April 23, 2021

‘A night to remember’

Stories highlight ministries, honor Lentz at archdiocese’s inaugural Legacy Gala

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson and Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, N.J. (formerly the archbishop of Indianapolis) share smiles with archdiocesan chancellor Annette “Mickey” Lentz as she holds the Sagamore of the Wabash, the state of Indiana’s highest honor, during the archdiocese’s inaugural Legacy Gala, held in person at the JW Marriott in Indianapolis and via livestream on April 16. The two archbishops and Lentz have each received full doses of a coronavirus vaccine. (Submitted photo by Rob Banayote)

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson and Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, N.J. (formerly the archbishop of Indianapolis) share smiles with archdiocesan chancellor Annette “Mickey” Lentz as she holds the Sagamore of the Wabash, the state of Indiana’s highest honor, during the archdiocese’s inaugural Legacy Gala, held in person at the JW Marriott in Indianapolis and via livestream on April 16. The two archbishops and Lentz have each received full doses of a coronavirus vaccine. (Submitted photo by Rob Banayote)

By Natalie Hoefer

It was an evening of stories—some informative, some funny, many touching—told virtually from locations around central and Indiana.

Half of the stories focused on the vital works and impact throughout the archdiocese’s 39-county region of three Catholic ministries—Catholic Charities, Catholic schools and seminarian formation—and their continuing need for support.

The other half honored archdiocesan chancellor Annette “Mickey” Lentz, whose 60 years of service to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis span nearly one-third of the archdiocese’s 187-year history. (Related message: A heartfelt ‘thank you’ to everyone who played a part in the Legacy Gala)

There was even a surprise ending to Lentz’ ministerial story that was revealed at the end of the event—an honor she now shares with presidents, astronauts and a cardinal of the Church.

These stories comprised the archdiocese’s inaugural Legacy Gala on April 16, held this year in-person at the JW Marriott hotel in Indianapolis and virtually via livestream.

The new annual event raised nearly $22,000 in donations and close to $11,000 from its auction, plus $313,000 from sponsors and donors before the event.

Donating to the ministries “isn’t limited to such an event,” Lentz told

The Criterion. “These ministries are in great need 365 days a year.”

Ministries share ‘common thread’—the future’

“We started planning this gala nearly two years ago,” Archbishop Charles C. Thompson said in remarks during the event. “We had originally planned to hold it a year ago, but the pandemic dashed those plans.”

The gala combines the former Celebrating Catholic School Values and Catholic Charities’ Spirit of Service events, and includes seminarian formation.

The ministries “share a common thread, and that common thread is the future,” said archdiocesan vicar general Msgr. William F. Stumpf in a pre-recorded video.

Catholic schools “shape children … to be the leaders of tomorrow,” Catholic Charities gives hope in the future for those in crisis, and seminarian formation gives hope for the future of the Church, he said.

Archbishop Thompson noted that life “has changed dramatically since the pandemic began, and it certainly has had an effect on our parishes and schools.

“But it has never stopped us from carrying out the mission of Jesus Christ … to minister every day to the people of central and southern Indiana” by offering the sacraments, educating and forming children and seminarians, and providing aid “to thousands of people who need us more than ever.”

Addressing ‘the root causes of poverty’

During the gala, Lentz and event emcee Raphael Sanchez of Indianapolis’ WRTV6 News led participants on a video tour of facilities representing the three ministries.

The tour began at Catholic Charities’ Crisis Office in Indianapolis, where more than 70,000 individuals were helped in 2020.

In a video-recorded letter to viewers, archdiocesan Catholic Charities’ executive director David Bethuram shared about the works of the ministry in central and southern Indiana.

During the office’s more than 100 years meeting the needs of the poor in central and southern Indiana, he said, “comprehensive, integrated services” have been developed to address various types of poverty.

Such services include mental health counseling in Bloomington; shelter for mothers in crises pregnancies in New Albany; temporary housing for families in Indianapolis; programs for youths in Terre Haute; and food for the hungry in Tell City.

Bethuram noted that helping those in need throughout central and southern Indiana is possible only through the time, prayers and financial support of parishioners. Such help allows Catholic Charities “to provide resources to specifically address the root causes of poverty, to stop another generation of poor children who will become poor adults raising poor children,” he said.

“Know that whenever we stand by a child, their parent, a senior citizen who is struggling, you—our benefactors—are right beside us.”

In a separate video, Art Wilmes of The Wilmes Family Charitable Foundation, a sponsor of the gala, noted that stewardship “is our opportunity to do something with the gifts we were provided by God, and to apply those gifts in a positive way.”

‘Open doors, open arms, open hearts’

The next stop on the video tour was Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, one of the archdiocese’s 68 Catholic schools.

The Catholic schools in the archdiocese “are all just wonderful, all doing what they can to help children grow in their life, in their faith and in their education,” said Lentz, calling the teachers “a blessing.”

She wanted members of the archdiocese to “know that everything they do to donate—and I’m not just saying in treasure, but also in time and in talent—helps these schools make a difference.”

