Extension magazine - Fall 2023

Carmen Alicia Rodriguez Echevarria stands outside a ruined school in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico. She was hired as principal after an earthquake toppled the parish church and school. But three years later, school enrollment has tripled. Rodriguez is one of our seven Lumen Christi Award finalists this year. Their stories showcase how throughout America, the Catholic Church has a positive impact on our society.

Carmen Alicia Rodriguez Echevarria stands outside a ruined school in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico. She was hired as principal after an earthquake toppled the parish church and school. But three years later, school enrollment has tripled. Rodriguez is one of our seven Lumen Christi Award finalists this year. Their stories showcase how throughout America, the Catholic Church has a positive impact on our society.


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catholicextension.org<br />


FALL <strong>2023</strong><br />


AMONG<br />








See this year’s other outstanding finalists 16

<strong>Extension</strong> | <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 3<br />

S T O R I E S O F F A I T H F R O M C A T H O L I C E X T E N S I O N<br />

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and friends the stories illustrating our mission:<br />

to work in solidarity with people to build up<br />

vibrant and transformative Catholic faith<br />

communities among the poor in the poorest<br />

regions of America.<br />

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Elizabeth Hartigan Connelly<br />


Most Reverend Gerald R. Barnes<br />

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Most Reverend Steven Biegler<br />

Bishop of Cheyenne<br />

John W. Croghan<br />

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Building<br />

Church and<br />

transforming<br />

society 16<br />

Carmen Alicia Rodríguez<br />

Echevarría stands outside a<br />

ruined school in Guayanilla,<br />

Puerto Rico. She was hired as<br />

principal after an earthquake<br />

toppled the parish church and<br />

school. But three years later,<br />

school enrollment has tripled.<br />

Rodríguez is one of our seven<br />

Lumen Christi Award finalists this<br />

year. Their stories showcase how<br />

throughout America, the Catholic<br />

Church has a positive impact on<br />

our society.<br />

BUILD<br />

From migrant worker to bishop 11<br />

NEWS BRIEFS | <strong>Extension</strong>-supported priest named an auxiliary<br />

bishop of San Diego<br />

Cardinal Farrell returns to Dallas 12<br />

FEATURE | Revered bishop turned top Vatican adviser<br />

honored with Catholic <strong>Extension</strong>’s Spirit of Francis Award<br />


Graduation rates soar among Native<br />

American children 18<br />

IGNITE<br />

LUMEN CHRISTI FINALIST | Brother Dale Mooney, FSC, leads the<br />

quality education behind the De La Salle Blackfeet School<br />

Why do 200,000 Hispanic Catholics in<br />

Utah know this woman? 30<br />

LUMEN CHRISTI FINALIST | Over 24 years of ministry, María-Cruz<br />

Gray has left no Hispanic community in the state untouched<br />

Houston parish supports education for<br />

children of migrant farmworkers 34<br />

PARISH PARTNERSHIPS | Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church<br />

helps mobile literacy program in Washington state<br />

A leap of faith: Engineering graduate<br />

embarks on path to religious life 36<br />

FEATURE | Catholic <strong>Extension</strong> program leads Latino young<br />

adults to lives of service<br />

Letter from Father Wall 4<br />

Mission needs 8<br />

Lumen Christi Award nominees 40

4<br />

Letter from Father Wall<br />

<strong>Extension</strong> | <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 5<br />

