Modeling faith in action, Catholics from Alaska to the Gulf Coast are reaching out to make a difference in their communities. Since 1978, Catholic Extension has been honoring these faithful servants with the Lumen Christi Award. Accompanied by a $50,000 grant ($25,000 for the honoree and $25,000 for the nominating diocese), the Lumen Christi Award is presented to a priest, woman religious, lay person or group of people who have demonstrated how the power of faith can transform lives and society. Read on to meet this year’s nominees!

2014 Lumen Christi Award Nominees (alphabetical by diocese)

Diocese A - F

Diocese G - Q

Diocese R - Z

Manna House Ministries

Sister Mary Brigid Perez, RSM

Archdiocese of Agana (Guam)

Protecting Vulnerable Women and Children
Sister Mary Brigid Perez, spent nearly 50 years as an educator in Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Agana, impacting the lives of thousands of young people. But the work she did after she left teaching, as program manager of the Alee Family Violence Shelter, has perhaps had an even greater impact. “Alee” is the nautical term for shelter from the storm, and under Sister Mary Brigid’s compassionate leadership, this ministry has provided just that to women and children who are survivors of domestic violence, and also to children who are victims of child abuse and neglect. For the wounded and abandoned in seemingly hopeless situations, Sister Mary Brigid has been the light of Christ and a source of hope for the future.  

Sister Milagrosa

Servant House

Diocese of Alexandria, Louisiana

Sacrificing Comfort and Security to Serve the Poor
In 1989, two selfless laywomen made a life-changing commitment to serving the less fortunate. Aggie Neck left her job, and Donna Culotta, together with her husband, Joseph, sacrificed personal savings to buy and restore a house that would be a hub of ministry to the poor. Located in the small community of Marksville, Louisiana, Servant House, which is led by Aggie and Donna, is funded solely by free-will donations. For more than two decades, it has provided food, clothing and Christmas gifts for people with nowhere else to turn. There is no paperwork to fill out and no questions are asked. Servant House also provides a deeper experience of faith, with a monthly healing Mass, prison ministry, religious education, and handmade rosaries for all who enter.

Gustavo Ruiz

Father Daniel Mode

Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA

A War-Zone Military Chaplain Inspired by Others
Father Daniel Mode is a U.S. Navy chaplain who has served in forward areas and ministered to multitudes of men in uniform. He was deployed in Afghanistan for two years and, together with just a few other priests, he ministered to nearly 20,000 troops suffering tremendous losses. Currently, he is assigned to the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, bringing God’s presence to the rigid daily routine there. Father Mode finds inspiration in the life of another military chaplain, Father Vincent R. Capodanno who was killed in action in Vietnam. Father Mode completed his master’s thesis on Father Capodanno, which was published as a book titled The Grunt Padre. In 2006, the Church officially proclaimed Father Capodanno a Servant of God, formally initiating the process for consideration for canonization – all because of Father Mode’s advocacy.

Jesus Abrego

Deacon Gustavo Ruiz

Diocese of Baker, Oregon

Driving Thousands of Miles Across Oregon to Build Faith
Gustavo Ruiz, is a dedicated deacon who serves as director of Hispanic ministry in the Diocese of Baker, driving 25,000 to 30,000 miles a year across this vast diocese to build faith among the growing Hispanic community. A beloved and respected leader, Deacon Ruiz not only consults with Church leadership, he also visits widely scattered parishes to assist pastors, lay leaders and staff members in meeting the needs of Hispanic Catholics. He works diligently to develop leadership from within the Hispanic community, encouraging and forming catechists, lectors, eucharistic ministers and youth leaders. Whether leading a large-scale diocesan meeting to educate others or driving 250 miles to facilitate a Bible study in a Spanish-speaking parish, Deacon Ruiz is making a difference and growing the Church.

Manna House Ministries

Mary Mahlie and Sharon Begnaud

Diocese of Beaumont, Texas

A Community Garden Transforms a Town
In 2012, two visionary laywomen in Beaumont, Texas, started a community garden because they wanted to offer fresh food to the hungry. Mary Mahlie and Sharon Begnaud planted an acre on the property of St. Anne Parish and called it the Giving Field because the goal was to produce organic fruits and vegetables to donate to soup kitchens. In a few short years, the garden has grown into a thriving, community-wide effort with a huge volunteer base composed of adults and teens from all walks of life, and children from the parish’s elementary school. To date, the Giving Field has produced 7,000 pounds of organic fruits and vegetables, not only transforming the lives of hungry, but also the lives of those who have come together to work the land and serve their neighbors in need.

