José and Digna R. López of the Diocese of Stockton, Calif. have a 20-year record of sharing their faith in one of America’s poorest communities

CHICAGO (August 21, 2013) Catholic Extension, a national organization devoted to supporting poor Catholic communities, has given its highest annual award to a lay couple who, for more than 20 years, have trained, mentored and inspired thousands of Latino youth in the Stockton, Calif. area, deeply affected by both urban and migrant poverty.  

“José and Digna López personify the very essence of our mission,” said Father Jack Wall, Catholic Extension’s president.  “José, a farm worker at the age of 15, and Digna, his wife, have journeyed from their immigrant roots and become inspirational leaders of the Youth and Hispanic Ministries in their diocese of Stockton, California. Grounded in a deep faith which has shaped their lives and ministry, they have inspired hope and effected real change in their community. José and Digna truly embody the ‘loving commitment to solidarity with the poor’ that Pope Francis is calling us all to do in our society and in our world.”

The Lumen Christi Award, now in its 36th year, is presented annually to one or more priests, religious or lay persons who have demonstrated how the power of faith can transform lives and communities.   This award includes a grant of $50,000.

“Individually and together, José and Digna have been the light of Christ directly to our Latino people, including migrants, youth, young adults, parish priests and parish volunteer-ministry teams,” said the Most Reverend Stephen E. Blaire, bishop of Stockton, who nominated the couple. “We are proud of their work and humbled by their generosity. They are most worthy of receiving the Lumen Christi Award.”

The ministry led by José and Digna López reaches many thousands each year.  The annual Congreso Hispano for more than 1,000 youth and young adults and the annual, diocesan Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration that draws more than 10,000 of the faithful are vivid examples of their organizational and inspirational skills. 
Many people helped by this couple have stepped forward to testify to their good works and its results.  Two are highlighted below.

After participating in José and Digna’s youth groups and learning through a transforming faith to set goals, Adriana Calderon overcame numerous challenges and the insecurities she felt in being a minority, and earned a Master’s degree.  Adriana is now a social worker who gives back to her community by being a youth leader in the Stockton Diocese. She says, “What really motivated me to help others and to better myself was being close to the Church; knowing that everything is possible if you have faith, you are able to overcome all obstacles.”

Joaquin Ocequera credits José with helping him navigate from troubled adolescent to respected member of the community and dedicated volunteer youth leader. “When I was a teenager, I got in a lot of trouble, was suspended from school. When I met José, he planted a seed, and he’s one of those people who stays on it until he makes a change. He saw something in me that I never saw.”

Catholic Extension will, beginning in the Fall, bring a panel of leaders, including José and Digna, to selected cities to offer an exchange of knowledge and create awareness of today’s essential youth issues.


Mindy S Kolof  847-317-0408
Anne T Waliczek 847-909-0318

Download press Release


Video Press Release


About Catholic Extension

Catholic Extension uniquely contributes to the growth and vibrancy of the church in the U.S. by strategically investing in poor mission dioceses to unleash the power of faith that transforms hearts, lives and society. Based in Chicago, this national organization provides funding resources to dioceses and parishes to support programs and services investing in people, infrastructure and ministries. This support is given based on need, as well as passion and commitment to the growth of the Catholic faith. Since 1905, Catholic Extension has distributed more than $500 million to communities across America. For more information, visit