CHICAGO — Living out Pope Francis’s call to heal wounds and warm the hearts of the faithful, a group of men and women from all corners of America are being recognized for bringing the light of Christ, sometimes in heartbreaking circumstances. The group represents this year’s finalists for the 2016 Lumen Christi Award, the highest national honor given out by Catholic Extension, an organization that builds churches and the Church in America’s home missions.
These leaders are lifting up the dignity and the human spirit of the outcasts, the infirm and the orphans of our society. Their diverse ministries embody the gospel message of compassion and hope, as they tirelessly work to improve the social, physical and spiritual well-being of the people they serve.
“Our Lumen Christi finalists truly understand the profound connection between the corporal works of mercy and the caring of the soul,” said Father Jack Wall, president of Catholic Extension. “They are an example to all of us.”
Following is a glimpse into each of their stories:
- Father Edward Brienz (Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio) provides job training to troubled youth at Café Augustine, transforming a community with a 38 percent unemployment rate.
- Father William Davis, OMI (Diocese of Laredo, Texas), at age 85, continues to be pastor of one of the state’s poorest parishes building up a vibrant community of faith.
- Deacon Jesús Herrera (Diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico), the administrator of three small mission churches, has created a home visit program to broaden the reach of his parish.
- Jesuits of the Kino Border Initiative (Diocese of Tucson, Arizona) provide outreach to refugees at the U.S.-Mexico border, offering pastoral support and uplifting their dignity.
- Sister Mariana Koonce, RSM, MD (Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee) runs a mobile clinic providing free, primary healthcare to the uninsured poor — evangelizing through healthcare.
- Melva Arbelo-Mangual (Diocese of Arecibo, Puerto Rico) directs a temporary shelter for abused and neglected children which faces increasing financial hardships as a result of the debt crisis.
- Jesús Mariscal (Diocese of Yakima, Washington) is a seminarian who coordinates a unique migrant ministry program to bring the presence of the Church to migrants in the orchards.
To read the complete stories of this year’s finalists, visit www.catholicextension.org.
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About Catholic Extension: Catholic Extension is a papal society that makes visible the power of faith in America’s most marginalized communities by strategically investing in people, infrastructure and ministries. Since its founding in 1905, Catholic Extension has distributed more than $1.2 billion in today’s dollars to provide funding and resources to dioceses and parishes that cannot support themselves. For more information visit www.catholicextension.org; follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/catholicextension or twitter at @CathExtension.