Manna House Ministries

Sister Julia Huiskamp, D.C.

Diocese of Belleville, Illinois

Serving At-Risk Children in Housing Projects
Sister Julia Huiskamp has made it her life’s work to serve children in places where they are most at risk. In 1985, she moved to East St. Louis, Illinois, which has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation. Sister Julia planted herself in the city’s housing projects and founded a faith-based place for children to thrive – the Griffin Center. Despite sweeping up bullet casings outside her door, Sister Julia was undeterred, and today, there are six Griffin Center sites in East St. Louis, helping more than 750 children grow emotionally, socially, academically and spiritually. For more than 28 years, the Griffin Center program has impacted thousands of at-risk children, giving them not only alternatives to lives of violence and despair, but also the light of Christ in their lives.

Manna House Ministries

Sr. Lucille Heidt, OSB

Diocese of Bismarck, North Dakota

A Walking Sign of Hope on the Reservation
For nearly 25 years, Sister Lucille Heidt has brought a Christlike presence to the vast Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. People on the reservation struggle with addictions and despair, but they know they have a confidante and spiritual guide in Sister Lucille. She prays with the sick and dying, teaches catechism, does sacramental preparation, visits the incarcerated, and leads funeral vigils and Communion services when no priest is available. She knows nearly every resident personally, and is respected by people of all faith traditions. Years ago, she was adopted into the Low Cap Clan of the Mandan tribe, receiving a Native American name that means “Hovering Eagle Woman.” The people here see clearly that God’s grace is working through her kind and generous heart.

Manna House Ministries

Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Diocese of Brownsville, Texas

A Radical Commitment to the Poor Leads to a New Parish
In 2003, a rare tornado struck a poor area populated by Mexican immigrants in Penitas, Texas. When three Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary visited this devastated community, they were shocked not only by the destruction, but also by the poverty. They also were moved by the richness of faith there. The sisters saw this as a sign, so they moved into the community and established Proyecto Desarrollo Humano, an outreach center that provides education, medical care and other necessities. In 2009, the sisters deeply enhanced the Church experience for this expanding immigrant community by organizing and building a new parish. St. Anne Church, which was dedicated in 2013, stands as a beacon of hope for the community and a visible reminder of the power of faith.

Manna House Ministries

Mrs. Karmina Mathias

Diocese of Caroline Islands (Micronesia)

Attention to the Little Things Makes a Big Impact
In the Diocese of the Caroline Islands, Karmina Mathias has been compared to St. Therese of Liseux for her attention to the little things. For the past 23 years, she has steadfastly served as secretary, and finance and development director in the diocese. She has been involved in fundraising and has played a vital role as a sounding board, creative force and ambassador of goodwill. She also is a mother figure for the priests and seminarians there, a role that comes naturally to her as one of her own sons is a priest. In a small diocese that struggles financially, Karmina is a devoted, conscientious worker who will do whatever it takes to get things done – and serve the Church.

Deacon Abel

Sister Susan Pugh, DC

Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina

A Beacon of Hope in South Carolina’s Low Country
In Georgetown, a historic small town in South Carolina’s Low Country, almost a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line. But residents here know they can find both physical and spiritual sustenance at St. Cyprian Catholic Church and its Outreach Center, which are located in a neighborhood with challenges. They also know they have a friend and champion in Sister Susan Pugh, who oversees all aspects of the parish. Sister Susan works tirelessly to serve this ethnically diverse community of faith, helping with basic necessities like medicine, clothing, food and educational opportunities. She also plans liturgical celebrations, organizes religious education, and works with parents and grandparents to help them fulfill their responsibilities as Catholic role models for youth.

sister Patricia Scherer

Monsignor Frank Bognanno

Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa

Five Decades of Building Faith and Serving the Poor
An engaging and gregarious pastor, Monsignor Frank Bognanno has spent five decades serving the poor and building faith in Iowa. He is a gifted visionary whose ministries have impacted thousands of people. In addition to expanding Catholic schools and parishes, he has reached out to those on the fringes of society with real, workable solutions. He established two housing projects for low-income seniors, he started a free medical clinic that has served more than 10,000 people, and he created a foundation to help poor families send their children to Catholic schools. He also founded the Iowa Right to Life Committee in 1973. A man who is loved and respected by Catholics and people from all denominations, Monsignor Bognanno has been at the forefront of true and lasting change that has benefited individuals, communities and society.

