Joe Zelenka devoted his entire life to serving others. A man of great faith, 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.
Most people in Indianapolis will remember Zelenka for holding thousands of vigils at homicide sites throughout the city. He felt compelled to address gun violence in the city.
During the vigils, Zelenka prayed with the families and friends of victims and always brought a prayer pole engraved with each victim’s name he had prayed for over the years. Through prayer and ceremony, Zelenka helped the neighborhood reclaim the ground 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, Zelenka was never sure if what he was doing enough for his community. “He was always telling me ‘I want to make a difference. I just want to make a difference’,” said Mrs. Zelenka. “I would try to point out ways in which he had -- all he had to do was look around. He affected everyone.”
Zelenka not only cared deeply for those here in our local community; he spread his compassion globally, too. 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 Zelenka fought for many causes throughout his life, stopping the proliferation of gun violence was always high on his list. His wish, said Mrs. Zelenka, was that there would be peace in the streets. Zelenka believed that anything was possible in prayer, and that is how he lived his life.