May 21, 2010

New director of Catholic education is selected

By John Shaughnessy

Harry PlummerThe father of eight children and “a Catholic gentleman,” Harry Plummer is coming home to Indianapolis as the new executive director of the Office of Catholic Education and Faith Formation for the archdiocese.

The 51-year-old Plummer will start his new position on July 1, after serving the past three years as the superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings in Montana.

“I was born in Indianapolis and baptized at Holy Spirit Church,” Plummer says. “I was playing euchre before I could walk. That’s a sign of a true Hoosier, right? I’m honored and excited to be coming back.”

He will succeed Annette “Mickey” Lentz, who has served as the executive director of the Office of Catholic Education and Faith Formation for 12 years.

For the past year, Lentz has also had the added responsibility of being the chancellor of the archdiocese. Starting on July 1, she will devote her attention full time to the chancellor’s position.

“Harry is committed to Catholic education,” Lentz says. “He has a deep spirituality which gives witness to his faith. He understands the concept of total Catholic education. He has had experience both in schools and religious education. He sees his role as a shepherd of all of the ministries for which he will be responsible.”

Plummer’s selection is the result of a national search that began in December 2009.

“He’s a highly accomplished professional, but most importantly he’s a Catholic man who lives the Catholic faith in his daily and personal life,” says Bill Kuntz Jr., the chairperson of the search committee and a member of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis. “He is very much a Catholic gentleman. He grew up on the east side of Indianapolis. It’s neat that the beginning of his early life and this part of his career has come full circle. To have Harry join the archdiocese made everyone on the search committee ecstatic.”

Plummer has dedicated most of his adult life to Catholic education, serving as a teacher, principal, superintendent and diocesan director of religious education as part of a career path that has taken him and his family to Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota and Montana.

He views his strengths as the ability to listen, offer guidance, and articulate and celebrate the great qualities of Catholic education and faith formation.

“When I read the job description [for the executive director’s position], it was as if I had written it,” says Plummer, who will celebrate 24 years of marriage with his wife, Annina, in June.

He does have one concern about his new job.

“I’m a little concerned about following in the footsteps of Mickey Lentz,” he says. “She’s well-known and well-respected on a national level in the Catholic education community. But she’s offered her support and guidance, and that’s very encouraging.”

During Lentz’ leadership, 25 of the 71 Catholic schools in the archdiocese have earned recognition as a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education—a distinction that no other diocese in the country can match.

The current graduation rate at Catholic high schools in the archdiocese is 98 percent, and 97 percent of those graduates enter college.

“We have been successful as a diocese in our many initiatives,” Lentz says. “But I often say, ‘Even the best must get better.’ Now we have a new set of eyes to lead us further along the journey of success.”

Similar to Plummer, this transition period is also a time of looking back and looking forward for Lentz.

“I have been enriched by so many lives and circumstances over these past years,” says Lentz, 68, who is in her 49th year as a Catholic educator. “God has been so good to me. I hope to create a vision and focus in my role as chancellor which will provide me [with] those same experiences. It is—and will continue to be—a real privilege to serve the Church and this archdiocese in the role of chancellor.” †

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