April 26, 2013

Coach’s code connects with commitment of Spirit of Service award recipients

Indiana University men's basketball coach Tom Crean speaks at the Spirit of Service Awards dinner in Indianapolis on April 18. (Photo by Rich Clark)

Indiana University men's basketball coach Tom Crean speaks at the Spirit of Service Awards dinner in Indianapolis on April 18. (Photo by Rich Clark)

By John Shaughnessy

As Tom Crean talked about the essential connection between courage and conviction, the head coach could have been sharing a blueprint for the resurgence of his Indiana University men’s basketball team during the past two years.

“How do I max out my skills?” Crean said during his speech at the archdiocese’s Spirit of Service Awards dinner in Indianapolis on April 18. (See a photo gallery from this event)

“How do I get the most out of my talent? How do I get the most out of the tools that God has bestowed upon me? And how do I have the courage and conviction to understand that courage and conviction have to work together?

“I have to have the courage to move forward. I have to have the conviction to understand I must do it,” he continued. “When they work hand in hand, amazing things can happen. It’s about being demanding, to allow yourself to be demanded of. I need to move full steam ahead in everything I’m doing.”

Yet Crean wasn’t sharing his plan for his players. He was referring to God’s plan for his people.

“So many people are growing up in this day and age where they don’t have that courage,” Crean said. “They don’t have anybody trying to put those convictions into them. Because somewhere along the way, they forgot that God put each and every one of us here. He’s got a plan for each and every one of us.”

Crean was the keynote speaker during the event at the Indiana Roof Ballroom that served as a fundraiser for Catholic Charities Indianapolis while honoring four individuals in the archdiocese for their service.

While applauding that commitment to others, Crean also connected that quality to three goals he wants every player on his team to achieve before they leave Indiana University—to be problem solvers in any situation, to be selfless, and to be spiritual leaders of their homes.

“Spiritual leadership to me is being so God-centered that you don’t have to understand, you don’t have to know the person, you don’t have to have a relationship with the person, but because God puts us here, we’re there to help,” Crean said.

Each person is born with special talents, and our goal should be to help people realize those talents and move forward in their lives so they can help others do the same, Crean noted.

“It all goes back to the beginning,” he said. “We really don’t know what God’s plan is for us, but we don’t have to have the blueprint to know that God wants us to reach out and continue to help people that can’t help themselves.”

The blueprint of Catholic Charities

Catholic Charities Indianapolis presented four individuals with Spirit of Service Awards during an April 18 dinner in Indianapolis. Award recipients, seated from left, are Adonis Hardin and Amanda Rulong. Standing, from left, are award recipient Paul Corsaro, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, and award recipient Gary Ahlrichs. (Photo by Rich Clark)

Catholic Charities Indianapolis presented four individuals with Spirit of Service Awards during an April 18 dinner in Indianapolis. Award recipients, seated from left, are Adonis Hardin and Amanda Rulong. Standing, from left, are award recipient Paul Corsaro, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, and award recipient Gary Ahlrichs. (Photo by Rich Clark)

Crean’s words reflect the efforts of Catholic Charities Indianapolis, according to its executive director, David Bethuram.

“Tonight, we are highlighting how our Catholic Charities programs serve disadvantaged children and youth,” Bethuram told the audience of 500 at the awards dinner. “Of the more than 44,000 people we helped last year, nearly 18,000 were under the age of 18.

“Our programs focus on building and unifying families, providing them with food, clothing and safe housing, achieving healthy social and emotional relationships, and securing education support and behavioral services that provide them the means to achieve self-reliance.”

Bethuram also noted how Catholic Charities Indianapolis has been there for people of all ages, helping them during times of hunger, job loss and homelessness.

“Most of the people we serve are not Catholic,” he said. “We consider it a joy and privilege to be here for our community in times of need.”

Providing that help was made possible by the “generosity” and “compassionate help” of Catholic Charities benefactors, staff and volunteers, Bethuram said.

Those qualities—generosity and compassionate help—are also evident in the recipients of this year’s Spirit of Service Awards.

