March 30, 2012

Spirit of Service winners are committed to helping those in need

By John Shaughnessy

William Spangler believes in the simple approaches that can change a person’s life and the lives of others.

Take the first step, knowing it can lead to an amazing journey.

Speak up, knowing your voice can help others pursue a worthy purpose.

So it seems fitting to share a simple, revealing story about Spangler—one of the six people who will be honored by the archdiocese with the 2012 Spirit of Service Award, a group that also includes Tom Egold, Pat and Elaine Jerrell, and Fred and Mary Pitzer. (Related: Daughters of Charity, Sisters of St. Francis to receive special Spirit of Service awards)

William Spangler

William SpanglerSpangler’s telling story took place at St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis when a parish committee was trying to decide the needs of the parish during an archdiocesan capital campaign.

“All of the committee members had an idea for what the parish needed the most,” recalls Tom Hirschauer, a St. Luke parishioner. “Expand the school. Repair the roof. Add a community center. Then came the voice of Bill. He said that while all these things were needed, shouldn’t we think about the real work of the Church and how we could use this campaign to provide for those less fortunate.

“Bill’s suggestion was to raise at least $250,000 to start a St. Luke Endowment to be used to help the poor. Bill was heard, and the parish responded. We now have an endowment that is providing funds to help the poor.”

Spangler’s actions also back his words. He has served as the chairman of the board of Catholic Charities Indianapolis. He has volunteered on the board of Holy Family Shelter. And he has been a member of St. Luke’s Christian Social Action Mission for 20 years.

“I really feel blessed because service has strengthened my faith immeasurably,” he says. “We tend to think we need to be some tremendously gifted person to help others. But we all have the tools to do something for someone. Take that first step, and let God do the rest.”

It also helps to remember that “Jesus didn’t cure 1,000 people at a time,” Spangler says.

“He did it on an individual basis,” he says. “What we do best is healing the people right in front of us. There are so many people in need. I’ve really found that if you take the time to be with them, look into their eyes and be present, they’ll open up to you. And you can be the presence of Christ to them.”

That attitude is shared by all the winners who will be recognized during an April 26 dinner at the Indiana Roof Ballroom in Indianapolis, which will benefit Catholic Charities Indianapolis. (Related: President of Super Bowl Host Committee is keynote speaker at Spirit of Service dinner)

Here are more stories about this year’s winners:

Pat and Elaine Jerrell

Pat and Elaine JerrellAs sponsors for couples who are engaged to be married, Pat and Elaine Jerrell sometimes share thoughts and tips from their 40 years of marriage, including this insight on the importance of service to others.

“In a marriage relationship, you need time together,” Pat says. “But you also need to plug into something bigger than yourselves.”

Elaine nods and adds, “I think it’s good if you can find something the two of you can do as a couple. It’s a way to show your gratefulness for everything you have.”

The Jerrells have found that common ground. Pat serves as president of the Indianapolis chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society while Elaine is the secretary of the all-volunteer organization that serves more than 100,000 people in need each year.

The couple has also been active in their faith community—St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis—where they have served on the leadership team of the Marriage Enrichment program, the Christ Renews His Parish team and as extraordinary ministers of holy Communion.

The parents of two grown children and grandparents of six have also been presenters for the Indianapolis Pre Cana Conference for engaged couples.

Elaine has also taught at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis for 33 years.

“One of the things I like about teaching is that I learn a lot from my students,” she says. “Being around them, I know I’m going to learn more about God and Jesus.”

Pat has the same experience when he works among the 4,000 volunteers of the Indianapolis chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

“They’re fun to be around,” says Pat, a retired engineer. “They’re focused on other people, not themselves. They just enjoy life. When you help somebody else and give them hope, it brings peace to your mind and your heart. It’s brought such joy to our lives.”

Fred and Mary Pitzer

Fred and Mary PitzerIt is one of the best compliments that someone could be given. It is also one of the best descriptions of a life lived in service to others.

“Love God, live simply, work hard, help others, stay organized. Those five values are what you will see in Fred and Mary Pitzer day in and day out,” notes Ann Berkemeier, a member of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis. “I can’t think of a couple that lives their faith more. They are doing God’s work.”

In nearly 55 years of marriage, the Pitzers have taken the approach that no act of kindness is too small and no challenge is too big when it comes to helping others.

They are longtime volunteers at Hunger, Inc., a south side Indianapolis program that provides food for the hungry.

When a fellow parishioner at St. Mark’s was a single father struggling to raise his seven children, they were always there, providing food and other support.

For more than 20 years, they have worked on the parish’s funeral meal ministry, planning, preparing and serving food for funerals at St. Mark Parish. They also once organized a wedding reception for three Burmese refugee couples.

Fred has donated blood for 50 years while Mary has poured her heart into making quilts that raise money for the parish.

They have served as hospitality ministers at the church for more than 25 years, and they also lead the effort to prepare more than 400 pounds of “St. Mark Famous Barbecue” for the parish’s summer festival.

It should also be noted that the couple has five children, 12 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

“We do everything together except I don’t do quilts,” Fred says with a smile. “You’re helping other people. You can’t live your life in a shell. You have to be there for other people.”

Mary smiles and adds, “Some of this volunteering is selfish, too. It’s something I enjoy. And it’s more fulfilling than shopping.”

Tom Egold

Tom EgoldThere was a time—briefly—when Tom Egold thought his years of volunteering should come to an end, when the time he dedicated to service at St. Barnabas Parish, Marian University and the Catholic Youth Organization—all in Indianapolis—should be turned over to a new generation.

Then there came the chance meeting that Egold had in 2009, after a funeral, with Father John McCaslin, pastor of Holy Trinity and St. Anthony parishes in Indianapolis. The two men had known each other at St. Barnabas Parish when Father McCaslin was an associate pastor there and Egold was president of the parish council.

As they talked after the funeral, Father McCaslin told Egold about his vision to revive the struggling areas of his parishes by forming a grassroots organization that would buy and rebuild homes so low-income families could purchase them. He asked Egold if he could help.

So much for retiring from volunteering.

Ever since, Egold has been a key force in Hearts and Hands of Indiana, an organization that has already bought and renovated two vacant homes near Holy Trinity Parish for two families—with two more homes on the way.

“Tom volunteers between 30 and 40 hours of work a week to Hearts and Hands as president,” Father McCaslin says. “His leadership, tenacity and faith have been vital to its progress and success. For Tom, being a good steward is an every moment of your life thing.”

Egold downplays the praise, seeing the Spirit of Service Award as an honor to be shared with his wife, family and friends from the 1961 graduating class of the former Sacred Heart High School in Indianapolis—a group that has embraced Hearts and Hands as a way to give back to the Church and the community for all the blessings in their lives.

“What drives me is my Catholic faith,” says Egold, the father of three and the grandfather of eight. “It’s just rewarding to watch the people we’ve helped grow in self-esteem. We’re all God’s children. God has blessed us, and we have to give back.” †

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