June 17, 2011

VanVelse and Bickel join archdiocesan Family Ministries staff

By Mary Ann Wyand

Two new staff members have joined the archdiocesan Office of Family Ministries at the Archbishop O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis.

Debra VanVelse, a member of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis, is the new part-time coordinator of Family Ministries programs.

She succeeds Marilyn Hess, who retired on June 7 from her longtime position as associate director of healing family ministries. Hess, a member of Holy Spirit Parish in Indianapolis, served the archdiocese for 22 years.

Flor Bickel, a member of St. Anthony Parish in Indianapolis, is the new part-time administrative assistant.

She is bilingual, and will work with VanVelse and David Bethuram, associate executive director of Catholic Charities and Family Ministries.

“The Archdiocese of Indianapolis has been blessed to have Marilyn Hess serve as associate director of the Family Ministries office for the past 22 years,” Bethuram said, “not only because of her great nature and character, but because of the quality of work she has done to help improve ministries for people who are hurting in the parishes—those who have lost a loved one either through death or divorce. She has been a light to many people, not only here in Indianapolis and in the archdiocese but also nationwide.

“We’re very happy to have Debra VanVelse as our new coordinator of Family Ministries,” he said. “She will be taking on the duties that Marilyn Hess has done in both the divorce and bereavement ministries in the archdiocese.”

Bethuram said VanVelse has “many of the charisms that are necessary for this particular ministry, and has an understanding of what it means to be pastoral to those who are in need.”

Among her duties, VanVelse will coordinate plans for various archdiocesan programs, including “Divorce and Beyond” and “Being and Belonging” programs for separated and divorced Catholics, and new parish-based “Seasons of Hope” bereavement support groups for people who are grieving the loss of loved ones.

She has been a longtime volunteer for Family Ministries programs and retreats, and is a member of the National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers.

Previously, she worked for Horizon House, a multiservice day center for homeless people in Indianapolis, and volunteered as a helpline assistant for United Way of Central Indiana.

Currently, she volunteers for a new advocates program at Wishard Hospital in Indianapolis.

“I am looking forward to helping with the divorce and bereavement ministries,” VanVelse said. “I think that when Catholics are in pain, for a lot of us, the first place we turn to is our Church. That’s why Family Ministries are so important. If people are grieving, they should call us and we will help them.”

VanVelse has two grown daughters and three grandchildren.

As administrative assistant, Bickel will help with programming as well as expand ministry services to Hispanic Catholics who primarily speak Spanish.

Previously, Bickel served the Church in central and southern Indiana with the children’s program at Holy Family Shelter in Indianapolis then worked as Hispanic outreach coordinator and English as a New Language tutor at St. Philip Neri and St. Anthony schools, both in Indianapolis. She also assisted as site director for after-school care at St. Anthony School.

Currently, Bickel also volunteers in Hispanic ministry for Latino immigrants with Providence Sister Marikay Duffy in the Providence Network Ministry at St. Mary Parish in Indianapolis.

“I come from a Catholic family,” Bickel said, “and believe in the unity of the family.”

Her husband, Bill Bickel, is the service line director for crisis relief and shelter for Catholic Charities Indianapolis, and director of the archdiocesan Holy Family Shelter and Holy Family Transitional Housing in Indianapolis.

They are the parents of a daughter, who is a junior at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and an adopted son, who is 21 and lives in Peru. †

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