Father Tom Day Mass returns and honors four outstanding ladies in Scecina’s history

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Father Tom Day Mass returns

Scecina is proud to be named after Father Thomas Scecina, whose life story continues to inspire people throughout the world.

Father Tom was a priest with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis who served God and his country as a military chaplain during World War II before perishing at sea with other U.S. prisoners of war in 1944.

This event was tragic but also serves as a powerful example and reminder of Christian faith in action.

On November 9, 2022, Scecina faculty, staff, students, alumni, veterans, and friends,  honored Father Tom at our annual Father Tom Day Mass. Toni Leffler, Judy Neidlinger, Judy Nichols, and Barbara Riley were all presented with the Father Tom Service award for their countless contributions to Scecina. We also honored alumni veterans and veteran friends of Scecina. It was a beautiful day and a wonderful way to bring the community together.

Enclosed you will find images and remarks from President Therber’s speech commemorating the day.

Scecina President Joe Therber’s Father Tom Day Remarks

November 9, 2022

Good morning. I want to begin this part of our morning by recognizing and thanking several people, sharing a brief reflection about Father Tom, and then presenting the Father Tom Service Awards to four outstanding ladies in the history of Scecina Memorial High School.

First, thank you to our students for your attention this morning and to all our educators for everything you do to support our students and sustain our ministry every day.

Thank you to Father Jim Farrell, our chaplain coordinator, for celebrating Mass today. Father Bob Gilday and Father Rick Ginther had every intention of being here today, but Father Bob came down ill overnight, and Father Rick had an unavoidable situation that arose this morning. Thank you, also, to Deacon Mike Braun for attending with his wife, Wendy; all of their children all attended Scecina.   

Thank you and welcome to all our guests – Dr. Brian Disney, Superintendent of Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, and Ms. Michelle Radomsky, Assistant Superintendent, members of the Scecina Board of Directors, Scecina alumni and friends, and family members of our award recipients.


Seventy-eight years ago, an event happened that, while tragic, also serves as a powerful example and reminder of Christian faith in action. On that day, Father Thomas Scecina and his fellow prisoners aboard the Arisan Maru prisoner-of-war ship were attacked at sea. All but a handful of them died a slow and frightening death because they were willing to pay the ultimate price for us – the payment of their lives so that we could carry forward the values of faith, friendship, service, and sacrifice in freedom and safety. 

An easily missed part of the inspiration of this day is that Father Tom did not have to board that ship. As an Army chaplain, he was exempt from boarding the prisoner ship, yet he willingly accompanied his fellow prisoners because he was their teammate, their fellow student, so to speak, their brother in spirit and in truth.

Here in front of us are Father Tom’s military service medals that are the proof of his service, courage, and sacrifice, as well as the respect that our nation had for his commitment 78 years ago.        

Just like Father Tom, members of the United States military services have a burning call to service so that others may live safely and with basic liberties. They are willing to sacrifice their lives so that others – we – may live. 

So at this time, I would ask everyone here who is an active or retired member of the United States military services, including our faculty and staff veterans, to please stand so that we can thank you.

Now, I turn to our students. Students, those of you who have a family member – immediate or distant relative, living or deceased, who is serving or has served in our military services – please stand so that we can affirm your family and you.

We also have one current student who has already completed United States Army basic training. Marcus Greathouse, please stand so that we can thank you as well.   


Our school has a tradition of presenting the Father Tom Service Award to a person who meets two criteria: (1) who deeply believes in the importance of Scecina Memorial High School and (2) who consistently lives the motto that is attributed to Father Tom of doing all that one can and then “giving that little extra.”   

 Because of COVID restrictions, the last time we presented this award as part of the Father Tom Day Mass was 2019, so we have some catching up to do. This year, it is a pleasure to present the Father Tom Service Award to four outstanding ladies in Scecina’s history.

Students, while you may or may not know these ladies, they are instrumental in making Scecina what it is today for you.

Our recipients have stood with Scecina and our parishes for more than 60 years of joyful times and challenging times. Countless people in our school community appreciate them because of their kindness, wisdom, generosity, and commitment.

Talk about a commitment to Scecina – all 18 of their children and 18 of their grandchildren attended Scecina. Their children are very successful as parents, Church and community volunteers, teachers, coaches, administrators, business leaders, attorneys, healthcare professionals, and in many other ways.  

