May 6, 2016

‘We are here to serve others’: Speedway president encourages audience to win the race that places others first

Catholic Charities Indianapolis presented four individuals with Spirit of Service Awards during an April 27 dinner in Indianapolis. Award recipients, seated from left, are Domoni Rouse, Phyllis Land Usher and Htoo Thu. Standing are Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin and award winner Tim Hahn. (Submitted photo by Rich Clark)

Catholic Charities Indianapolis presented four individuals with Spirit of Service Awards during an April 27 dinner in Indianapolis. Award recipients, seated from left, are Domoni Rouse, Phyllis Land Usher and Htoo Thu. Standing are Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin and award winner Tim Hahn. (Submitted photo by Rich Clark)

By John Shaughnessy

As the president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it seemed fitting that Doug Boles immediately knew that Howdy Wilcox was the winner of the Indianapolis 500 in 1919.

Yet Boles showed a measure of grace and preparation as the keynote speaker of the archdiocese’s Spirit of Service Awards Dinner in Indianapolis on April 27 when he noted that 1919 was also the year when Catholic Charities Indianapolis began helping the poor and vulnerable in central Indiana. (Related: Spirit of Service winners live out their faith by helping others)

“One of the things as Hoosiers we do is we are so great at figuring out how to help each other,” Boles told the 400 people who had gathered at the Indiana Roof Ballroom for the fundraiser for Catholic Charities Indianapolis.

“That’s the thing we all have to remember—we are the way to light the world. And the way we light the world is the way we invest in others, the way we give up ourselves to invest in others.”

Boles also used his speech to talk about the upcoming 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29—focusing on its history and tradition while also emphasizing the need and the opportunity for continuing innovation.

“Part of what makes us so special is our history and tradition, a history and tradition that was started by Hoosiers. What makes it so special—and many people can relate to this—is the fact that our dad, our granddad, our brother or someone special in our lives introduced us to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” said Boles, who recalled attending his first 500 race, when he was 10, with his dad.

“To me, that gathering of people, that gathering of pride, is much more than about a race.”

While Boles cherishes that history and tradition, he also embraces innovation for the future of the race and the Speedway.

“The Speedway was created in 1909 and the 500 in 1911 not for those traditions. It was created to look forward. It was created to show what this community, this city of Indianapolis could do going forward. One hundred of any event, especially in the United States, is a huge accomplishment. But it’s really a springboard to the next 100 years. It’s a springboard to the imagination of the next leaders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

Boles concluded his talk with a reference to racing and living the faith—by way of St. Paul.

“The Apostle Paul told us how important it was to stay focused on the endurance of running that race,” Boles noted. “We love that at the Speedway—it’s a race. But that’s not what he meant. He meant to walk through the world and to stay focused on why we are here.

“We are here to serve others. We are here to represent what Christ did when he was here, and continue to walk and put ourselves second and others first.”

During the dinner, Catholic Charities Indianapolis director David Bethuram also connected his agency’s work to the themes of faith, history, innovation—and racing.

“In our work, it is important to set the pace while changing the course,” Bethuram told the audience. “We set the pace by understanding and addressing the immediate needs of the poor and vulnerable—like food insecurity and a safe place to sleep—but we can only change the course of poverty by addressing the root causes of poverty.”

Catholic Charities Indianapolis continued its ever-growing mission of filling the immediate needs of the poor and vulnerable in 2015 when the agency served more than 70,000 people in the community, Bethuram said.

“In the past several years, our Crisis Office has had a 40 percent increase of households who come to our food pantry to subsidize their monthly food budget,” he said.

At the same time, Bethuram noted, Catholic Charities Indianapolis “has embarked on a major effort to study and research how best to dedicate resources to specifically address some of the root causes of poverty, including lack of training, lack of education, poor health and unbalanced diets.”

That combined approach of tradition and innovation will give people in need “the hope that will sustain them for a better future,” he said.

“Our focus is on helping those who are able to move out of poverty, and caring for those who are not able to do so. We serve in this way because our Catholic faith compels us to serve those in the margins and those who are most vulnerable.”

In his remarks at the end of the evening, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin began by adding a touch of personal history and humor in connection with the Indianapolis 500.

“Three years ago, when I was asked to give the invocation for the first time, I was excited because I had never been to a car race before—except the streets of Rome.”

When the laughter faded, the archbishop turned serious, noting how someone earlier in the evening had asked him, “Is there anything that keeps you up at night?”

“I ask myself, ‘What are we not seeing as an archdiocese? How can we see better?’ ” the archbishop confided to the audience.

“Because Jesus, if you read the Gospels, never really lambasts people for being tired and not helping the poor, but basically because they don’t see. In that famous story in Matthew 25, both the good and the ones who are condemned have the same response, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or in prison or sick?’ ”

Looking out on the audience—while speaking to all supporters of the work of Catholic Charities—the archbishop continued, “So I want to thank you tonight for seeing, for having the eyesight, for eyes that kind of break out from our hearts, and recognizing in people, who are so easily forgotten, the face of Jesus Christ.”

Archbishop Tobin also shared a reflection on a documentary about Blessed Teresa of Calcutta that he had seen.

It “showed her early days in Calcutta where she and her sisters were basically picking up people out of the gutters who were dying. The documentary closed with her holding up a dying child. And a reporter who was a very pragmatic Western journalist said, ‘Mother Teresa, why do you waste your time with that one? Go find a child you can save and help that one.’

“Mother Teresa said, ‘No, I think my mission in life is to make sure this little one doesn’t leave this world without knowing at least one person loved her.’ ”

Pausing for a moment, the archbishop ended his talk with this thought:

“The eyesight of the heart leads us to love. Sometimes, it’s an irrational love, something like a God who so loves the world that he sends us his only Son.

“Thank you for having the eyesight. Thank you for all the help you have given us. And we promise that, with your support, we’ll continue to reach out to those who are otherwise forgotten. God bless you.” †

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