Sister Dorothy Giloley

Levita Rohlman

Diocese of Dodge City, Kansas

Embracing Immigrants and Refugees
In the late 20th century, several meatpacking plants relocated to southwest Kansas, which has led to a constant stream of immigrants and refugees who come to work there. For these new arrivals, who face language and cultural barriers along with economic hardship, Levita Rohlman is the light of Christ. She welcomes them, serves as their advocate, and builds bridges within the community to create understanding. Levita serves as director of the Catholic Agency for Migration and Refugee Services in Garden City, Kansas, which helps resettle and integrate immigrants, and guide them along the path to citizenship. Levita, who has a strong work ethic and compassionate heart, works long days helping families fill out complex paperwork and navigate their new country. Whether Mexican, Somali or Burmese, these often-overwhelmed arrivals know they have a trusted friend in Levita.

Mary Pat Jahner

Franciscan Friars of the Fairbanks Diocese

Diocese of Fairbanks, Alaska

Shining Christ’s Light in Alaska’s Remote Interior
Father Joe Hemmer, Brother Bob Ruzicka, and Brother Justin Huber have dedicated a collective 70 years of service to missions in Alaska, focusing most recently on eight Athabascan villages in Alaska’s remote interior. While the area around these isolated villages can be breathtakingly beautiful, they are difficult to reach, often with no roads connecting them. In addition, the people there are poor and live a subsistence lifestyle, usually without running water or reliable power sources. It is under these challenging circumstances, including long, dark winters and mosquito-filled summers, that these dedicated men have served, bringing the sacraments, spiritual leadership and the bonds of community to people who otherwise would be neglected.

Reverand Andrew Buvala

Reverend Charles J. Leute, OP

Diocese of Fargo, North Dakota

A Humble Servant on the Spirit Lake Reservation
Since 1987, Father Charles Leute has served as pastor of three parishes on the Spirit Lake Reservation in North Dakota. People here struggle with unemployment, alcohol and drug abuse, but Father Leute provides a stable presence and helps strengthen faith. Examples of his tenacity and huge heart abound: He almost singlehandedly constructed St. Jerome’s Church from the ground up. When a local family lost water service, Father Leute delivered water daily to them. Because of his limited financial resources, he doesn’t carry a cell phone but instead stays inside the rectory on weekends and holidays because that’s when he’s likely to get calls for help. At an age when retirement is an option, Father Leute continues to pour his life out for others and meet their needs in any way he can.

Carmen Cornoa

Fr. Clay Kilburn CM

Diocese of Gallup, New Mexico

Reconciling Old Wounds, Creating New Understanding
In 2013, Father Clay Kilburn, pastor at the remote St. Joseph Mission on the Hopi Indian Reservation in Arizona, brought a new level of peace and understanding to the area. With deep sensitivity to the power of history and memories, he led a concerted effort to heal old wounds that traced back to a violent episode in the 17th century that involved the Spanish government, local tribes and the Church. He built bridges between Hopi and Church leaders that centered on forgiveness and reconciliation. This ultimately led to the creation of a monument at St. Joseph Mission that honors those who died during that long-ago episode, and includes a prayer for peace and harmony. With patience and perseverance, Father Kilburn has healed hearts, built trust and reinvigorated faith in this area.

Ellen Lierk

Rev. Monsignor Francis K. Murphy

Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan

Nearly 50 years sharing Christ’s Light with Tens of Thousands
Monsignor Francis Murphy has served the Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan, with generosity and dedication for nearly five decades. He has always put the needs of others before career and comfort, continually saying “yes” to the challenges before him. At age 73, he currently serves four parishes in northern Michigan and makes a weekly, 90-minute commute to spend two days with staff at the diocesan pastoral center. He is a team builder, and others note that they can identify the parishes in which he’s served because of their high levels of lay involvement and collaboration. Monsignor Murphy has touched the lives of tens of thousands, across multiple generations, and built a firm infrastructure of faith in Michigan’s poorest counties.

