June 21, 2019

Loving neighbor is mission of Catholic Charities volunteers

Among those recognized for years of service during the Catholic Charities Indianapolis volunteer dinner on May 16 at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis are: front row, Lorette Morgan, left, Iris Parrish, Sue Sandefur, Rita Tomson, Jessica Limeberry, Valerie Cook and Debbie Whitaker. Back row: Charlene Glawe, left, Margaret Voyles, Mike Parrish, Deacon Michael Braun, archdiocesan executive director of Catholic Charities David Bethuram, Robert Hughes, Tom Kueper and Jaqueline Pimentel-Gannon, president of the Catholic Charities Indianapolis Agency Council. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

Among those recognized for years of service during the Catholic Charities Indianapolis volunteer dinner on May 16 at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis are: front row, Lorette Morgan, left, Iris Parrish, Sue Sandefur, Rita Tomson, Jessica Limeberry, Valerie Cook and Debbie Whitaker. Back row: Charlene Glawe, left, Margaret Voyles, Mike Parrish, Deacon Michael Braun, archdiocesan executive director of Catholic Charities David Bethuram, Robert Hughes, Tom Kueper and Jaqueline Pimentel-Gannon, president of the Catholic Charities Indianapolis Agency Council. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

By Mike Krokos

Rita Fortuna has been helping people for decades.

The member of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral Parish in Indianapolis worked for the Social Security Administration (SSA) for 40 years, seeing firsthand how the office assisted people in need.

For the last nine years, she has volunteered at Catholic Charities Indianapolis’ Crisis Office, where people in need come for food, clothing, financial assistance and other resources.

“I enjoy meeting the people,” said Fortuna, who volunteers two days a week.

“I think [volunteering] is something a lot of people should do to find out who the people really are. Many people don’t realize just how difficult these problems are.”

Fortuna was among the Catholic Charities Indianapolis program volunteers honored during a dinner on May 16 at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis.

During her career at SSA, Fortuna saw situations where people became disabled or retired—sometimes voluntarily and other times involuntarily—which led to them “ending up in bad situations.”

“We see a lot of that also at the crisis office, … very bad situations,” she said.

Fortuna noted that her commitment to helping her brothers and sisters in need started many years ago. “I’ve always been an advocate of social justice, going back to high school,” she said, adding it was a big part of her college experience as well.

Deacon Michael Slinger and his wife Paula of Holy Spirit Parish in Indianapolis have a special place in their hearts for Holy Family Shelter, a ministry of Catholic Charities Indianapolis.

Deacon Slinger has volunteered there for 20 years, while Paula has assisted at the Indianapolis homeless shelter for families for the past three years.

While the couple enjoys assisting others in need, Deacon Slinger said his perspective has changed after an

eye-opening life lesson during his initial visit to the facility.

“When I first went there, I went on a tour through the whole building with Bill Bickel [the executive director], and as I’m going through I’m thinking, ‘OK, I can fix that, I can take care of this,’ and I’m thinking all these things I can do to make the place nicer,” Deacon Slinger remembered.

“When we got back up to the front desk, [Bill] said, ‘So, I’d like for you to sit here and push that button to open the door to let people in. If someone needs toilet paper or something, it’s all right here, and here’s a little script on how to answer the phone.’

“I started to tell him, ‘I was thinking I could …’ and he told me, ‘No, I want you to sit here.’ I was like, ‘Oh, man.’ ”

Disappointed, Deacon Slinger told himself he’d go back one more time to volunteer, and if things weren’t any better, he’d look for something else.

“When I came back, everybody on the staff was like, ‘Oh, you’re back. It’s so good to see you again! You wouldn’t believe how much we got done because you were here to take care of the phone and the door, and do this and that.’ … It really made me feel valued, just being present.”

Since being ordained in 2012, Deacon Slinger has also been able to assist through his ministry of charity at the shelter.

“A lot of people have come through who’ve had rough times, and so while I’m sitting at the desk I’ve been able to offer counseling through my diaconate training.”

Through its mission of assisting people in need, Holy Family Shelter “is a wonderful place that does so much good for people that are struggling, helps them get back on their feet, and gets them moving in a good direction, and that’s always heartwarming to see,” Deacon Slinger said.

Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) volunteers Ron and Paula Russell have turned their outreach into a family affair: Ron’s sister Patti Merrill and her husband Bob also volunteer through RSVP, a Senior Corps program of the Corporation for National & Community Service that is managed in Marion County through Catholic Charities Indianapolis.

A recent retiree, Paula said, “It’s always good to give back to the community.”

“We enjoy meeting and helping people,” added Ron.

The Russells volunteer at the Cathedral Soup Kitchen, while the Merrills offer a helping hand at Gleaners food pantry. Both agencies are in Indianapolis.

“We love giving,” Patti Merrill said.

“And serving those who could use the help,” Bob added.

Catholic Charities Indianapolis program volunteers are a committed group who take the Gospel mandate of loving their neighbors to heart, noted David Bethuram, archdiocesan executive director of Catholic Charities.

In thanking the volunteers for their commitment, Bethuram mentioned the appreciation dinner’s Hawaiian theme, and also cited the Disney-based children’s movies and TV show “Lilo & Stitch.”

“In one of their movies, they talk about family. ‘Ohana’ is the word they use for family,” he said. “It’s not just immediate family. It’s kind of the idea of family beyond that—it includes cousins and nephews, in-laws, neighbors and community.

“The reason I think you do what you do [through your volunteer efforts] is because you think of our community as family,” Bethuram said. “Not only is your family your Church community and your neighborhood, but your wider community of Indianapolis. And what we do here, and how we go about doing the things that we do at Catholic Charities, you’re part of that. You’re part of our family, giving to the family that is also in need.”
 

(To learn more about volunteer efforts with Catholic Charities Indianapolis, please visit its website, www.archindy.org/cc/indianapolis.)

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