May 10, 2019

‘Be the Light’: IndyCar driver lauds Catholic Charities’ legacy of creating hope for those in need

Catholic Charities Indianapolis presented four individuals with Spirit of Service Awards during an April 30 dinner in Indianapolis. Award recipients, seated from left, are James Morris, Robert “Lanny” Rossman, Yan Yan and Liz Stanton. Standing, from left, are keynote speaker Ed Carpenter, Archbishop Charles C. Thompson and David Bethuram, executive director of the archdiocese’s Catholic Charities. (Submitted photo by Rob Banayote)

Catholic Charities Indianapolis presented four individuals with Spirit of Service Awards during an April 30 dinner in Indianapolis. Award recipients, seated from left, are James Morris, Robert “Lanny” Rossman, Yan Yan and Liz Stanton. Standing, from left, are keynote speaker Ed Carpenter, Archbishop Charles C. Thompson and David Bethuram, executive director of the archdiocese’s Catholic Charities. (Submitted photo by Rob Banayote)

By John Shaughnessy

It was a celebration touched by moments of light-hearted humor, including the moment when emcee Rafael Sanchez presented Archbishop Charles C. Thompson with the gift of a gaudy black-and-white-checkered sportscoat—suggesting that the archbishop wear it when he gives the invocation for the Indianapolis 500 on May 26.

It was also a celebration marked by a touching moment of friendship—when keynote speaker and IndyCar driver Ed Carpenter asked the audience of 425 people to join him in a moment of silent prayer for Father Glenn O’Connor, Carpenter’s friend and former pit crew member who died of cancer on March 15.

Still, the Spirit of Service Awards Dinner in Indianapolis on April 30 was essentially the celebration of a promise that has been kept.

(Related story: Spirit of Service winners live out their faith by helping others)

It’s a promise that the archdiocese made 100 years ago to “provide help and create hope” to people in need, a promise that continues to be fulfilled through the efforts of Catholic Charities across central and southern Indiana.

“The common criteria throughout all 100 years is human need,” said David Bethuram, executive director of the archdiocese’s Catholic Charities, in his remarks at the celebration at the Indiana Roof Ballroom.

“We have created a proud legacy of feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, supporting the disabled, strengthening families and welcoming newcomers. And there is much more being done day in and day out to touch the lives of more than 75,000 individuals each year in Indianapolis and 200,000 individuals across our archdiocesan Catholic Charities network.”

The importance of that continuing effort was echoed by Carpenter in his keynote talk during the 100th anniversary celebration.

“I can’t imagine what the world—this community—would look like without the work of Catholic Charities and other organizations that do great work,” said Carpenter, who finished second in last year’s Indianapolis 500.

He told the audience that while racing is his passion, he and his wife Heather have based their marriage on a more important goal.

“For sure, our most important job that we have is raising our three kids and helping instill in them the correct moral foundation in how to live their lives—to model how God has intended for them, for us, to live,” Carpenter noted. “Living our best life and living that way really requires service.”

Carpenter especially credited his wife in leading the two main ways that the couple tries to model the importance of service for their children.

Although their children attend a school in an affluent part of Indianapolis, the Carpenters soon learned that 70 percent of the students there were on a free or reduced-payment lunch program. So the family established a food pantry for the school, making it possible for students to have something to eat over the weekend.

“It was a great way for us to help those people in our community, but also to show our kids what that means—how to serve right there in their own school,” Carpenter said. “They need to understand that some of their friends don’t have all the blessings they have.”

The couple also started a foundation in 2007 to help people in the racing community, after a young racer named Paul Dana was killed in an accident.

“He left behind a wife and an unborn son,” Carpenter said. “We felt we needed to do something about it. Heather started the Indy Family Foundation. I’ve supported her along the way. Father Glenn was a big part of that charity as well, and he helped her. It’s an honor to help those members of the racing community, not just IndyCar but anyone who comes up on hard times—illness, loses their job, whatever. That’s something we’ve been able to do.”

At the heart of their efforts is the same foundation that guides Catholic Charities.

“For sure, faith is the foundation for all the lessons we want to pass onto our kids. Faith is the most crucial thing we can do for them, for all of us, frankly for all of society,” Carpenter said. “I think at times there is not enough faith in this day and age. Without the solid foundation and the sacrifice that God made for all of us, we wouldn’t know or understand the purpose for how we live our lives.”

Earlier during the celebration, Bethuram shared that the theme of the agency’s 100th anniversary is “Be the Light.” He said that theme will guide Catholic Charities in the archdiocese “as we launch the next century of providing help and creating hope across southern and central Indiana.”

He also noted how the agency has evolved into six sites across the archdiocese, including Bedford, Bloomington, Indianapolis, New Albany, Tell City and Terre Haute. At every location, the focus is on “touching lives.”

“As I walk through each of our sites, I am often met with a variety of emotions,” Bethuram said.

“I see a young mother indulging her son’s imagination as he so innocently talks about Spider-Man climbing the walls of our building while they wait for food. I see a young man—struggling to better himself for his family—stepping outside his comfort zone and walking into a class to learn a new and employable skill. I see an elderly man at our food pantry requesting food for the next seven days until his Social Security income has been deposited.”

He added that while the agency “will continue to provide ‘safety net’ services that help with food, utilities and emergency housing,” Catholic Charities is committed to developing strategies to help families and individuals “out of poverty.”

“To do this, we must continually study community needs, dedicate resources and implement programming and services that specifically address the root causes of poverty, such as lack of training, lack of education, poor health and unbalanced diets.

“We need your support by embracing our theme of ‘Be the Light,’ to help us build a consolidated system where case management and supportive services are the critical intervention.”

During his remarks near the end of the event, Archbishop Thompson focused on the support that people give to Catholic Charities’ efforts to foster dignity in people’s lives.

“You are the face of the Church that reveals Christ’s love and mercy and goodness to others. Tonight, we celebrate what is so wonderful about what we do as Catholics. We do it in so many ways, but no better place than in Catholic Charities. So I thank you for that great witness that you give and that you continue to bring to society and to our community.

“Our hearts burn within us to recognize and see the presence of Christ in our midst. Our hearts burn within us with that love of God. You help bring the Good News to others just by being yourselves. And the 100 years that we’ve been around doing this in Indianapolis, what a great thing to take pride in. We are very proud for this witness.” †

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