Can you be<br />

proud of the<br />

Catholic Church?<br />

Dear Friends,<br />

Iknow there is a lot you can<br />

read about the Catholic<br />

Church that is downright<br />

dispiriting. People constantly<br />

bring up to me in conversation<br />

their anger about the<br />

Church’s human frailties, the<br />

ideological fault lines and the<br />

institutional failures. I don’t<br />

dismiss any of their discouragement.<br />

These real challenges<br />

need attention and<br />

solutions.<br />

But, through my work at<br />

Catholic <strong>Extension</strong>, I am also<br />

blessed to be in touch with<br />

the side of the Church where<br />

there is abundant heroism,<br />

big ideas, daily sacrifice and<br />

life-giving impact at every<br />

turn. Having exposure to this<br />

part of the Church not only<br />

reinforces why I am Catholic<br />

but also why I am absolutely<br />

proud to be so.<br />

If you are searching for<br />

inspiration, this is most definitely<br />

the <strong>magazine</strong> for you,<br />

whether you are Catholic or<br />

not. I hope that you share<br />

my joy and awe in all that is<br />

being accomplished in the<br />

name of this Church that<br />

moves hearts, improves lives<br />

and leads to the betterment<br />

of society.<br />

We present to you the<br />

<strong>2023</strong> class for our Lumen<br />

Christi Award (Latin for “light<br />

of Christ”). Since 1978, the<br />

Lumen Christi Award has<br />

been Catholic <strong>Extension</strong>’s<br />

highest honor. It is given<br />

annually to people who radiate<br />

and reveal the light of<br />

Christ present in the communities<br />

where they serve.<br />

This year’s class consists of 34<br />

nominees and seven finalists.<br />

For me, each of the seven<br />

finalists you will read about<br />

is somewhat like our seven<br />

sacraments—they are unique<br />

symbols of God’s love that<br />

serve as conduits of actual<br />

grace that flows generously<br />

to God’s people through their<br />

deliberate actions.<br />

What this year’s finalists<br />

share in common is that they<br />

all reach out to people who<br />

are at their lowest point. They<br />

minister to those who are<br />

victims of disasters, betrayal,<br />

war, violence and societal<br />

exclusion. Yet, instead of<br />

letting them remain as victims,<br />

our finalists step up in<br />

big ways to help restore their<br />

humanity and reclaim their<br />

full potential. They do this<br />

by radiating and revealing<br />

Christ’s light that is present<br />

among them, that needs to<br />

be let out.<br />

When girls as young as 11<br />

are abused and assaulted, our<br />

award finalist St. María Eufrasia<br />

Home takes them in and<br />

helps them heal and plot a<br />

hope-filled pathway forward.<br />

Its staff has helped 1,000<br />

such girls.<br />

When a war in Ukraine<br />

shattered an entire country, a<br />

group of nuns rushed to the<br />

frontlines of war and to refugees<br />

to help the most vulnerable<br />

survive. These sisters<br />

don’t plan on stopping anytime<br />

soon.<br />

When human bodies of<br />

those fleeing Haiti wash up<br />

on American shores, a poor<br />

pastor in Puerto Rico ministers<br />

to the living and the<br />

dead to remind us and them<br />

that they are beloved children<br />

of God.<br />

When children who have<br />

so many emotional problems<br />

that they cannot find foster<br />

or adoptive parents, a nun in<br />

Nebraska gives them a home,<br />

family and love.<br />

When the 2020 earthquakes<br />

destroyed their city,<br />

parish church and school,<br />

a young principal in Guayanilla,<br />

Puerto Rico, found<br />

a way to give children an<br />

excellent Catholic education<br />

amid the wreckage.<br />

When poor educational<br />

outcomes plagued the Blackfeet<br />

Native children of Montana,<br />

a religious brother took<br />

on a ministry to help students<br />

close the achievement<br />

gap and change their destiny.<br />

And when Hispanic Catholics<br />

were isolated across<br />

rural Utah, one woman figured<br />

out a way to bring these<br />

marginalized communities<br />

into the heart of the Church<br />

and diocese.<br />

Christ’s light was there the<br />

whole time in these seemingly<br />

God-forsaken circumstances,<br />

but these finalists<br />

found ways to let that light<br />

break through the darkness.<br />

These finalists represent<br />

a small fraction of the daily<br />

activities of the Catholic<br />

Church that go unnoticed by<br />

so many of us. It is too easy to<br />

focus on the blemishes of the<br />

Church, while turning a blind<br />

eye to the beauty of its people<br />

and the light of Christ that<br />

burns brightly within them.<br />

I hope that these Lumen<br />

Christi nominees and finalists<br />

truly illuminate your heart<br />

and soul as you read their stories,<br />

just as they have for me.<br />

I thank you for your support<br />

of Catholic <strong>Extension</strong>,<br />

which seeks to build up<br />

vibrant and transformative<br />

Catholic faith communities<br />

such as these. As you will see,<br />

these faith communities not<br />

only contribute immensely<br />

to the spiritual health of our<br />

country but also to our societal<br />

health.<br />

That is why there is no<br />

doubt in my mind that one<br />

of the best ways we can<br />

strengthen our country is to<br />

build up faith communities<br />

through Catholic <strong>Extension</strong>.<br />

This year’s Lumen Christi<br />

Award nominees and finalists<br />

are case studies that highlight<br />

how faith communities are<br />

an indispensable pillar of our<br />

American society.<br />

May God bless you and all<br />

whom you love,<br />

Rev. John J. Wall<br />


Father Jack Wall<br />

and more than<br />

60 women faith<br />

leaders supported<br />

by Catholic<br />

<strong>Extension</strong> met<br />

Pope Francis<br />

in spring <strong>2023</strong>.<br />

The Holy Father<br />

commended our<br />


<strong>Extension</strong> | <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 7<br />



A Catholic <strong>Extension</strong><br />

charitable gift annuity gives<br />

you an attractive income for<br />

as long as you live and makes<br />

a lasting impact on poor<br />

communities of faith across<br />

the country.<br />

BUILD<br />

News from<br />

around the country<br />


• Receive fixed, stable<br />

payments for life<br />

• Get immediate and future<br />

tax benefits<br />



8.7%<br />

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Effective January 1, <strong>2023</strong><br />

7.6%<br />

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4.9%<br />

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75<br />

80<br />

85<br />

90+<br />

Bishop<br />

Anthony Taylor<br />

of Little Rock,<br />

Arkansas, greets<br />

a parishioner in<br />

a distant corner<br />

of the diocese.<br />

He recently hit<br />

an impressive<br />

milestone in the<br />

vehicle he drives<br />

across the state.<br />

See News Briefs,<br />

page 10.

8 BUILD Mission Needs<br />

<strong>Extension</strong> | <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 9<br />



Your donation will support a poor faith community in need and help keep the presence<br />

of the Catholic Church strong in our country. To contribute to one of these projects,<br />

please contact us at <strong>magazine</strong>@catholicextension.org or call 1-800-842-7804.<br />


Tenakee Springs is known for its natural<br />

hot spring baths, fishing and hunting.<br />

The Chalan community Kanoa is<br />

128 nautical miles<br />

southwest of Juneau<br />

and only accessible<br />

by ferry or float<br />

Guam<br />

plane. Your donation<br />

will support travel<br />

costs for a circuit<br />

priest to journey to<br />

celebrate Mass at St.<br />

Francis Chapel, a mission church on the<br />

Caroline Islands<br />

remote island that Catholic <strong>Extension</strong> has<br />

proudly supported since 1975.<br />

Marshall Islands<br />

Samoa–Pago Pago<br />



Sacred Heart Church serves a small<br />

community of<br />

farmers and retirees<br />

near the New<br />

Mexico-Arizona<br />

border in the<br />

Diocese of Gallup.<br />

Your donation will<br />

support a stipend for<br />

the parish’s resident<br />

priest, Father Divine<br />

Ebeke, who also travels 85 miles round trip<br />

to serve another mission.<br />


Hawaii<br />

Located in eastern Montana near the North<br />

Dakota border, Plevna is home to workers<br />

in the agriculture, oil<br />

and gas production<br />

industries. St. Anthony’s<br />

Church has been<br />

part of the fabric of<br />

the community for<br />

more than a century,<br />

receiving Catholic<br />

<strong>Extension</strong> support as<br />

early as 1913. Your donation will fund basic<br />

operating expenses for this small-town<br />

mission church.<br />


Your donation<br />

will ensure<br />

pastoral care for a<br />

community where<br />

nearly two thirds<br />

of children live<br />

below the poverty<br />

line. Father Peter<br />

Antonisamy, OMI,<br />

will be able to travel one hour round trip<br />

to serve parishioners at Our Lady of San<br />

Juan de los Lagos Mission in the village<br />

of El Indio.<br />


Three religious sisters provide ministry at<br />

two parishes in north-central Arkansas,<br />

where the Catholic<br />

population<br />

has doubled in<br />

recent years. The<br />

sisters’ incredible<br />

formation classes<br />

have inspired<br />

many lay Catholics<br />

to become<br />

involved as faith leaders in the Church.<br />

Your donation will support their ministry.<br />

Puerto Rico<br />

St. Thomas-<br />

Virgin Islands

10<br />

BUILD<br />

News Briefs<br />

<strong>Extension</strong> | <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 11<br />


Become a<br />

parish partner<br />

Would your parish<br />

like to support the<br />

mission of Catholic<br />

<strong>Extension</strong>? Visit<br />

catholicextension.<br />

org/parishpartnerships<br />

or<br />

contact Natalie<br />

Donatello at<br />

ndonatello@<br />

catholicextension.org<br />

to learn more.<br />

Follow us on<br />

social media<br />

Follow Catholic<br />

<strong>Extension</strong>’s social<br />

media channels to<br />

see more stories,<br />

photos and videos<br />

about the vibrant<br />

faith communities we<br />

support!<br />

Facebook:<br />

@Catholic<strong>Extension</strong><br />

Instagram:<br />

@catholicextension<br />

Twitter:<br />

@Cath<strong>Extension</strong><br />

<strong>Extension</strong>’s chancellor visits Ukraine<br />

Cardinal Blase Cupich visited Poland and Ukraine in late June,<br />

where he met with Catholic leaders serving those displaced by the<br />

Russia-Ukraine war. He was struck by how the Ukrainian people<br />

live each day with “hope and generosity” amid the ongoing assault<br />

on their country.<br />

He heard stories of loss and resilience from the long-suffering<br />

Ukrainian people and witnessed the humanitarian and spiritual<br />

work that the Catholic Church is carrying out there. In Ukraine, he<br />

visited a group of Sisters of the Order of St. Basil the Great who<br />

are using their monasteries to house, feed and aid refugees. The<br />

Basilian Sisters, based in Ukraine and the United States, are finalists<br />

for Catholic <strong>Extension</strong>’s Lumen Christi Award. See page 26.<br />