Sister Mary Dostal

Linda Saiz

Diocese of Grand Island, Nebraska

A Visible Leader in Her Parish and Community
Linda Saiz is a visible, faith-filled presence not only in her parish, but also in the broader community of Lexington, Nebraska. An energetic mother of two, she started simply as a volunteer catechist at St. Ann’s Parish in 2001. In 2007, Linda became director of religious education at St. Ann’s. She also works with the diocese’s immigration program. Linda is a committed pastoral and youth leader, and her ministry extends beyond the Church. As a trusted and revered community leader, she is engaged in a host of local programs from the chamber of commerce, to youth mentoring, to one-on-one tutoring. She also coaches youth basketball. No matter her role, Linda shares her enthusiasm and love of the Gospel unabashedly throughout the community, building bridges and building the Church.

Robert Gorman

Brother Bede Baldry, FSC

Diocese of Great Falls-Billings, Montana

Bringing a Wealth of Talents and a Big Heart to Rural Montana
Brother Bede Baldry has a wide range of skills and talents that he draws upon as parish life coordinator in five under-resourced communities in rural Montana. With degrees in nursing, religious studies (special religious education), pastoral ministry, and certificates in spiritual direction and Native American ministry, he counsels, teaches, listens and heals. Some of the communities he serves are on the Fort Peck Reservation, and he has quickly made an impact by personally engaging people with compassion. He notes that he doesn’t minister to others, he ministers with others. Even though he has no budget, Brother Bede has launched religious education programs that are already igniting change among young people.

Sister Rosemary Tierney

Deacon Vince Hansen

Diocese of Juneau, Alaska

Extending Christ’s Love by Building a Home for Seniors
Deacon Vince Hansen combines a deep, personal love for Jesus and an abiding compassion for others in his role as deacon at Sacred Heart Parish in the isolated town of Haines, Alaska. He preaches, does sacramental preparation and religious education, and presides at baptisms, marriages and funerals. Moreover, he models Christ in public service, serving as a volunteer firefighter, foster parent and advocate for senior citizens. He made a huge difference in the life of this tiny community when he established an assisted living center so elderly residents would not have to move away when they could no longer live independently. Today, the Haines Assisted Living Center houses 26 seniors and veterans, giving them the care they need while keeping them close to their loved ones.

Lordes Garza

Lourdes Garza

Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee

A Mother Figure and Church Ambassador in the Hispanic Community
The Diocese of Knoxville includes the third-fastest growing Hispanic population in the United States. For this burgeoning group, Lourdes Garza, who serves as the diocese’s director of Hispanic ministry, is a mother figure and ambassador of the Church. She works with parish leadership in 36 low-income counties to reach out to the Hispanic population. She ministers to fieldworkers, youth in need, the incarcerated, and victims of domestic violence. While Lourdes helps newcomers become integrated into U.S. society, her overarching goal is to integrate this community into the Church, and give them the means and opportunities to practice their faith.

Jim Romer

Sister Marie-Paule Willem, FMM

Diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico

Breathing New Life into Two Historic Parishes
Sister Marie-Paule Willem has been a Franciscan Missionary of Mary for nearly 60 years, serving in both developing countries and poor areas in the United States. Most recently, she has brought her gifts for ministry and outreach to two historic parishes: St. Genevieve in Las Cruces and St. Joseph in Fairacres, New Mexico. In both places she has reached out to the marginalized and increased participation and involvement. She created a bilingual family and outreach center to serve the Hispanic community and she launched a women’s prison ministry. She meets with families routinely and has brought a new level of cohesiveness to both parishes, even rolling up her sleeves to help clean, repair and paint St. Joseph Mission. Today this mission church shines – in all ways.