We’re going to recognize our honorees in the order in which their relationship with Scecina began.


Our first recipient is Mrs. Barbara Riley. Mrs. Riley’s relationship with Scecina began in 1960. The next year, she married Mr. Ray Riley, who at that time was a highly respected Scecina teacher and coach who later became the school principal. Mr. and Mrs. Riley’s five children – John Riley, Cindy Rosswurm, Jeanne Watson, Daniel Riley, and Anne Marie Goedde – graduated from Scecina from the years 1980 to 1991.  Seven of their grandchildren attended Scecina, too.

As a Scecina parent, grandparent, and cheerleader at Scecina events, and by offering faithful support to her husband Ray during his many dedicated years as a respected and well-liked Scecina teacher, coach, and principal, Mrs. Riley helped build a foundation of school spirit that continues to this day.  

Mrs. Riley has offered these words for this morning . . .

My first contact with Scecina was when I chaperoned a Junior Prom in 1960. In 1961 I married my co-chaperone for that event, Ray Riley. After being married to him I went to a lot of Scecina ball games. Also, I had five children; they all went to Scecina and graduated from Scecina. I have 14 grandchildren; 7 went to Scecina. I have five great-grandchildren, and they are not high school age yet.

One of the great rewards of being a part of Scecina was being friends of these other three people here, Judy Neidlinger, Judy Nichols and Toni Leffler and their Scecina husbands. Also, Scecina teachers like Bill Sylvester and Bob Piercy, among many others.

Especially wonderful was an opportunity when I was asked to substitute teach for my cousin, Father Peter Gallagher, for three days; that was a privilege!

I was asked by Gia Spaulding to recruit helpers for the mailings that Scecina did. My husband would get donuts from Hart’s Bakery and Sister Lavonne Long would make coffee, and we had lots of fun. That was one of the things I was glad they asked me to do. It was always easy to get volunteers; they loved Sister Lavonne, they loved Scecina, and loved Hart’s Donuts. Sister Lavonne was my husband’s best friend.

Nobody ever loved Scecina High School more than Ray Riley.

My Son John Riley loved Scecina and went back to teach there for seven years. 

Also, grandson Brian Rosswurm does a great deal of volunteer work, and his wife Nikki Rosswurm teaches at Scecina. My daughter, Cindy Rosswurm is now substitute teaching at Scecina. Her husband Joe Rosswurm is a Scecina assistant girls basketball coach, too.

Thankful that she has made Scecina a very important part of her life for many years, and because she has countless times “given that little extra,” it is my pleasure to present the Father Tom Service Award to Mrs. Barbara Riley.


Our next recipient is Mrs. Judy Neidlinger. Mrs. Neidlinger joined the Scecina Community in 1964 when her husband Larry joined the Scecina community as a teacher and coach, and eventually becoming head baseball coach, Dean of Students, Athletic Director, and Principal.

Mr. and Mrs. Neidlinger’s six children – Gregg Neidlinger, Gary Neidlinger, Robin Erlenbaugh, Rebecca Hammel, Eric Neidlinger, and Chris Neidlinger – graduated from Scecina from 1979 to 1993.   

One of Mrs. Neidlinger’s many unique contributions to Scecina is that, with Mr. Hurrle in the mid-1980s, she helped start the Scecina Development (fundraising) program. Thank goodness she shared her time and skills to begin this vital part of our school that continues to help all our students and educators.

As a devoted Scecina parent, volunteer, and supporter, Mrs. Neidlinger always has a sincere good word to say about Scecina. She returns to Scecina every winter (except during COVID) to present the Larry Neidlinger “We Care” Award at a basketball game to a person who has been very dedicated to our athletic department, and her school spirit was a vital ingredient in the success of our baseball program during the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, leading to the naming of our baseball field as the Larry R. Neidlinger Memorial Baseball Field in 1996. She also still attends every baseball program Fish Fry to this day.

Mrs. Neidlinger has offered these words for this morning . . .

It is truly an honor to be a recipient of this prestigious Father Tom Service Award. The four of us wives of Scecina coaches and teachers shared many functions and events during their time here. We felt that we made a contribution to the overall successes of the school.