Cardinal Cupich said, “The example the Ukrainian people are<br />

giving the world in defending their self-determination inspires us<br />

all to stand in solidarity with them—not only for their future but<br />

also for our own.”<br />




In June, Lilly Endowment<br />

Inc. awarded a four-year<br />

grant of $1.25 million to<br />

Catholic <strong>Extension</strong> to<br />

participate in its highly<br />

competitive Christian<br />

Parenting and Caregiving<br />

Initiative. Its aim is<br />

to help engage culturally<br />

diverse parents and caregivers<br />

in the Christian formation<br />

of their children.<br />

The grant will support new<br />

tools and resources for<br />

parents from diverse faith<br />

communities as they seek<br />

to share the Catholic faith<br />

with their children.<br />




In September Father<br />

Felipe Pulido, who served<br />

as a pastor and vocations<br />

director in the Diocese of<br />

Yakima, Washington, will<br />

be ordained as one of<br />

two new auxiliary bishops<br />

of the Diocese of<br />

San Diego. As a teenager,<br />

Father Pulido worked in<br />

agricultural fields picking<br />

crops and later served<br />

migrant workers as a<br />

pastor. Catholic <strong>Extension</strong><br />

supported his seminarian<br />

education and ministries<br />

to migrants in Yakima.<br />

For over 100 years, Catholic <strong>Extension</strong><br />

has brought religious art into<br />

millions of homes through our<br />

Catholic calendars.<br />

The new Apostles’ Creed<br />

2024 calendar has emerged<br />

as a top seller among parishes<br />

nationwide. It features<br />

religious artwork paired<br />


600,000 MILES<br />


Bishop Anthony B.<br />

Taylor of the Diocese<br />

of Little Rock, a member<br />

of Catholic <strong>Extension</strong>’s<br />

Board of Governors,<br />

drives a 2003 Honda<br />

Civic with more than<br />

600,000 miles. He is<br />

not looking to replace it<br />

anytime soon, despite<br />

living in a diocese that<br />

covers the entire state<br />

of Arkansas. Instead, he<br />

seeks to set an example of<br />

simplicity and humility for<br />

the many young priests of<br />

his diocese.<br />




NEVADA<br />

Pope Francis elevated<br />

the Diocese of Las Vegas<br />

to a metropolitan archdiocese.<br />

It will be led by<br />

Archbishop George L.<br />

Thomas, a member of<br />

Catholic <strong>Extension</strong>’s<br />

Board of Governors since<br />

2010 and bishop of Las Vegas<br />

since 2018. Before arriving<br />

in “Sin City,” Archbishop<br />

Thomas spent 14<br />

years as shepherd of Helena,<br />

Montana, where he<br />

was given an honorary native<br />

name, “Holy Warrior,”<br />

by the Blackfeet Nation’s<br />

leaders.<br />

with doctrinal and scriptural selections<br />

that explain our faith as expressed in the<br />

Apostles’ Creed. Calendars are available<br />

in English and Spanish, and<br />

100 percent of the proceeds<br />

support our mission. Order<br />

<strong>Extension</strong> calendars for your<br />

parish at catholicextension.<br />

org/calendars.<br />


12<br />

BUILD <strong>Extension</strong> | <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 13<br />

Spirit of Francis Award<br />

Revered bishop turned top<br />

Vatican adviser honored<br />

with Catholic <strong>Extension</strong>’s<br />

Spirit of Francis Award<br />

Cardinal Kevin Farrell (center), former bishop<br />

of the Diocese of Dallas, Texas, praised the work<br />

of Catholic <strong>Extension</strong> as he received our Spirit of<br />

Francis Award. Our chancellor, Cardinal Blase<br />

Cupich (left), and our president, Father Jack<br />

Wall (right), presented the award.<br />

In May, Cardinal Kevin Farrell<br />

returned to Dallas, Texas, which<br />

he led as bishop from 2007 to<br />

2016, to accept Catholic <strong>Extension</strong>’s<br />

Spirit of Francis Award.<br />

Currently serving in Rome,<br />

he was named in 2016 to<br />

the College of Cardinals and<br />

appointed to various top Vatican<br />

positions, including leader<br />

of the newly established Dicastery<br />

for Laity, the Family and<br />

Life.<br />

This was only his<br />

second visit to the<br />

city since his departure.<br />

He still considers<br />

Dallas his home.<br />

He was glad to be welcomed<br />

back to Texas,<br />

where Catholic <strong>Extension</strong><br />

has built 2,000<br />

church facilities—more<br />

than in any other state.<br />

With one of the highest<br />

rates of population<br />

growth of any diocese<br />

in the country, Dallas is<br />

in an increasingly unique and<br />

influential position to broadly<br />

impact American Catholicism.<br />

A joyous reunion<br />

Spirit of Francis Award<br />

recipients are laudable for<br />

their commitment to “reach<br />

out to the margins of society”<br />

in the spirit of St. Francis<br />

of Assisi, Pope Francis and<br />

Cardinal Kevin Farrell<br />

returns to Dallas<br />

to advocate<br />

for the poor<br />

Catholic <strong>Extension</strong>’s founder,<br />

Father Francis Clement Kelley.<br />

Cardinal Farrell told the crowd<br />

of 300 donors, friends and<br />

acquaintances gathered at<br />

Dallas’ Morton H. Meyerson<br />

Symphony Center, “I thank<br />

you for this honor that I do not<br />

deserve, and I accept it in the<br />

name of all the people because<br />

you made me who I am.”<br />

The benefit dinner was<br />

co-chaired by Lydia and Dan<br />

Novakov and Mary and Rich<br />

Templeton, who are Dallas<br />

philanthropists and friends of<br />

Cardinal Farrell.<br />

“We are overjoyed to have<br />

Cardinal Farrell accept Catholic<br />

<strong>Extension</strong>’s invitation to this<br />

celebratory dinner with the<br />

Catholic people of Dallas so that<br />

Bishop Edward Burns of the Diocese of Dallas, Texas, welcomed back his predecessor.<br />