Kimberly Boudreaux

Ginny Ramsey

Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky

Ministering to the Invisible Among Us
Ginny Ramsey is the co-founder and director of Divine Providence Ministries, which ministers to the most desperate in Lexington, Kentucky, including the chronically homeless, mentally ill, medically fragile and those struggling with addictions. Through Divine Providence Ministries, Ginny and thousands of volunteers provide food and shelter, job training, access to social services, laundry services, a clothing and household goods store, and a vegetable garden that offers free, nutritious food. Ginny also advocates and gives voice to those who are “invisible among us,” keeping the community aware of people in desperate situations. She is fueled by her deep Catholic faith, and regards her ministry as a blessing and an opportunity to truly live the Gospel.

Monsignor Robert Getz

Jaime Torres

Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas

A Former Gang Member Reaches Out to Marginalized Youth
Jaime Torres spent his young adulthood on the margins of society. A gang member by age 15, he was immersed in violence and drugs. After an arrest in 2000, he attended a retreat that transformed his life, leading him to dedicate himself to the Church. Today, Jaime serves as associate director of the Diocese of Little Rock’s Hispanic ministry office, reaching out to other young people just like him. He has launched retreats like the one he attended to help troubled young people throughout the state reform their lives and turn to Christ. He also has developed innovative formation programs to reach young people who fear rejection because of past mistakes or can’t see God at work in their lives. Jaime, who also is a Christian rap artist, has a unique ability to connect with the youth he serves, offering them acceptance, love and a renewed sense of hope.

Deacon Bill Grimes

Deacon Randy Canale

Diocese of Lubbock, Texas

A Deacon Who Faced His Own Illness Tirelessly Ministers to Others
Randy Canale is a 68-year-old deacon in Lubbock, Texas, whose daily schedule of ministry to the sick and dying inspires everyone around him. A semi-retired businessman, Deacon Canale begins each day with Mass. He then spends hours visiting hospitals and nursing homes, ministering to the ailing and fearful. He is such a fixture in hospitals that he’s often asked by strangers of all denominations to pray with their loved ones. Deacon Canale brings not only his profound faith to this role, he also brings authentic experience from his own bout with cancer, which took the vision from one eye, the hearing in one ear and the top lobe of his left lung. Deacon Canale has a special gift for ministry. This, together with his deep belief in God’s presence in moments of suffering, provides comfort and hope to all he encounters.

Jaime Torres

Josefa Rivera

Diocese of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico

Bringing a Catholic Presence to the Sick
When she was just 5 years old, Josefa Rivera began accompanying a neighbor to visit the sick and pray with them. Thus began her lifelong ministry to offer consolation, comfort and prayers to those who need them most. Josefa has served the Diocese of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, in myriad roles, but perhaps the most impactful has been as director of pastoral care of the sick. She has multiplied her gifts in this ministry by training thousands of people in all aspects of visiting the sick. These gentle ambassadors of faith are especially important in hospitals and nursing homes that do not have priests or chaplains on staff. By training others to hold hands and heal hearts, Josefa has brought the light of Christ to multitudes of people who are ailing and afraid.

Room at the Inn

Al Gearhart

Diocese of Memphis, Tennessee

A Retired Marine Takes on a New Mission
When Al Gearhart joined the Catholic Church in 2010, he took the Gospel message of feeding the hungry to heart. A retired Marine, Al began volunteering – 30 hours per week – at the Fig Tree Food Pantry in Memphis. Applying the organizational skills he honed in the military, he transformed a tiny operation into a massive food distribution program that now serves more than 13,000 people annually. Al continues to look for new ways to reach those in need, especially those afraid to seek help, with programs such as mobile food distribution to immigrants and “walking bags” for the homeless. He also has significantly expanded the pantry’s volunteer base, engaging a record number of Catholics and people from all denominations in serving the poor.

Monsignor Mark Rowan

First Class of Permanent Deacons of the Diocese of New Ulm

Archdiocese of New Ulm, Minnesota

Extraordinary Men of Service
The Diocese of New Ulm is a rural diocese in southwest Minnesota served by only 34 priests. But 12 men, who were recently ordained as the diocese’s first class of permanent deacons, are adding a new layer of service and support, complementing the work of these stretched priests and making a huge impact on parishioners. These extraordinary men, who participated in a five-year formation program, have been a tremendous blessing, giving priests more time for priestly ministry. In addition, they are leading new ministries and reinvigorating longstanding ones, from religious education to visiting the sick. These deacons are role models, and according to the Bishop of New Ulm, in today’s narcissistic and self-centered world, their example of service is a profound message of hope.

