January 12, 2018

Honored couple build a life of caring on foundation of faith, family

By John Shaughnessy

The story of Dan and Jan Megel begins in an unlikely setting for two young people to meet.

They were first attracted to each other at a college party in the Benedictine Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand, Ind., with at least three religious sisters joining the fun.

They talked through the night, and the next morning they attended Mass together with their friends. And the more they got to know each other, the more they learned how important faith and family were to both of them.

Three months later, they were engaged. And three months after that, they were married.

Through the 46 years they’ve been married now, the foundations of faith and family have continued to mark their relationship. So has another cornerstone—combining their efforts for the good of their community.

That combination has led the couple from St. Mary Parish in North Vernon to be honored as recipients of the archdiocese’s 2018 Celebrating Catholic School Values Career Achievement Award.

Just consider some of the commitments that these parents of four grown children and grandparents of nine have made to faith, family and community.

Dan taught confirmation classes for youths at St. Mary Parish for more than 30 years while Jan served as a second‑grade teacher at the parish school for 21 years, preparing her students to receive the sacraments of reconciliation and their first Communion.

Since retiring in 2014, Jan continues to volunteer at the school as a librarian, and Dan continues his dedication to the Knights of Columbus. They both help people in need through the local Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and they’re regulars at the parish’s perpetual adoration chapel. They also serve as extraordinary ministers of holy Communion at parish Masses, and Dan makes visits and takes Communion to homebound members of the parish.

The Megels, who live on a cattle-raising farm that has been in Dan’s family since 1862, are also both insistent that their desire to be there for others has been shaped by their Catholic education, their teachers and their parents.

“Because of my parents, it was imbedded in me,” Jan says. “I felt I was being called to something special. And the sisters who taught me made us all feel special. You knew they cared about you. They knew each of you personally.

“With good things, you have to pay it back.”

The couple has also traveled on mission trips to Jamaica and Haiti, where their group’s goal is to build houses and wells for water. Their time in each of those countries has also taught them another guiding approach to their lives.

“We were building houses in Jamaica in 2012, and I asked a priest there why the people were so happy when they have nothing, and so many people in our country who have a lot of money and possessions look so down,” Dan recalls. “He said, ‘You know, it took a while for me to figure it out. They have nothing between them and God. When they get up in the morning, they look up to heaven and thank God for another day.’

“We saw the same thing in Haiti. We’ve tried not to make money and possessions our goal because they block us from God.”

Even as they’re learning new dimensions of their life, the foundations of faith and family that helped to first connect them still endure.

“You put it all in God’s hands, and it will be OK,” Jan says. “And when you put us together, we’ve raised happy and caring children and grandchildren.”

Dan adds, “I’ve always felt lucky that we met at that party. I’ve always been able to feel I’ve not been alone. We’ve always been there for each other.” †

(Related: ‘Jeopardy!’ champion will speak at 22nd annual Celebrating Catholic School Values program)

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