we can honor him,” said Lydia<br />

Novakov.<br />

Mary Templeton said that<br />

the event was an “opportunity<br />

to show Cardinal Farrell our<br />

love and appreciation not only<br />

for his past work among us,<br />

but also for the ministry he has<br />

undertaken on a global scale<br />

to strengthen families, support<br />

laypeople and uphold the dignity<br />

of human life.”<br />

More than just a reunion,<br />

however, Cardinal Farrell came<br />

back to Dallas at the invitation<br />

of his successor, Bishop Edward<br />

Burns, with a serious agenda<br />

to support Catholic <strong>Extension</strong><br />

and the poor Catholic faith<br />

communities of America.<br />

From 2009 to 2017, Burns<br />

served as bishop of Juneau,<br />

Alaska, whose Catholics,<br />

especially Native Alaskans,<br />

are spread out over<br />

vast distances in areas not<br />

accessible by roads. Catholic<br />

<strong>Extension</strong> funds the<br />

costs to fly priests and<br />

ministers to these communities<br />

to administer the<br />

sacraments.<br />

“I give thanks for the extraordinary<br />

work of Catholic<br />

<strong>Extension</strong>,” said Bishop<br />

Burns. “For more than a<br />

century, this invaluable organization<br />

has supported<br />

the growth and vitality of Cath-

14<br />

BUILD<br />

Spirit of Francis Award<br />

olic faith communities across our<br />

nation, particularly in areas of poverty<br />

and need.”<br />

Carrying out the pope’s vision<br />

At the award dinner, Cardinal<br />

Farrell explained that the heart<br />

of Pope Francis’ world vision is<br />

genuine concern for all humanity<br />

beyond just Catholics and the<br />

Catholic Church. He explained,<br />

“[Pope Francis] cares for humanity<br />

and the human race and people<br />

and human persons. And he<br />

cares for the home which we all<br />

share, which is the world we live<br />

in today. I’ve heard him talk about<br />

the suffering, the pain, the violence,<br />

the wars that go on all over<br />

the world today. He says that the<br />

fundamental problem here is that<br />

we have forgotten how to love and<br />

how to express our concern and<br />

our understanding that all human<br />

beings are in this world together.”<br />

Cardinal Farrell also described<br />

Pope Francis’ priority to be close<br />

with people. He explained that he<br />

has been in the unenviable position<br />

of meeting with Pope Francis<br />

on Wednesday mornings, just<br />

before the pope goes out to his<br />

weekly audience, where he greets<br />

thousands of people in St. Peter’s<br />

Square in Vatican City.<br />

He joked that on those occasions<br />

the pope “wasn’t interested<br />

in what I had to say. He was interested<br />

in going into the square.”<br />

Cardinal Farrell said Catholic<br />

<strong>Extension</strong>’s work aligns with<br />

the pope’s: “I think that Catholic<br />

<strong>Extension</strong> Society is a part of<br />

that mission of Pope Francis. Pope<br />

Francis cares about the universal<br />

Church. He cares about the<br />

Church everywhere.”<br />

ABOVE Lydia (center) and Dan Novakov<br />

(right) honored the global impact of Cardinal<br />

Kevin Farrell (left) as co-chairs of the event.<br />

Catholic <strong>Extension</strong>, he explained,<br />

cares about strengthening<br />

the Church in America. “They<br />

go about creating and promoting<br />

the Catholic Church. It was founded,<br />

as Father Jack told us, in 1905.<br />

And since then, they have built<br />

ABOVE Mary<br />

Templeton (left),<br />

who co-chaired<br />

the event with her<br />

husband, Rich<br />

Templeton, was<br />

happy to celebrate<br />

the achievements<br />

of Cardinal Kevin<br />

Farrell (right).<br />

13,000 churches and institutions<br />

and schools and parish centers in<br />

this country.”<br />

Proceeds from the award<br />

dinner are supporting Catholic<br />

<strong>Extension</strong>’s work of building and<br />

repairing churches, supporting<br />

leaders and funding critical ministries<br />

among the poor throughout<br />

Texas.<br />

Share your legacy.<br />

Our Lady Help of Christians Center, Gwinn, Michigan<br />

People like you have named Catholic<br />

<strong>Extension</strong> as a beneficiary of their estate<br />

to leave a lasting impact on Catholic<br />

faith communities in the poorest regions<br />

of our country.<br />

Have you considered making such a gift to<br />

Catholic <strong>Extension</strong>?<br />

By doing so, you become a treasured member of the<br />

LEGACY CLUB. Your commitment will be able to positively<br />

change the lives of millions of Catholics in America for<br />

generations to come.<br />

Not sure how your estate plan can create your<br />

legacy to the Church?<br />

Contact Frances Caan, Manager of Planned Giving, at<br />

800-842-7804 or plannedgiving@catholicextension.org.<br />

Make a lasting impact by joining<br />

the LEGACY CLUB today!<br />

legacy.catholicextension.org<br />

Legacy<br />

Catholic <strong>Extension</strong><br />

is tried and true,<br />

uses its financial<br />

resources wisely<br />

and will be there<br />

in the future. It is a<br />

lasting investment.<br />


Legacy Club member<br />

since 2017<br />


<strong>Extension</strong> | <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 17<br />

INSPIRE Features of faith<br />

<strong>2023</strong> u 2024<br />

Introducing the <strong>2023</strong>-2024<br />

Lumen Christi Award finalists<br />

Lumen<br />

Christi<br />

AWARD<br />







THE LUMEN CHRISTI AWARD is Catholic <strong>Extension</strong>’s highest honor given to people who radiate and<br />

reveal the light of Christ present in the communities where they serve.<br />

This year, 41 of our <strong>Extension</strong> dioceses submitted nominations for the award. On page 40, you<br />

can read how this year’s nominees are offering their hearts and hands to serve God’s children.<br />

The following seven nominees have been chosen as award finalists and will receive $10,000 to<br />

support and enhance their ministries. From among these finalists, the <strong>2023</strong>-2024 Lumen Christi<br />

Award recipient will ultimately be selected and given a $25,000 grant, along with an additional<br />

$25,000 grant for the nominating diocese. The award recipient will be revealed in the next edition<br />

of <strong>Extension</strong> <strong>magazine</strong>.<br />

The annual award is a unique reminder of the positive and transformative impact of the<br />

Catholic Church in our society. This good work often goes unnoticed by larger media outlets, but<br />

it is felt very deeply in the poorest corners of our country. This year’s finalists see the value and<br />

potential within each refugee family escaping violence, each young student trying to learn in a<br />

disadvantaged community and each child born into fraught circumstances. They are everyday<br />

citizens who sacrifice their time, energy and even safety to share Christ’s love here on earth.<br />









18 INSPIRE<br />

Lumen Christi Finalist<br />

<strong>Extension</strong> | <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 19<br />


Graduation rates soar among Native American children thanks to his ministry<br />