Sister Sandra Ann Silva

Sister Barbara Joseph Foley, CST

Diocese of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Offering Food and a Tranquil Garden to the Homeless
The lives of the homeless are often filled with noise and chaos – from the streets, to bus stations, to missions and jails. But at Sister B.J.’s Pantry, which was created in 2006 by Sister Barbara Joseph Foley, the homeless receive not only basic necessities, they also find spiritual nourishment. The pantry, which is located in downtown Oklahoma City, provides food, clothing and other assistance. It also offers a beautiful garden, with a statue of Our Lady, providing a peaceful setting for prayer and reflection, which is important to homeless people, who often aren’t comfortable entering churches because of their appearance and status. Through this mission, Sister Barbara Joseph is feeding both bodies and souls, and shining the light of Christ where it is needed most.

Sarah Nelson

Lakota Circles of Hope

Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota

Improving the Lives of Native Children
The Diocese of Rapid City includes a significant population of Lakota who struggle with high unemployment, substance abuse and suicide. In an effort to reach the youth in this vulnerable community and change the trajectory of their lives, a group of compassionate visionaries at Catholic Social Services in Rapid City created Lakota Circles of Hope, an innovative, culturally-specific program that teaches Native children to make healthy decisions. It emphasizes Lakota traditions and values including respect, generosity, wisdom and bravery, and offers children tools to help them resist alcohol, drugs and violence. The program has touched the lives of thousands, and by showing respect for the Lakota and their culture, it has improved the historically complex relationship between the Church and the Native people here.

Father John Hatcher

Gloria Coronado

Diocese of San Antonio, Texas

A Multi-Media Ministry That is Transforming Lives
Gloria Coronado brings a multitude of talents to her role as associate director of Hispanic catechesis in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Texas. Together with her husband Adrian, she owns and operates Virgen de Guadalupe Radio, a Spanish-language station that for many poor, Spanish-speaking Catholics is the voice of the Church. The station, which reaches nearly one million listeners in Texas, is just one component of Gloria’s broad outreach. She uses the station to promote Church activities, movements and ministries. She then steps out from behind the radio booth to lead religious conferences and connect with people through home visits. Hers is a multi-media ministry – on air and in person – that is bringing people closer to their faith and transforming their lives.

Father Gale Hammerschmidt

Fred and Jo Ann Hudson

Diocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico

Leading a New Ministry for Those Who Serve Our Country
Fred and Jo Ann Hudson, who have been married for 46 years, have been active in many different ministries at both the parish and diocesan level. Having both served in the military, they bring a special dedication to ministering to veterans. Most recently, they have brought their expertise to a new ministry known as “Partners in Care,” a collaboration between the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and the New Mexico National Guard to provide spiritual support and care. Fred and Jo Ann understand the sacrifices of these citizen soldiers and the stress on their families. With their years of experience and commitment to the faith, Fred and Jo Ann are launching a ministry that is a model for other denominations and dioceses who want to increase support for those who serve our nation.

Monsignor J. Terrence Fitzgerald

Sr. Rita Schonhoff

Diocese of Springfield - Cape Girardeau, Missouri

Providing Healthcare and a Steadfast Presence in Rural Missouri
In 1989, when Sister Rita Schonhoff, a nurse, arrived in rural Missouri after serving in foreign countries, she quickly realized there were desperately poor people in her own backyard – people who didn’t have access to basic healthcare. She started going house to house, treating and educating, but she quickly understood that the needs were more than she could address on her own. In an effort to expand her ministry, she founded Whole Health Outreach, a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to providing healthcare and other services, including domestic violence help, to low-income families. Sister Rita knows God’s divine providence is working with her and the staff at Whole Health Outreach. “God hears the cries of the poor,” she says. “If we love them, God will work through us to provide for them.”

