SMWC alum brings Week of Service to St. Roch

June 22nd, 2015 | SMWC

St. Roch
Students from St. Roch Catholic Church and School serve at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, pulling weeds in the outdoor prayer labyrinth.

“We are not called upon to do all the good possible, but only that which we can do.” These are the words of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, Indiana’s first saint and the foundress of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC). As Veronica “Roni” O’Connor, of Indianapolis, Ind., reflected on everything her team of over 25 SMWC alums accomplished with students at St. Roch Catholic Church and School during SMWC’s Week of Service, this quote resonated with her.

“All we accomplished this week happened because I have been truly blessed to surround myself with like minds and hearts, in my Woods community and my church community alike,” states O’Connor, a 1988 SMWC alum and National Alumni Board Member. “This was the most perfect celebration of how we are all connected in the messages of service to others; there are so many ways to serve.”

The Week of Service, as part of the 175th anniversary year-long celebration of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, was organized by the National Alumni Association in collaboration with SMWC and the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. April 12-18, 2015, alums across the nation and around the world united in one purpose – “Planting New Seeds” for the future benefit of the common good.

As a St. Roch parish member, O’Connor knew that bringing the Week of Service to St. Roch was perfect. She approached the principal, Joe Hansen, who happens to be her cousin, with the idea, and he immediately turned O’Connor’s one-day suggestion into a week-long plan. 

Veronica O
Veronica “Roni” O-Connor ’88 (left) and Susan Turner, SMWC senior director of advancement and alumni relations, worked alongside the students in the outdoor prayer labyrinth at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

“Veronica O’Connor is an amazing woman, and I am truly humbled by her love of and dedication to the College,” states Susan Turner, SMWC senior director of advancement and alumni relations. “She wholeheartedly embraced the mission of the Week of Service. Because of her vision and the plans she implemented with St. Roch, we now have a model of programing that can be used with other schools to connect them to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and the Sisters of Providence.”

Throughout the Week of Service at St. Roch, alums served lunch in the cafeteria, said the morning and afternoon prayers over the intercom, participated in the all-school mass as members of the choir and congregation and interacted with the students to teach them about Saint Mother Theodore Guerin and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. O’Connor and her cousin, Amy Miles Wilson, 5th Grade Teacher at St. Roch and the 2015 recipient of the St. Theodora Excellence in Education Award, the highest honor for Catholic Education in the Indianapolis Archdiocese, worked with her classroom throughout the week.

“We told the story of 'St. Theodora and Her Promise to God,'" states O’Connor. “We provided each grade with their very own Flat Saint Mother Theodore Guerin cut-out and challenged them to strive to be like her – kind to others and keep your promises to God.”

In addition to learning about Saint Mother Theodore Guerin and her journey to Indiana, the students created 'Happy Anniversary' letters and cards for the Sisters of Providence, planted flowers outside the school entrances and brought in fun treats for the staff and faculty throughout the week.

But the Week of Service wouldn’t have been complete without a field trip to this special place they had heard so much about – Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

While on campus, the group served by pulling weeds in the outdoor prayer labyrinth. They also visited the Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin at the Providence Center, as well as other notable places including the Grotto, the Cabin, the Cemetery and the St. Ann Shell Chapel. The group had lunch with the Sisters of Providence in Owens Hall and met Sister Maxine Teipen, a 1941 graduate of St. Roch Catholic School. Additionally, four of the five General Counsel members for the Sisters of Providence visited with the group and gave the children medals.

St. Roch Scholarships
Anna Madden (right) and Maddie Brehob (left), Class of 2015 at Roncalli High School, both graduates of St. Roch Catholic School, were presented with a four-year scholarship.

The Week of Service commenced at St. Roch with an all-school mass on Friday. Father James Wilmoth, pastor at St. Roch, a steadfast fan of the Sisters of Providence and Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, told the story of his upbringing in St. Philip Neri School under the tutelage of the Sisters of Providence, and the emergence of the two stained glass windows of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin - one at St. Roch and one at the Roncalli High School Chapel. Father Wilmoth celebrated his 50th Anniversary in the priesthood on May 3, 2015, at St. Roch.

At this mass, two students also received scholarships to SMWC. Anna Madden and Maddie Brehob, Class of 2015 at Roncalli High School, both graduates of St. Roch Catholic School, were presented with a four-year scholarship. Madden was awarded $46,000 over four years, and Brehob was awarded $36,000.

Included for both was $1000 from the Enrollment Ambassador Program through SMWC alums in the parish. The program encourages alums to refer students who then receive a $1000 scholarship as part of their application to SMWC.

But it wasn’t just the folks at St. Roch who served throughout the week-long event. Also during this Week Of Service, Indianapolis-area SMWC alums participated in service events at St. Joan of Arc School, Roadside CleanUp with the Finish Line Corporation, Joy's House in Broad Ripple, Marquette Manor and a team walked the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

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