge task of scheduling our officials, he still conducts classes for all young officials in multiple sports. More than anything else, he helps the younger officials get better, and encourages them to stay with officiating.”

Tinder ended his tribute to Nester by saying that the CYO is blessed to have him “on our team.” †

CYO recognition highlights work of both adults and young people

2011 Msgr. Albert Busald Award
  • Christ the King Parish—Kathy Hubert
  • Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish—Theresa Dury
  • Our Lady of Lourdes Parish—Kevin Day
  • St. Barnabas Parish—Dan Bauer
  • St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish—Liz Dininger
  • St. Jude Parish—Joe Kuntz
  • St. Louis de Montfort Parish, Fishers, Ind., Lafayette Diocese—Mary Fuller
  • St. Luke the Evangelist Parish—Bill Eckrich
  • St. Malachy Parish, Brownsburg—Michael Arnould and Randy Schmidt
  • St. Mark the Evangelist Parish—Dan Deak
  • St. Matthew the Apostle Parish—Ray Lawson
  • St. Michael Parish, Greenfield—Bill Rumley
  • St. Michael the Archangel Parish—Jeri Huntington
  • St. Pius X Parish—Joe Benjamin and Tom McNulty
  • St. Roch Parish—Maria Hughes
  • St. Simon the Apostle Parish—Larry Canterbury and Phil Squier
  • St. Susanna Parish, Plainfield—Anthony Buschman
  • St. Therese of the Infant Jesus (Little Flower) Parish—Steve Clegg
  • St. Thomas Aquinas Parish—Jason Young
2011 Spirit of Youth Award
  • Most Holy Name of Jesus Parish, Beech Grove—Zoe Kidwell
  • Good Shepherd Parish—David Hammons and Anthony Kocher
  • Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ Parish—Katie Kramer and Wendy Faunce
  • St. Anthony Parish—Alan Guillen and Randy Lazo
  • St. Barnabas Parish—Emma Laut and E.B. Laut
  • St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish—Ryan Dimmitt and Nick Dininger
  • St. Jude Parish—Rachael Rode and Brendan Massing
  • St. Luke the Evangelist Parish—Clare Welch
  • St. Mark the Evangelist Parish—Margaret Blandford and Aaron Haeberle
  • St. Michael Parish, Greenfield—Sarah Stockton
  • St. Monica Parish—Luz Benitez and Danielle Lang
  • St. Pius X Parish—Maggie Dodson and Joe Witchger
  • St. Roch Parish—Jennifer Feltman and Katie DeArmond
  • St. Simon the Apostle Parish—Ellie Nowak
  • St. Therese of the Infant Jesus (Little Flower) Parish—Amelia Keenan and Eddie Rector

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