Ivona Mauga

Rev. Monsignor Philip J. Heslin

Diocese of Superior, Wisconsin

A Prescient, Pragmatic Leader and Champion of the Poor
On a typical evening in Superior, Wisconsin, a light shines from a solitary window in the chancery. It illuminates the office of 82-year-old Monsignor Philip Heslin, who passionately served the diocese for more than 50 years, and now serves as a consultant, continuing to address the needs of this poor, rural diocese. Monsignor Heslin served in many capacities, most notably as director of a once-small Catholic welfare agency that he built into one of the nation’s top Catholic charitable efforts. He also is known for his pioneering work in planning for the priest shortage. With prescience and pragmatism, he provided solutions in the Diocese of Superior, including clustering parishes and making use of alternative personnel, keeping the Church alive and vibrant despite the challenges.

Deacon Pat Rodgers

Brian Flagg

Diocese of Tucson, Arizona

Serving the Poor and Living in Solidarity With Them
For more than 30 years, Brian Flagg has lived the Gospel in his daily life, working ceaselessly to improve the lives of the homeless and desperate. As director of Casa Maria, a facility run by the Catholic Worker Community in Tucson, he serves the poorest of the poor – from people living on the streets to the working poor. Casa Maria, which operates solely from private donations, serves hundreds each day, offering meals, hot showers, clothes, medical aid and legal services, along with Mass and communion. Brian, who also is an advocate and activist for the poor, lives his life in solidarity with them, receiving no compensation other than $10 a week and a place to live.

Sister Bernadette Barrett

Sister Mary Therese Gottschalk, SSM

Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma

Building a Successful Healthcare System Based on Catholic Values
Sister Mary Therese Gottschalk left her native Germany in 1953, coming to the U.S. to study pharmacology and later hospital administration. In 1974, she became president and C.E.O. of St. John’s Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Under Sister Mary Therese’s leadership and commitment to the core values of the Catholic Church, St. John’s grew from a 600-bed facility to a world-class healthcare system of nine hospitals and treatment centers that serve nearly 4,000 patients daily. St. John’s is recognized not only for its state-of-the-art care, but also for its commitment to serving the poor and marginalized. Because all people are respected and never turned away based on their ability to pay, St. John’s fills a critical need for people in northeast Oklahoma who would have nowhere else to turn.

Sister Rita Schonhoff

Fr. Denzil Vithanage

Diocese of Tyler, Texas

He Reenergized a Parish and Reopened a School
Father Denzil Vithanage, or “Father D” as he is affectionately called, is a faithful, compassionate and hardworking priest. With unfailing dedication and strength of will, he reinvigorated struggling St. Joseph Parish, a mission that dates back to 1874 and serves as the only Catholic presence in Harrison County, Texas. Father Vithanage engaged local residents in a stewardship ministry to support not only the church, but also St. Joseph Catholic School, which had been closed due to lack of resources. Today the school brims with activity and is a vital source of Catholic education in the Diocese of Tyler. Father Vithanage also launched programs and ministries, too numerous to name, that reengaged people who had been disconnected from the Church.

Florence John-Jules

Rev. William E. and Rev. John M Shaw

Diocese of Yakima, Washington

Ordained Together in 1957, They Still Tirelessly Serve
Father John M. Shaw and Father William E. Shaw are brothers who were ordained together in 1957, and have spent nearly six decades in service to the Church. Despite being 86 and 84 respectively, they serve the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation on the outskirts of Yakima, Washington, with vigor and dedication. This community struggles with poverty and its associated problems such as low high school graduation rates, drug abuse, crime and youth gang activity. The Fathers Shaw bring a Christlike presence to the reservation, reaching Catholics and those from all faith traditions. They also have been extremely active in the pro-life movement, finding inspiration in Pope Francis’ message to “speak the truth, with love.”

Digna & Jose Lopez

Sr. Ann McManamon, HM and Dorothy Day House of Hospitality

Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio

Offering Warm Showers and Christ’s Love
Since it opened in 2009, the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality has quickly become a haven for the homeless and marginalized in Youngstown, Ohio. Led by Sister Ann McManamon, it offers hot meals, clothing, warm showers and intentional hospitality. Sister Ann and her army of volunteers open the door to all, believing that each person is made in the image of God. Guests are treated with dignity and respect, and join with volunteers not only to break bread, but also to grow in faith through roundtable discussions, weekly prayer and monthly liturgy. Under Sister Ann’s compassionate leadership, the Dorothy Day house is a place where people with nowhere else to turn can encounter Jesus Christ, and feel safe, loved and appreciated.