They don't wear capes. They don't scale tall buildings. But these 10 Catholic heroes are shining the light of Christ in some of the most remote and poorest areas of the United States. Their efforts are strengthening the Catholic Church by answering Pope Francis' call to go to the margins and serve others.
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 an individual or group of people who have demonstrated how the power of faith can transform lives and society.
This year, we are proud to announce that the Catholic Extension Young Professionals of Boston will have the opportunity to serve as a final judge for this prestigious award. Read on to meet this year’s finalists and fill out the form below to cast your vote for this year's Lumen Christi recipient!
KEVIN AN DELGADO
ARCHDIOCESE OF AGANA (GUAM)
Kevin An Delgado found his calling early in life: at age 13, he was an altar server at Santa Teresita Church in Mangilao, Guam, and by age 15 he had founded the youth ministry MAGIC – Manhoben (youth) And God Inspiring Community. Over 20 years later, MAGIC still inspires and leads the parish youth through its contemporary and youth-driven programming. As programs director at Santa Teresita Church, Kevin has brought the light of Christ to youth ministry, becoming a godfather to more than 400 young men and women and helping develop over 30 parish ministries to build faith, morals, and leadership within the hearts and minds of young people. Today, those youth are doctors, lawyers, teachers, entrepreneurs and educators, and they thank Kevin and his programs for their success.
DIOCESE OF BILOXI, MISSISSIPPI
“To know Bragg is to see the light, to feel the love, and to watch the hands of Christ in action.” These are just some of the glowing words that have been used to describe Bragg Moore, who has served youth ministry for 33 years, the last 25 as Director of the Office for Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Biloxi. Bragg is one of the most respected youth ministers in the nation and is a mentor for diocesan directors throughout the Southeast region. He lives the Catholic life and inspires youth through his actions and words. As a community activist, Bragg passionately promotes social justice issues, and after Hurricane Katrina, he helped those in this devastated area find the grace of God amid great tragedy.
GUADALUPAN MISSIONARY SISTERS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
DIOCESE OF BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA
Since 2002, the Guadalupan Missionary Sisters of the Holy Spirit have been serving the multicultural needs of the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama, focusing on the growing Hispanic population. In 2010 they founded the Multicultural Center to provide a safe environment where thousands of Hispanic families can find counseling, food, housing, evangelization, educational resources, legal and immigration advice, and spiritual support. The center has been so successful that the Bishop asked the sisters to expand the ministry into rural Alabama. The sisters are leaders in the state in the fight for immigrant justice and are widely known as a source of support of information, direction and education. But more than that, they provide love and support through their faith, loving all as Christ loves each of us.
SR. KATHLEEN ATKINSON, OSB
DIOCESE OF BISMARCK, NORTH DAKOTA
When Sister Kathleen Atkinson heard that one of her Bible study students at North Dakota’s state penitentiary was released and expected to re-build his life in an unfamiliar city, she was called to help. She founded the Ministry on the Margins to support those who often fall through the cracks during times of transition, including former prisoners, the homeless, and at-risk youth. Since 2014, the program has served over 2,000 people and provided basic support including food, gas vouchers, and household items. Among the prison population, the national recidivism rate is 33%; Sr. Kathleen’s ministry has reduced that rate among her participants to just 7%. Throughout the entire state of North Dakota, her light shines brightly as an advocate for the marginalized.
MARIA GUADALUPE GONZALEZ
DIOCESE OF EL PASO, TEXAS
The miles racking up on Maria Guadalupe (“Lupe”) Gonzalez’s car tell her story best: each week she logs more than 700 miles traveling across rural West Texas to minister to over 1,100 Hispanic Catholic youths and their families. As the coordinator for the Religious Formation Ministry of the Diocese of El Paso, Lupe visits these communities weekly with the aim of providing high-quality faith formation opportunities. As part of the Hispanic Lay Leadership Initiative, she meets the growing needs of the most under-served populations in the diocese through programming and religious education curriculum. According to Bishop Most Reverend Mark J. Seitz, Lupe demonstrates daily how the power of faith through hard work and dedication not only transforms lives, but also fosters the people’s faith, hope, and spirituality.
DIOCESE OF GALLUP, NEW MEXICO
High in the northern mountains of New Mexico near Lumberton, the small St. Francis School educates and ministers to over 100 children in grades 1–8 as the only Catholic school in this remote, impoverished area. Over 85% of the students are Jicarilla Apache from the nearby reservation. At the school’s helm is Madeline Lyon, a one-time volunteer teacher who is now the principal. “The Light of Christ is needed here to cast out the darkness,” she says. Students can have many obstacles, including alcoholism, early parental death, and suicide. Madeline and her small staff work tirelessly to overcome social issues, to raise the standards of education, and to mentor fledgling teachers, all within a nurturing Christian environment. “Connection to God is our greatest hope,” she says.
FR. PETER GORGES
DIOCESE OF JUNEAU, ALASKA
Fr. Gorges worked in Alaska as a parish pastor for more than 30 years, going above and beyond to not only serve parishes but visit remote villages and camps accessible only by ferry or float plane. Ordained in 1968, he has worked throughout the state in a wide array of capacities: ministering to children at Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools for children, serving He retired from parochial ministry in 2001, but unlike most priests Fr. Gorges stayed on in Juneau and began filling in for other pastors on a voluntary basis. He routinely visits the far-flung parishes, bringing a familiar face to the people who depend on him for their spiritual development. So willing to help out is Fr. Gorges that last summer he visited churches at four remote Eskimo villages, ministering to the communities while living without amenities like running water.
ST. FRANCIS CONNECTION CENTER
DIOCESE OF MARQUETTE, MICHIGAN
After the K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base closed in 1995, primarily low-income families moved into the isolated and impoverished area that struggled to build community. The St. Francis Connection Center was started by the Sisters of St. Paul de Chartres seven years later to visit and minister to the families living there. After discovering that many families struggled with food insecurity, the sisters started a bread distribution program, and in 2007 the nuns’ work and the center was formally recognized. The center distributes food to 49 families, but it primarily helps spread the Catholic faith through religious education, prayer and community gathering. Without the St. Francis Connection Center, the Sawyer area would not have been able to cultivate such a positive and Catholic community.
DIOCESE OF SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA
A youth minister in rural, agricultural Yolo County, Steve Ramirez-Palmer reaches out to youth of all income levels and strives to replace negative behavior with positive activities. He specializes in working with high-risk, low-income youth and operates by the motto of “That all may know thy savior, by any means possible.” Through traditional parish worship, social events and service projects, participants learn that friendship and fellowship are possible with others who may not look like them, speak the same language or come from the same income level.
FATHER FREDY ANGEL
DIOCESE OF SAVANNAH, GEORGIA
From Bogota, Columbia, Fredy Angel came to the United States as a missionary to the Spanish-speaking people in 2001. Just four years later, he became an ordained priest and, shortly thereafter, was serving three churches in southern Georgia. To celebrate mass and administer sacraments, Fr. Fredy drove more than 150 miles every weekend. Over time, he recognized that resources for the three churches were not sufficient, and building a new, centralized church would offer both communal and financial benefits. The donated land has been cleared and construction has begun. Another impressive feat: Fr. Fredy has brought together all of his parishioners through bilingual masses. Fr. Fredy also functions as a founding member of the Hispanic Ministry Council, which acts as a voice for the region’s Latinos.