In a video-recorded message archdiocesan interim superintendent of schools Mary McCoy noted that Catholic schools throughout the archdiocese “serve over 20,000 students with open doors, open arms and open hearts.”

When schools closed for in-person instruction in March of last year to help stop the spread of the pandemic, she said, “Our teachers and administrators did not miss a beat. … They have continued to form our young people every day—sometimes in-person, sometimes virtual, and sometimes both at the same time. … They are our true heroes.”

In a separate pre-recorded message, gala chairpersons John and Melissa Duffy spoke of the importance of Catholics helping the next generation by supporting archdiocesan ministries now.

“We’re trying to be good role models for our children and hope that they observe what we do with volunteering, to just give back,” said Melissa. “Because things don’t work without volunteers and without everyone caring.”

John encouraged Catholics to consider donating to Church-supported agencies that impact all who live in central and southern Indiana.

“If someone is unsure if they want to give their time or talent or financial support to the Church,” he said, “I would question them, ‘If not us, then who?’ Look at all the things we’ve been able to do in our faith because of people in our past.”

‘God dwells here … in these very men’

The last stop on the video tour was Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis.

“This is holy ground,” Lentz said of the former Carmelite monastery where young men now pursue a degree from nearby Marian University while discerning a possible call to the priesthood.

“Christ is the foundation and the cornerstone” of the college seminary, said rector Father Joseph Moriarty in a letter to viewers filmed in the seminary’s chapel.

He called the location “a home because God dwells here … in the Blessed Sacrament … and in these very men who go to the chapel to seek direction for their life.”

He lauded the men for “their courage at age 19 to be mature enough [to] ask God, ‘Might you be calling me to serve you as a priest?’ ”

Father Moriarty said he sees how “God dwells in the hope that these young men offer our Church as potential future priests. These seminarians understand that without priests, we cannot have the sacraments, namely the Eucharist. And without this sacrament we cannot nourish [people] to eternal life.”

And without help from parishioners from throughout central and southern Indiana, he noted, college men discerning a call to the priesthood would not have Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary as an option.

“I humbly ask you to support us in the effort of all the good work that’s begun in this house—in the lives of these men—to continue to be a place they can call home,” Father Moriarty said, “as they continue to respond to God’s call to further his kingdom by their lives, to be living stones in the foundation of the body of Christ.”

‘It was a night to remember!’

A living legend herself, Lentz has worked in the archdiocese since 1961 as a teacher, principal, superintendent of schools, executive director of education and faith formation, and chancellor.

In a Sept. 25, 2020, article in The Criterion detailing Lentz’s 60 years of serving in the archdiocese, she noted that people “are very important to me. I have always felt that if you treat people with respect and dignity, you earn it back in many ways, and the relationship builds into trust.”

That philosophy has proven successful. The proof was seen in the many pre-recorded messages of thanks and best wishes for Lentz—as well as memories and humorous stories—shared by her co-workers and friends throughout the event.

The evening culminated with Archbishop Thompson recognizing her contributions to the archdiocese by presenting her with two awards live at the JW Marriott. One she expected, and one she did not.

But first, he honored the lives affected by the tragic event that took place in Indianapolis late on the night prior to the gala.

“We woke up this morning to the devastating news of the shooting at the Federal Express facility” in Indianapolis in which eight were killed and numerous others injured, the archbishop solemnly noted. “It’s only fitting to take a moment of silence and prayer before God to bring reconciliation and peace. … Let us hold these people, these victims and their families in our prayers.”

After prayer and a moment of silence followed by words of thanks for all who made the gala possible, Archbishop Thompson called Lentz to the stage.

“She has truly dedicated her entire adult life to her faith, family, friends and the archdiocese,” he said. “Mickey has been a close friend and collaborator to … Archbishop Daniel [M. Buechlein], Cardinal [Joseph W.] Tobin and me.”

Archbishop Thompson then presented Lentz with the archdiocese’s first Legacy Award, noting that she “has built a legacy through her commitment and dedicated service that have set the bar high for everyone throughout the archdiocese. In spite of all of her accomplishments, Mickey never made anyone feel like she was overshadowing them.”

Lentz exuded joy as she received the award. But the accolades were not finished, and the archbishop asked her to remain on the stage for one more honor.

“This award has been given over the years to astronauts, presidents, ambassadors, artists, musicians, politicians and citizens who have contributed greatly to Hoosier heritage,” he said, as well as to Cardinal Tobin during his time as archbishop of the Indianapolis Archdiocese.

Then, “on behalf of Gov. Eric Holcomb,” Archbishop Thompson presented Lentz the Sagamore of the Wabash award, the state of Indiana’s highest form of recognition.

She later shared her reaction with The Criterion.

“I’m not sure words can express my feelings about this tremendous recognition,” Lentz said. “Especially when I’m doing what I love to do—serve others.

“However, I would say I’m humbled, honored and blessed in so many ways.”

Reflecting on the Legacy Gala, she was overcome with gratitude.

“Thank you to everyone!” Lentz said enthusiastically. “I am so grateful to all who recognized me in some way. So many best wishes, tokens and wonderful memories shared.

“It was a night to remember!” †

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