Only 12 percent of<br />

students in the<br />

public elementary<br />

school in<br />

Browning, Montana,<br />

are proficient<br />

in reading and math, according<br />

to U.S. News & World Report.<br />

Throughout his life as a De<br />

La Salle Christian Brother, Dale<br />

Mooney has specialized in helping<br />

educate young people in<br />

extremely difficult circumstances.<br />

For the past 11 years, he has<br />

served as president of the De La<br />

Salle Blackfeet School on the<br />

Blackfeet Nation reservation. The<br />

school educates fourth through<br />

eighth graders, helping prepare<br />

them emotionally and academically<br />

for high school. By the time<br />

some fourth graders enter the<br />

school, Brother Dale said, they<br />

are so far behind that they cannot<br />

yet even identify the letters<br />

of the alphabet. These are precisely<br />

the students he and his dedicated<br />

team seek to help. It is not<br />

an easy task, but Brother Dale was<br />

uniquely prepared for this special<br />

mission.<br />



Born in a German family,<br />

Brother Dale grew up on a farm in<br />

Arcadia, Iowa. He woke up every<br />

day at 5:15 a.m. to milk the cows.<br />

His upbringing taught him that<br />

faith, hard work and sacrifice are<br />

FAR RIGHT Brother<br />

Dale Mooney, FSC,<br />

leads the quality<br />

education behind<br />

Montana’s De La Salle<br />

Blackfeet School for<br />

middle school children.<br />

RIGHT A student and<br />

Brother Dale Mooney,<br />

FSC, exchange a few<br />

words.<br />

Nation reservation, he encountered<br />

families that were impacted by historical<br />

trauma and struggling with<br />

substance abuse, unemployment<br />

and suicides. Brother Dale said the<br />

weight of these hardships can be<br />

overwhelming. Only 60 percent of<br />

Native students enrolled in the reservation’s<br />

public schools graduate<br />

high school. Yet De La Salle Blackthe<br />

pillars of a life well lived.<br />

He joined the De La Salle Christian<br />

Brothers after high school<br />

and began his teaching ministry in<br />

Memphis, Tennessee, and St. Louis,<br />

Missouri.<br />

In 1982 Brother Dale’s religious<br />

community sent him to work at a<br />

school in Huehuetenango, Guatemala,<br />

at the height of the country’s<br />

bloody civil war. For the next 12<br />

years he taught hundreds of young<br />

Indigenous men. Brother Dale witnessed<br />

brutal repressions and even<br />

personally knew some missionaries<br />

who were martyred, including<br />

fellow Americans Father Stanley<br />

Rother and Brother James Miller,<br />

both of whom have since<br />

been beatified on their<br />

road toward sainthood.<br />

Many of Brother Dale’s<br />

students had parents who<br />

were “disappeared,” that is,<br />

abducted and assassinated<br />

secretly, never to be found.<br />

During the war, more than<br />

45,000 people suffered<br />

this fate.<br />

<strong>2023</strong> u 2024<br />

Lumen<br />

Christi<br />

AWARD<br />


“I was very much aware that my<br />

life was not guaranteed,” Brother<br />

Dale said of his time in Guatemala.<br />

“But I felt there were people who<br />

depended on me.”<br />



Brother Dale returned to the<br />

United States and worked for 16<br />

years in Kansas City. There, he<br />

helped start a Cristo Rey Catholic<br />

high school, giving students from<br />

Hispanic, working-class families<br />

opportunities to go to college.<br />

Eleven years ago, he was named<br />

president of De La Salle Blackfeet<br />

School in Browning—a place<br />

he had never been to or<br />

imagined he would end up.<br />

The school is associated<br />

with Little Flower Parish,<br />

a faith community serving<br />

the Blackfeet people that<br />

Catholic <strong>Extension</strong> has<br />

supported for more than<br />

five decades.<br />

When Brother Dale first<br />

arrived on the Blackfeet<br />

feet School has nearly a 100 percent<br />

graduation rate for its students.<br />

Brother Dale and his devoted<br />

team do this by earning the respect<br />

of the community and parents.<br />

They are attentive to what is<br />

happening in students’ personal<br />

lives outside the classroom. They<br />

have morning check-ins with students<br />

where they assess how they<br />

are feeling. They are trained to hold<br />

talking circles in the classroom<br />

when conflicts arise. In these situations,<br />

students open up about their<br />

challenges. This helps the students<br />

“ask for help when they need it,”<br />

Brother Dale said. One-on-one tutoring,<br />

excellent school athletics,<br />

and cultural and service immersions<br />

are also part of the school’s<br />

formula for success.<br />

Every day, Brother Dale models<br />

to the children what it means<br />

to serve.<br />

“He is our school president, but<br />

you always find him helping serve<br />

our lunch and picking up around<br />

our school. Every morning he<br />

greets us at the door. It makes my<br />

day! If we need a bus driver for our<br />

field trips, he’s there for all of us,”<br />

wrote an eighth grader.<br />

Many alumni have gone into<br />

wonderful and fulfilling professions.<br />

One of his past students is<br />

starting a doctorate degree in Indigenous<br />

health. Another has even<br />

joined his teaching staff.<br />

Witnessing these outcomes is<br />

what keeps Brother Dale going. He<br />

said, “To see a student coming into<br />

fourth grade and staying with us<br />

and working through everything,<br />

and then seeing them move on and<br />

be successful in high school—as a<br />

teacher, there is nothing that gives<br />

greater pleasure than that.”<br />

His job as an educator has not<br />

been easy, but it has certainly been<br />


20 INSPIRE<br />

Lumen Christi Finalist<br />

<strong>Extension</strong> | <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 21<br />

