January 25, 2019

Special tradition shows foundation of faith, family that guides Career Achievement Award recipients

(Editor’s note: On Feb. 7, the archdiocese will present Celebrating Catholic School Values Career Achievement Awards to Pat Musgrave, Virginia Marten and Jerry and Rosie Semler. In this issue, The Criterion features the Semlers.)

By John Shaughnessy

Jerry and Rosie SemlerIt’s a special family tradition—a tradition that Jerry and Rosie Semler use to help their grandchildren understand the difference they can make in the world.

Every morning of Christmas Eve, the Semlers gather at their Indianapolis home with their 28 grandchildren—and their grandchildren’s parents—for a reading of The Sparkle Box, a story about the importance of giving and the true meaning of Christmas.

Once the story is finished, the grandchildren—each of whom has been given $100 by their grandparents—share how they have used the money to help a charitable organization, and why that organization is important to them.

“You have to share and give back to your community,” says Jerry Semler. “I’m proud of them that they want to give back.”

The Semlers have spent a lifetime providing that example for their ever‑growing family, says Dori Dodson, one of the couple’s seven children.

“Being a Boy Scout, my father’s motto was, ‘You always leave a place better than when you got there,’ ” she says. “He’s taught all of us to do that. He loves simple acts of kindness.”

That foundation of kindness has also led to tremendous acts of generosity from the Semlers, members of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis who have been married for 58 years and who also have six great‑grandchildren.

For decades, the Semlers have been major contributors to Catholic education in the archdiocese, including their support of Bishop Chatard High School, Cathedral High School, Marian University in Indianapolis, Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad and the parish schools of St. Pius X, St. Luke the Evangelist and Immaculate Heart of Mary in Indianapolis.

But Jerry’s greatest impact may have been on Catholic elementary schools in the inner-city of Indianapolis. The chairman emeritus of American United Life Insurance Company, he has been the chairperson of archdiocesan campaigns to benefit these schools and continues to serve on the boards of many civic and charitable organizations.

“Jerry worked on the inner-city school campaign that raised enough money to build a new Holy Angels School and a new Holy Cross School,” notes D. Anthony Watts, one of the people who nominated the Semlers for the Celebrating Catholic School Values Career Achievement Award.

“He sees all of Indianapolis as inextricably linked and believes education is vital to helping people of all economic levels achieve a better life.”

The Semlers have always believed that Catholic schools’ combination of discipline, committed teachers and quality education is a formula for success for helping children whose families struggle with poverty.

“There’s an opportunity gap for a lot of inner-city kids,” Jerry says. “If you want a community that’s thriving and well-educated, it’s important that we take care of this opportunity gap and the educational gap.”

Rosie has also been involved in community causes even while caring for their children. She has served on the boards of 10 charitable and faith-based organizations, including the Day Nursery, the Family Advocacy Center, the St. Vincent Foundation and the St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild.

Together, they have forged a foundation of family and faith dating back to when they first met as students at Purdue University in West Lafayette.

Their Catholic faith is at the heart of everything they have done together to make a difference, Jerry says.

“We just feel that when you’re blessed, you need to share your time, talent and treasure with the Church and your community.”

(Pat Musgrave and Virginia Marten were each featured in previous print‑edition issues of The Criterion. Click on their names to read the stories.)

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