May 4, 2018

Helping others at the heart of Spirit of Service winners’ lives of faith

By John Shaughnessy

Four individuals were honored for their contributions to the community during Catholic Charities Indianapolis’ 20th annual Spirit of Service Awards Dinner in Indianapolis on April 24. (Related story: Former Colts player shares three principles that guide his life, his faith and his family)

Here is capsulized information about the award recipients, who were prominently featured in the March 23 issue of The Criterion.

Michael Isakson, Spirit of Service Youth Award

With the help of an aunt, Michael Isakson used broken pieces of plates and china to create the mosaic of Our Lady of Guadalupe that greets women who come to Birthline, the archdiocesan program that provides assistance to mothers in need.

Creating the mosaic was part of his Eagle Scout project that also included collecting more than 3,000 rosaries to be shared with the 1,500 mothers who come to Birthline at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis for help every year.

Like the mosaic, there are other pieces that reveal the larger picture of this 18-year-old’s commitment to making a difference to others. He’s the president of the Service Learning Club at Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School in Indianapolis, helping to organize the efforts of students to serve others in their community.

The senior has also spent weeks during the past two summers volunteering with other Catholic high school students to build and repair homes for families.

Michael—a member of the soccer, swimming and boys’ volleyball teams at Cardinal Ritter and a member of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis—has also volunteered at Holy Family Shelter in Indianapolis.

“Service is the way for me to bring Christ’s love into the world,” Michael says. “I try my best to show Jesus through my actions.”

Rita Kriech, Spirit of Service Award

At 87, Rita Kriech could just focus on her family that includes 11 children, 28 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

But the concept of family has never ended there for the lifelong member of St. Philip Neri Parish in Indianapolis.

For more than 25 years, she has served as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion to people who aren’t able to leave their homes, always staying extra time to talk and pray with them, and occasionally bringing a meatloaf or ham for dinner.

She has also driven the Missionary of Charity sisters to doctor’s appointments and food stores, and she has served weekly at the St. Paul Hermitage in Beech Grove for about 20 years, helping the residents play games.

She has also volunteered in the kitchen at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis. And she has helped the senior citizens and children who come to Miracle Place, a ministry of two Providence sisters in a near-eastside Indianapolis neighborhood that provides a variety of services for low-income residents.

“I wasn’t able to do this when the kids were growing up,” says Kriech, who has also volunteered extensively in her parish. “I always said when they were grown, I would start volunteering. God says that’s what we’re put on the Earth for—to serve whoever we could. It’s such a joy for me.”

Paul Hnin, Spirit of Service Award

During his 10 years as a refugee before coming to the United States, Paul Hnin kept thinking of a life filled with three hopes:

A safe place to live. The opportunity to provide a future for his family. And the freedom to live the Catholic faith he loves without fear of being persecuted.

Ever since arriving in St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis in 2016, the 33-year‑old father of two has been striving to provide that trinity of hope. Yet he doesn’t just do it for his family. He’s also the point person of those dreams for the 500 or so Catholics from the Hahka Chin community who fled their native country of Myanmar and who now make their home on the south side of Indianapolis.

In less than two years, he’s worked with parish leaders to create a wealth of opportunities for his fellow refugees, helping them form a faith community within the parish, assisting their children in enrolling at the parish school, and making the preparations so they can receive the sacraments.

He has also arranged for English classes, provides rides to bring the newcomers to parish and school events, and leads volunteer efforts among the refugee families to help at the parish.

“I need to help the people,” Hnin says. “I don’t want them to lose the Catholic faith. I really believe in the Catholic faith and the sacraments. In my life, it’s so important.”

Michael Patchner, Community Service Award

Dr. Michael Patchner’s humanity toward children and families in need flows from the heartbreak and hope he has lived and witnessed in his own family.

There’s the story of his father, an immigrant who worked in a coal mine, a man who gave his son his life savings to go to college so his child wouldn’t ever work in a mine and suffer the black lung disease that eventually killed him.

There’s the story of his stepmother who poured her love on him, a woman who became disabled, leading him to spend a year and a half caring for her.

There’s the story of the son that Patchner and his wife Lisa adopted, a child whose life was marked by debilitating disabilities and a joy of living before he died just weeks shy of his 31st birthday.

“I’ve been influenced by all of them,” says Patchner, who has been the dean of the Indiana University School of Social Work in Indianapolis for 18 years. “I just have this desire to help people in need.”

Patchner has served as the chairperson of the Indiana Commission on Abused and Neglected Children and Their Families. He has also chaired the Indiana Commission on Childhood Poverty. Both commissions have led to laws that help people affected by those realities.

“In social work, we want to make life better for everyone,” says Patchner, a member of St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis. “God gave me some talents, and I’ve tried to use my talents to make my piece of the world a better place.” †

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