<strong>2023</strong> u 2024<br />

Lumen<br />

Christi<br />

AWARD<br />


Refugee women and girls experience<br />

God’s loving care at San Mateo Parish in San<br />

Juan, Puerto Rico.<br />

The hard part was<br />

supposed to be<br />

over.<br />

The mother and<br />

her 3-year-old had<br />

survived the terrors<br />

of the violent gangs that roam<br />

Haiti, kidnap children and bring<br />

indiscriminate violence down<br />

upon the most vulnerable.<br />

She and her child had survived<br />

the hunger that has racked<br />

the poorest nation in the western<br />

hemisphere. They had survived<br />

the earthquakes and hurricanes<br />

that have killed hundreds and left<br />



Haitian refugees arriving<br />

in rickety boats find shelter<br />

at this priest’s poor parish<br />

thousands homeless over<br />

the past three years. They<br />

had even survived a dangerous<br />

60-mile journey<br />

through the rough waters<br />

at the confluence of the<br />

Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean<br />

Sea, known as the<br />

Mona Passage.<br />

That was supposed to<br />

be the hard part. But as<br />

the rickety boat known<br />

as a “yola” approached<br />

the Puerto Rican shore, it<br />

capsized in the 15-foot swells and<br />

the 3-year-old was thrown from<br />

the mother’s arms. With their destination<br />

literally just meters away,<br />

the mother lost her precious toddler,<br />

who would only return in a<br />

body bag. It was just days before<br />

Christmas.<br />

Then the hard part began for<br />

her and so many other seabound<br />

migrants who have lost loved ones<br />

during their escape.<br />



It is our Christian belief that<br />

God’s love is always and everywhere<br />

present to us in every moment—most<br />

especially during the<br />

hard parts of our lives. Sometimes<br />

we imagine God’s love as angels<br />

who come near. Mary, Joseph and<br />

their newborn, Jesus, were refugees<br />

on a dangerous midnight road. The<br />

Holy Family was in a hard and desperate<br />

place. And God’s love came<br />

near. The silent night became a<br />

holy night.<br />

The refugees fleeing the chaos<br />

in Haiti, washing up on the shores<br />

of Puerto Rico, have an angel too.<br />

His name is Father Olin Pierre-<br />

Louis. He brings God’s love to the<br />

desperate.<br />

Father Pierre-Louis is the pastor<br />

of San Mateo Parish in San Juan.<br />

San Mateo is a small parish. Its<br />

weekly collection is only $200, but,<br />

being an angel, Father Pierre-Louis<br />

knows that it does not take a big<br />

budget to live the Gospel.<br />

Father Pierre-Louis, who is Haitian<br />

born, speaks Creole, the language<br />

of the Haitians. He is now<br />

a priest of the Archdiocese of San<br />

Juan. Puerto Rican federal immigration<br />

authorities, at a loss to help<br />

the hundreds of desperate Haitians<br />

washing up on their shores, release<br />

the Haitians from detention and<br />

ask Father Pierre-Louis to drive<br />

four hours round trip to Puerto Rico’s<br />

western coast to pick up the<br />

refugees and help them.<br />

Father Pierre-Louis makes room<br />

for them in his poor parish. It is<br />

amazing how much room God’s<br />

love can make. San Mateo’s tiny<br />

parish hall, which is connected to<br />

the church, is a makeshift migrant<br />

shelter. It can house up to 80 people,<br />

who sleep on mats on the floor<br />

and cook for themselves in the<br />

parish’s kitchen where people can<br />

donate food supplies. Those who<br />

need to stay longer can find rooms<br />

in the boiler room. No square inch<br />

of the parish goes unused.<br />

Frederick, a former Haitian ref-<br />

Father Olin Pierre-Louis gazes at<br />

the dangerous Caribbean waves.<br />

He regularly crosses the sea by<br />

ferry to bring refugees back safely.<br />

ugee, has been helping out at the<br />

parish for 14 years, ever since he<br />

washed up on Puerto Rico’s shore.<br />

No one understands the migrants’<br />

burden better than Frederick.<br />

Twice a month, Frederick and<br />

Father Pierre-Louis fill the parish<br />

van with food, clothing and<br />

other necessities. They drive it to<br />

the coast, take a 24-hour ferry to<br />

the Dominican Republic, drive it<br />

to Haiti and then deliver the goods.<br />

They do this in hope that Haitians<br />

won’t be forced to migrate and put<br />

their lives in danger.<br />

Father Olin Pierre-<br />

Louis provides food,<br />

clothing and shelter<br />

to Haitian refugees<br />

escaping violence<br />

and gangs.<br />


Meanwhile, the mother who<br />

lost her child last December is preparing<br />

to testify against the “coyotes”<br />

who crammed more than 50<br />

people in a rickety boat built for<br />

10. Hundreds have drowned. Father<br />

Pierre-Louis is helping her get<br />

access to legal and counseling services.<br />

The mother is going to relive her<br />

ineffable heartbreak to bring justice<br />

to those who<br />

so callously take<br />

advantage of the<br />

desperate. Her<br />

love for her child<br />

lost at sea will<br />

live on in her effort<br />

to help others avoid her fate. It<br />

is hard to imagine a braver or more<br />

fitting memorial.<br />

Father Pierre-Louis never ceases<br />

to see God’s hand in this work.<br />

When things get tight, the resources<br />

run dry and hope gets dim,<br />

he says that someone always calls<br />

and help comes. God’s love always<br />

prevails.<br />

Catholic <strong>Extension</strong> is part of this<br />

help. Our Holy Family Fund supports<br />

this amazing ministry. It is<br />

our honor to help. If we can’t drive<br />

a van, at least we can help fill it.<br />

God’s love is always and everywhere<br />

present to us, especially<br />

during the hard and desperate<br />

parts of our lives. Father Pierre-<br />

Louis’ ministry at San Mateo is<br />

proof. And all this from a little parish<br />

with a $200 Sunday collection.<br />

Angels don’t play harps. They do<br />

the hard and gritty work of collecting<br />

essentials, packing and driving<br />

vans, making room for the homeless,<br />

caring for the disconsolate,<br />

and standing up for justice.

22 INSPIRE<br />

Lumen Christi Finalist<br />

<strong>Extension</strong> | <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 23<br />

When Sapphire,<br />

at 10 years<br />

old, showed<br />

up at an<br />

unassuming<br />

house on a<br />

quiet street in Grand Island, Nebraska,<br />

she didn’t expect to stay for<br />

long. She had already lived in 10<br />

foster homes and two failed adoptive<br />

homes. She was malnourished<br />

and could not communicate well<br />

due to a deformity in her jaw that<br />

made it difficult for her to speak<br />

and chew food.<br />

As Sister Catherine Nagl<br />

opened the door and welcomed<br />

her in, she found a stable and<br />

peaceful environment that she<br />

had never experienced before.<br />

Originally, Sapphire was only<br />

supposed to come on weekends<br />

as a “respite” child, to give her<br />

current caregivers a break. But<br />

after six months, she moved in<br />

permanently. Sister Catherine<br />

brought in a speech therapist to<br />

help Sapphire learn how to speak<br />

and eat according to the shape of<br />

her mouth. Sapphire began to talk<br />

and grew rapidly. “Of course, she’s<br />

been a social butterfly ever since,”<br />

Sister Catherine said.<br />


Sapphire’s story proves how<br />

Sister Catherine’s care and love<br />

can truly transform children. Her<br />

ministry is called the Family of<br />

the Good Shepherd. Since 2010,<br />

she has cared for more than 50<br />

children, many of whom were<br />

considered too challenging to be<br />

housed by other caretakers. She<br />

takes in short- and long-term<br />

foster children and helps them<br />

understand their worth.<br />

Sister Catherine Nagl helped Sapphire flourish after she first arrived at the home unable to eat or<br />

