Joe Zelenka


Joe Zelenka devoted his entire life to serving others. A man of great faith, Joe Zelenka will be remembered as a man who cared deeply for the well-being of his community and did everything he could to provide for those in need.

Joe Zelenka felt compelled to address gun violence in Indianapolis. Many residents will remember him for holding thousands of vigils at homicide sites throughout the city.

During the vigils, Joe Zelenka prayed with the families and friends of victims and always brought a prayer pole engraved with the names of the victims he had prayed for over the years. Through prayer and ceremony, Joe Zelenka helped the neighborhood reclaim the mourning sites as holy and sacred, rather than a place where violence occurred.

“He was constantly in awe of the forgiveness people would pray for,” said his wife, Sharel Zelenka. “Joe was moved by those prayers.”

Even in face of so much selflessness, Joe Zelenka was never sure if what he was doing was enough for his community. “He was always telling me ‘I want to make a difference. I just want to make a difference,’” said Sharel Zelenka. “I would try to point out ways in which he had – all he had to do was look around. He affected everyone.”

Joe Zelenka not only cared deeply for those here in our local community; he spread his compassion globally, too. Joe Zelenka led his church family of St. Thomas Aquinas to bring education, clean water, medicine, food and more to people living in Belle-Rivière, Haiti; completing 50 trips over the course of 25 years.

While Joe Zelenka fought for many causes throughout his life, stopping the proliferation of gun violence was always high on his list. His wish, said Sharel Zelenka, was that there would be peace in the streets. Joe Zelenka believed that anything was possible in prayer, and that is how he lived his life.