Fr. Tom answered his calling from God and became our role model. Attending Scecina Memorial High School is your calling to educate yourself for your lifetime. My personal introduction to the Scecina Family began in 1964 when my husband began his teaching career. Since that time, we have been blessed to enjoy sharing many generations of friends and alumni, including our six children.

Scecina will always be with you. Take full advantage of this opportunity. You can never have too much education. These four years begin your lifetime of blessings.

Thank you, Father Tom.

In appreciation for her making Scecina a very important part of her life for many years and for countless times “giving that little extra,” it is our pleasure to present the Father Tom Service Award to Mrs. Judy Neidlinger.


Our next recipient is Mrs. Toni Leffler. Mrs. Leffler joined the Scecina Community in 1965 when her husband Ken joined the Scecina community as a teacher and coach, and eventually becoming head football coach and Assistant Principal.  

Mr. and Mrs. Leffler’s four children – Angie, K. C., Nate, and Jake – graduated from Scecina from the years 1984 to 1993.  Eleven of her grandchildren are Scecina alumni, as well.

Mrs. Leffler’s unique contributions to Scecina including being a Tuition Assistant and Registrar from the 1980s into the early 2000s. Many of our alumni from those years still remember her as a kind and wise mentor and cheerleader for them.

She frequently returns to Scecina to present the Ken Leffler Scholarship to an incoming senior student, and our male Senior Athlete of the Year Award is named in her husband’s honor. While the award is named in his honor, her faithful support of his efforts for 22 years was a foundation for his success and his impact on countless Scecina students.  

A couple ways in which her legacy continues at Scecina are that her son, K. C., is one of our veteran assistant football coaches, and her daughter Angie is a person whom many of our students will know as our girls tennis coach for many years and as an English teacher at Our Lady of Lourdes School, assistant principal at Holy Cross Central School, and now principal of Our Lady of Lourdes School.

Mrs. Leffler says that she agrees with the sentiments that her fellow recipients have expressed this morning in that she is humbled to receive the award and appreciates the relationships she has gained through Scecina.  

In appreciation for her making Scecina a very important part of her life for many years and for countless times “giving that little extra,” it is our pleasure to present the Father Tom Service Award to Mrs. Toni Leffler.  


Our next recipient is Mrs. Judy Henninger Nichols. Mrs. Nichols attended Scecina as a student and later rejoined the school when her first husband, John Henninger, became a Scecina teacher and coach, eventually becoming Dean of Students.   

Their two children – Matt Henninger and Vickie Hendley – graduated from Scecina in 1989 and 1991.   

Mrs. Nichols was a long-time Spanish teacher at Scecina, a teacher who could always be counted on to be a trustworthy master of the subject with a compassionate heart and a warm sense of humor. 

Mrs. Nichols still frequently substitute teaches at Scecina and has been a great Spanish teacher at Our Lady of Lourdes, Little Flower, and Marian University. Like our other recipients, she never stops giving! Her ever-present kindness and enthusiasm for helping students learn and grow spiritually are great examples for all of us.

Every year, she assists in the presentation of one of Scecina’s highest honors, the John Henninger Memorial Award for Christian Service, to a senior at the Baccalaureate Mass.    

Mrs. Nichols offers these words to us today . . .

Scecina has always kept dear the memory of my departed first husband, John Henninger, who taught English and history and coached football and baseball at Scecina before passing away on December 5, 1976, after a brief but well-fought battle with lung cancer.

Our two children, Matthew, age 5, and Vicki, age 3, when their father died, eventually attended and graduated from Scecina, always proud that their father was remembered at each graduation and Baccalaureate Mass with the presentation of the John Henninger Memorial Award for Christian Service.

Because she continues to make Scecina a very important part of her life and for countless times “giving that little extra,” it is our pleasure to present the Father Tom Service Award to Mrs. Judy Henninger Nichols.   


Mrs. Riley, Mrs. Neidlinger, Mrs. Leffler, and Mrs. Nichols, thank you very much for being the examples of faith, compassion, generosity, and wisdom that you are.


Thank you, everyone, for joining us today.

Special guests, after our students dismiss, we invite you to the Collaboration Room in the main hallway for a reception with our award recipients.

I will now ask Mr. Dellacca to conclude our morning.   



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