December 20, 2019

‘Changing Lives Forever’ program brings hope to veterans

Society of St. Vincent de Paul members of St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis and Divine Word Missionaries Father Charles Smith, Veterans Administration chaplain, celebrate with recent graduates of the first “Changing Lives Forever” program focused specifically on the needs of veterans on Nov. 25. Pictured are Phyllis Manfredi, left, program coordinator Domoni Rouse, Dave Kasberg, Brenda Ray, Paul Larkin, Landon “Red” Boyd and Father Smith. Not pictured is John Babcock. (Submitted photo)

Society of St. Vincent de Paul members of St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis and Divine Word Missionaries Father Charles Smith, Veterans Administration chaplain, celebrate with recent graduates of the first “Changing Lives Forever” program focused specifically on the needs of veterans on Nov. 25. Pictured are Phyllis Manfredi, left, program coordinator Domoni Rouse, Dave Kasberg, Brenda Ray, Paul Larkin, Landon “Red” Boyd and Father Smith. Not pictured is John Babcock. (Submitted photo)

Special to The Criterion

Smiling through tears, one graduate spoke of new ways of thinking and planning for his future, while another thanked God for the gifts of inner peace and confidence. These veterans were among the nearly 300 graduates of the Indianapolis St. Vincent de Paul Society’s “Changing Lives Forever” (CLF) program and the first to complete the course in a Veterans Administration (VA) facility in Indianapolis.

The unique collaboration between the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the VA began with a chaplain’s request to bring the program to veterans residing in a therapeutic community located in northeast Indianapolis. The St. Vincent de Paul conference at St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis agreed to host the program and the 16-week course that began on Aug. 21.

“CLF is a perfect union of our mission at the VA domiciliary: taking complete management of your life, improving living conditions and standards of behavior, and rediscovering a spiritual purpose in your journey of life,” said Divine Word Missionaries Father Charles Smith, the VA’s chaplain.

Speaking at the Nov. 25 graduation, combat veteran Landon “Red” Boyd said, “This program is a God-sent program that has guided me in ways of knowledge [and] has given me inner peace when I think of my future. I am no longer afraid.”

Paul Larkin summed it up this way: “This incredible program has, through Christ, allowed me to change my thinking, my words, and of course my actions. At this time in my life, I now sit down and cautiously consider my thought processes, behaviors and actions, and actually write out a plan for things in my life I need to accomplish. Now the work begins. I encourage others to consider this incredible course.”

CLF facilitators Dave Kasberg and John Babcock, both members of St. Simon, were assisted by Phyllis Manfredi, a member of St. Philip Neri Parish in Indianapolis, and Brenda Ray of St. Rita Parish, also in Indianapolis.

When asked why he volunteered to be lead facilitator, Kasberg, an Air Force veteran, said, “I spent 28 years on active duty. We were stationed across the U.S., in Germany four times, and finished up in the Pacific. When I retired, we moved back home to Indiana.

“I wanted to give back, to help those in need in my own city, my own parish, not some distant land. It is easy to write a check and send it off in the mail. It is a lot harder to get your hands dirty and to address poverty in your own backyard—whether it is through St. Vincent de Paul home visits, Changing Lives Forever or some other program. It is just something I feel I am called to do. And I love it!”

The St. Vincent de Paul conference at St. Simon plans to host another program for veterans. For more information and additional program sites, contact Domoni Rouse, CLF coordinator, at 317-924-5769 or drouse@svdpindy.org. †

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