speak well.<br />



Castaway children<br />

thrive thanks to<br />

this Catholic sister<br />

From a young age, Sister<br />

Catherine always knew she<br />

wanted to help children,<br />

especially those who require<br />

special care and attention.<br />

As a child, she too<br />

was counted out. She was<br />

born premature, and her<br />

parents were told that their<br />

daughter would never be<br />

able to breathe on her own.<br />

They dedicated the feeble child<br />

to the Blessed Mother, and a few<br />

days later she went home without<br />

an oxygen mask. Sister Catherine<br />

now seeks to bring about miracles<br />

for children who are “impossible<br />

<strong>2023</strong> u 2024<br />

Lumen<br />

Christi<br />

AWARD<br />


cases” like she was once<br />

thought to be.<br />

She joined the Sisters<br />

of the Society of Our Lady<br />

of the Most Holy Trinity.<br />

She served as teacher and<br />

coordinator of residential<br />

services at a Christian<br />

home for pregnant teens<br />

and teen moms. The call<br />

to serve children grew<br />

stronger still. With the permission<br />

of her religious community, she<br />

returned to Nebraska to establish<br />

her new ministry to help foster<br />

children. She also aspires to form<br />

a new religious community, the<br />

Daughters of Mary, Mother of Jesus<br />

the Good Shepherd, to expand<br />

ministries to children.<br />

Sister Catherine is still the<br />

guardian of Sapphire, who is now<br />

a young adult. Sapphire graduated<br />

from a Catholic boarding school<br />

for children with special needs,<br />

where she thrived, and now helps<br />

care for the other children at the<br />

house.<br />

Among the other children is<br />

Eleyna, a seventh grade girl, and<br />

Micah, a sixth grade boy. Sister<br />

Catherine also gives special attention<br />

and love to a very medically<br />

fragile toddler currently living in<br />

the home.<br />


The children that Sister Catherine<br />

takes in often struggle to<br />

manage their emotions. She says<br />

children who grew up in abusive<br />

homes see the world very differently.<br />

They are survivors and react<br />

strongly. “They have traumas that<br />

trigger each other’s traumas,” she<br />

said.<br />

Sister Catherine teaches them<br />

forgiveness and helps them understand<br />

what they are feeling so<br />

they don’t let their emotions get<br />

the better of them.<br />

“We work on healing emotionally,<br />

spiritually and physically, if<br />

that’s needed,” she said. “We learn<br />

how to have a healthy sense of<br />

pride. We learn how to value ourselves<br />

and the others around us.”<br />

She prepares many children<br />

to live with adoptive families.<br />

She loves to see them “blossom”<br />

in their new environments. She<br />

helped one family adopt four siblings.<br />

“I had to teach them how to<br />

be siblings in a non-abusive environment,<br />

where they didn’t have<br />

to live and survive the way they<br />

had been, where they could treat<br />

each other with respect,” she said.<br />

The children’s new parents said<br />

they never would have been able<br />

to take in all four siblings without<br />

Sister Catherine’s guidance.<br />

Some families just need her to<br />

take temporary care of children<br />

with special needs or who are<br />

more challenging.<br />

She will take<br />

Sister Catherine<br />

Nagl has fostered<br />

them in often at<br />

more than 50<br />

children. She has the drop of a hat.<br />

guardianship of “My name gets<br />

Sapphire (second out,” she said.<br />

from right) and Sister Catherine<br />

has es-<br />

Eleyna (right) and<br />

cares full time for<br />

Micah (left).<br />

tablished firm<br />

household<br />

rules that help the children form<br />

healthy habits and a positive outlook<br />

on life.<br />

“I very quickly get them into<br />

the routine of the household. Everybody<br />

has chores,” she said.<br />

While introducing them to<br />

structure, her highest priority is<br />

for them to find joy and security.<br />

“Children should be happy,” she<br />

said. “It’s the carefree time of life.”<br />

Sister Catherine sees the face of<br />

Christ in each child she cares for.<br />

Her patience, thoughtful attention<br />

and ever present smile tell the<br />

children that they are important<br />

and loved.

24 INSPIRE<br />

Lumen Christi Finalist<br />

<strong>Extension</strong> | <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 25<br />

Carmen Alicia Rodríguez Echevarría, principal of a damaged but<br />

thriving school, works with a prospective student.<br />



At earthquake-damaged<br />

school, students flourish<br />

under unflappable<br />

principal’s leadership<br />

Carmen Alicia<br />

Rodríguez Echevarría<br />

is unflappable.<br />

The principal<br />

of Inmaculada<br />

Concepción School<br />

in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, which<br />

serves children pre-K through<br />

eighth grade, is a job that demands<br />

a certain amount of unflappability.<br />

But doing it through an earthquake?<br />

And then a pandemic? And<br />

then another hurricane, in an area<br />

still recovering from Hurricane<br />

Maria? And then raising school<br />

enrollment by nearly 300 percent<br />

in the process? This is world-class<br />

unflappability.<br />

For Rodríguez, this is personal.<br />

She graduated from the school in<br />

1998. She is a homegrown talent.<br />

As a young athlete standing out in<br />

volleyball, she received a sports<br />

scholarship at the Pontifical Catholic<br />

University of Puerto Rico. In<br />

2005 she completed her bachelor’s<br />

degree in education, specializing<br />

in secondary mathematics,<br />

and in 2008 she received a master’s<br />

degree in educational supervision<br />

and administration. She is<br />

now going for her doctoral degree.<br />

For 14 years she worked as a<br />

math teacher at Cristo Rey Academy<br />

in Ponce, where she developed<br />

as an educator, mentor and<br />

academic leader. She and her husband<br />

developed a sports and fam-<br />

Inmaculada Concepción School in<br />

Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, was severely<br />

damaged in a 2020 earthquake. <strong>2023</strong> u 2024<br />

ily project in Guayanilla, which<br />

gives low-income children and<br />

young people an outlet to have fun<br />

and develop team-building skills.<br />

Sports were key to Rodríguez’s<br />

development, and now she is giving<br />

those same formative opportunities<br />

to the young people from her<br />

hometown.<br />



But nothing could prepare<br />

Rodríguez for the trifecta of troubles<br />

to come that would test all of<br />

her skill, faith and resolve.<br />

A 6.4 magnitude earthquake<br />

struck the island on January 7,<br />

2020. It devastated Inmaculada<br />

Concepción, the parish and the<br />

town. The church walls collapsed<br />

on part of the school, leaving over<br />

half of the school’s building useless.<br />

Many families pulled their<br />

kids out of the school and fled their<br />

disaster-stricken town.<br />

Around that time, Rodríguez<br />

received the phone call from Father<br />

Melvin Díaz, the parish’s<br />

equally unflappable pastor.<br />

He knew that if there<br />

was one educator in town<br />

that could help the school it<br />

would be her. She accepted<br />

the challenge to lead her<br />

alma mater.<br />

Then the pandemic struck in<br />

March. All the schools in Puerto<br />

Rico were closed, but the unflappable<br />

Rodríguez improvised and<br />

trained staff to provide online<br />

instruction. The virtual teaching<br />

system was so successful that<br />

enrollment rose from 90 to 229<br />

students.<br />

In September 2022 Hurricane<br />

Fiona roared in and took what<br />

remained of the church roof and<br />

deposited it next to the white tent<br />

that the parish uses for the Eucharist<br />

and the school uses for a lunchroom.<br />

In spite of this, the school grew<br />

again this past year. As classes<br />

begin for the <strong>2023</strong>-2024 academic<br />

year, enrollment is expected to go<br />

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Carmen Alicia<br />

Rodríguez Echevarría<br />

increased enrollment<br />

by finding creative<br />

solutions, such as<br />

outdoor tents, to keep<br />

students learning.<br />

up yet again to 250 students.<br />

The staff has cleared<br />

out attics, storage rooms<br />

and pantries to use all the<br />

physical space they have<br />

to accommodate the students.<br />

Catholic <strong>Extension</strong><br />

is supporting them<br />

by funding air conditioning units<br />

on an upper floor, so they can add<br />

desks for students.<br />

What has happened under<br />

Rodríguez’s leadership is nothing<br />

short of a miracle. This is especially<br />

true considering that most<br />

school families are working class,<br />

and the parish—which serves a<br />

town where more than 50 percent<br />

live below the poverty line—does<br />

not have the means to subsidize<br />

tuition for its schoolchildren.<br />

Families, no doubt, believe that<br />

sending their kids to Inmaculada<br />

Concepción is an investment in<br />

their future. Perhaps they want<br />

their kids to be just like the school<br />

principal—a confident, well-educated<br />

professional who uses her<br />

talents to help build back their<br />

struggling town.<br />


Parents don’t send their kids to<br />

schools with great missions. Parents<br />

send their kids to schools<br />

whose leaders personify a great<br />

mission. Rodríguez is Inmaculada<br />

Concepción’s great mission. She<br />

shows that we are all sustained by<br />

the grace of God.<br />

And what does Rodríguez say?<br />

She quotes Psalm 92:14–15: “Where<br />

the Lord plants you, you will flourish<br />

and bear fruit, because it is the<br />

grace of God who sustains you.”<br />

God is not done channeling<br />

graces through her. In her “spare”<br />

time, she is completing her doctoral<br />

degree in education at the<br />

Pontifical Catholic University of<br />

Puerto Rico. She wrote her thesis<br />

on the impact of remote learning<br />

during the pandemic, as a way to<br />

understand how she can put all her<br />

students in a position to succeed<br />

academically.<br />

All the eyes of Rodríguez’s students,<br />

parish and community are<br />

fixed on her. They see a role model<br />

and reason for hope that not even a<br />

hurricane, an earthquake or a pandemic<br />

can stop.<br />

She is unflappable. World-class<br />


26 INSPIRE<br />

Lumen Christi Finalist<br />

<strong>Extension</strong> | <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 27<br />