Consider the young life of Amanda Rulong, who was honored by the archdiocese with the first-ever Youth Spirit of Service Award.

‘Becoming just like Jesus’

At 17, Amanda serves as the outreach coordinator for the student council at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis. A junior, she led a canned food drive that collected 30,000 cans to benefit six agencies that help the poor—Catholic Charities, St. Vincent de Paul Society, The Food Link, Holy Family Shelter, St. Augustine Home for the Aged and Christ’s Storehouse Food Pantry.

She also spent her spring break on a mission trip to El Salvador and volunteers at the St. Vincent de Paul Society warehouse.

“Every time I serve another person, I feel I’m becoming just like Jesus,” said Amanda, the daughter of Karen Rulong and Scott Rulong, and a member of St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis. “He died for us, so we can give our time to do something nice for somebody.”

That belief has also guided Gary Ahlrichs.

He has helped a 70-year-old woman learn to read. He rides his bike to visit friends in nursing homes. He also serves as a tutor and a mentor to an 11-year-old boy whom he met through the archdiocese’s Refugee Resettlement Program.

For the past 13 years, Ahlrichs has led the men’s group from Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Indianapolis in an outreach mission to make a difference in the lives of students at Padua Academy in Indianapolis (formerly St. Anthony School), a charter school operated by the archdiocese.

The father of five and the grandfather of 11 also coached sports at his parish for more than 10 years. And he has coordinated the parish’s blood drive since 1979.

“It’s all a way of showing gratitude for all the wonderful things in our lives,” Ahlrichs said. “Life has been good to us. I like to share that.”

‘I just love working for the Lord’

Adonis Hardin shares that same view of life through all her volunteer efforts at Holy Angels Parish in Indianapolis.

She works the fish fry, sings in the choir, plans the Valentine’s Day dance and coordinates the income tax preparation program for low-income families.

She also counts the Sunday collection at Holy Angels and leads the parish’s efforts to make Christmas baskets for people in need.

Hardin credits her approach of fellowship and outreach to her mother, who for years directed the choir at the parish, cleaned the church and managed the kitchen at the school. She also credits her efforts to her love of Christ.

“I just love working for the Lord,” Hardin said. “My ultimate goal is to get to heaven and serve him. The older I get, the easier I find it to open my heart to the will of God. I just try to walk the walk. I want others to see Christ in me.”

Paul Corsaro lives that approach, too.

The father of six and the grandfather of 17 has shaped the lives of countless youths in more than 30 years of coaching in the Catholic Youth Organization.

He has volunteered extensively for Goodwill Industries, St. Mary’s Child Center in Indianapolis, his alma mater Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., the archdiocese’s Catholic Community Foundation and Catholic Cemeteries Association, and his home parish, St. Barnabas in Indianapolis.

In recent years, Corsaro has joined with classmates and teammates from the former Sacred Heart High School in Indianapolis to establish Hearts & Hands of Indiana, a grassroots organization that offers hope and the opportunity for a new home to low-income families in the struggling areas of Holy Trinity and St. Anthony parishes in Indianapolis.

“I want to thank God for all the blessings he has given me,” Corsaro said. “I like doing it, plus it’s our responsibility to help others.”

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin greeted and saluted the winners. He also noted that their efforts and the approach of Catholic Charities reflect a major emphasis of Pope Francis in the early stage of his leadership of the Church.

“He talked about a healthy Church and a sick Church,” Archbishop Tobin said to the Spirit of Service audience. “He said a healthy Church is a Church that forgets itself and goes out in service of the other. A sick Church is narcissistic. It turns in on itself and worries more about itself than others.

“Catholic Charities is one of the significant ways that keeps the Archdiocese of Indianapolis healthy. So I’m grateful for Catholic Charities, the fine leadership that we have in the archdiocese, and the many, many generous volunteers who ensure that our archdiocese will be healthy.” †
 

(Learn more about the Spirit of Service Awards dinner at www.archindy.org/spirit)

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