On the warfront, Ukrainian nuns brave<br />

ongoing battles to aid families<br />

The Sisters of the<br />

Order of St. Basil<br />

the Great’s monastery<br />

in Zaporizhzhia,<br />

Ukraine,<br />

is less than 40<br />

miles from the frontlines of the<br />

ongoing war between Ukraine<br />

and Russia.<br />

Since February 2022, their city<br />

has been under constant missile<br />

attack. Their entire monastery<br />

shakes when the missiles land.<br />

Once, when Sister Lucia Murashko<br />

was huddled in her room<br />

during an air raid, she realized<br />

that if a Russian missile struck<br />

her monastery, she would likely<br />

fall dead onto the altar in their<br />

chapel directly below her. Accordingly,<br />

she prepared what<br />

she would say to her Lord if that<br />

came to pass. “Here I am!” she<br />

would say to Jesus, “Ah, you look<br />

so nice! I have wanted to see you<br />

for some time.”<br />

The sisters have certainly shed<br />

many tears in recent months for<br />

their country and their people,<br />

but they haven’t lost their sense<br />

of purpose. Like the Ukrainian<br />

people, their will cannot be broken.<br />

There is no time for fear or<br />

despair.<br />


In their Zaporizhzhia monastery<br />

and across Ukraine, the<br />

sisters regularly house women<br />

and children, whose husbands<br />

and fathers are at war and whose<br />

homes and livelihoods have been<br />

destroyed.<br />

They give comfort to the soldiers,<br />

some of whom have come<br />

to their monastery straight from<br />

the battlefield trenches. Some<br />

haven’t showered in months. The<br />

sisters provide showers, wash uniforms<br />

and cook hearty meals for<br />

them. The grateful soldiers have<br />

told them that the meals taste like<br />

their mothers’ own cooking.<br />

The sisters also started to make<br />

trips to the frontlines themselves,<br />

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Basilian Sister<br />

Lucia Murashko<br />

brings supplies to<br />

families stranded on<br />

the frontlines of the<br />

war in Ukraine.<br />

realizing that vulnerable people<br />

were stranded there, unable to<br />

evacuate due to health or age.<br />

They now make regular supply<br />

runs to these war-torn villages<br />

less than a mile from combat,<br />

bringing food, gas for cooking,<br />

water, clothes and sleeping bags<br />

in the coldest months.<br />

Why the sisters enter such<br />

peril again and again is true to<br />

their missionary identity. “We decided<br />

what we have to do is help<br />

those who are most in need,” said<br />

Sister Lucia, who is among the<br />

sisters making these life-threatening<br />

journeys. “We have a car,<br />

we have something to share, and<br />

we have a face because we trust<br />

that God will help us.”<br />



Living the charism of their<br />

founder, St. Basil the Great, the<br />

Basilian Sisters are called to express<br />

God’s eternal love through<br />

deeds focused on making the<br />

world a better place. Not only<br />

have they been carrying out this<br />

mission in Ukraine, but they are<br />

also actively ministering throughout<br />

Europe, South America and<br />

the United States.<br />

Basilian Sister<br />

Teodora Kopsky,<br />

a native Ukrainian,<br />

helps settle<br />

displaced refugees<br />

in Jenkintown,<br />

Pennsylvania.<br />

PHOTO<br />


In 1911 the sisters established<br />

a community in Philadelphia,<br />

Pennsylvania, at the invitation<br />

of the Ukrainian Catholic archbishop<br />

to care for children and<br />

orphans as millions of Ukrainians<br />

immigrated to America. Catholic<br />

<strong>Extension</strong> has supported the<br />

Ukrainian Catholic Church in the<br />

United States for nearly 45 years.<br />

And, since the war started, Catholic<br />

<strong>Extension</strong> has funded their<br />

efforts to help people in Ukraine<br />

as well as in our own country<br />

through ministries like those of<br />

the sisters.<br />

Just as they are busy on the<br />

frontlines in Ukraine, the sisters<br />

have also been helping Ukrainian<br />

refugee families as they get settled<br />

in the United States. Since<br />

the war started, they have served<br />

approximately 800 families<br />

through the Good Samaritan<br />

Food Pantry in Philadelphia and<br />

hundreds more through the St.<br />

Basil Support Ministry at their<br />

U.S. motherhouse in Jenkintown,<br />

Pennsylvania, just north of Philadelphia<br />

where many of the displaced<br />

Ukrainians now live. The<br />

sisters provide food, clothing and<br />

furniture multiple days a week.<br />

They have even sought out ways<br />

to find refugees housing and help<br />

pay their rent during their difficult<br />

first months in America.<br />

The generosity of the sisters<br />

has inspired many refugees to<br />

get involved themselves at these<br />

distribution centers. Diana Kaday<br />

had just finished her master’s<br />

degree in accounting a month before<br />

the war started. She then had<br />

to evacuate to Germany before<br />

coming to the United States in the<br />

fall of 2022. The sisters helped<br />

her procure kitchen supplies for<br />

her small studio apartment. The<br />

sisters’ kindness helped Kaday<br />

realize that she too could help<br />

her fellow Ukrainians. She is now<br />

a regular volunteer alongside the<br />

sisters.<br />

“The sisters give hope to everyone<br />

they encounter,” Kaday said.<br />

“They give help. They give everything<br />

they have.”<br />

“When the Ukrainian refugees<br />

started coming here, they were<br />

saying, ‘Sister, can I help you?’”<br />

recalled Basilian Sister Teodora<br />

Kopsky, a native Ukrainian who<br />

now works in the United States.<br />

“Those volunteers are my blessing.<br />

Because helping people, you<br />

cannot do by yourself.”<br />



The Sisters of the Order of St.<br />

Basil the Great are true heroes<br />

around the world. They risk their<br />

lives and give their all to refugees<br />

as they begin an unfamiliar life in<br />

a new country.<br />

As this war lingers on, the<br />

sisters’ presence will not waver.<br />

They will carry on as a powerful<br />

example of courage and selflessness<br />

to all whom they serve.<br />

Sister Teodora summed it up<br />

well: “My love to God and to people<br />

is what gives me strength.”

28 INSPIRE<br />

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<strong>Extension</strong> | <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 29<br />

A baby<br />

sleeps<br />

under a<br />

caretaker’s<br />

watch while<br />

her mother<br />

studies.<br />

Girls in crisis<br />

pregnancies<br />

as young as 11<br />

years old find<br />

support at St.<br />

María Eufrasia<br />

Home in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.<br />

The home’s motto, “One person<br />

is worth more than the whole<br />

world,” is written prominently<br />

in Spanish above a mural of a<br />

pregnant girl in the middle of<br />

its central courtyard. The staff<br />

lives these words every day.<br />

The girls come with unimaginable<br />

backstories. Their pregnancies<br />

have resulted from assault,<br />

abuse, coercion and even<br />

forced prostitution in some<br />

cases. What these<br />

girls share in common<br />

is that they<br />

all independently<br />

decided to see<br />

their pregnancies<br />

through before arriving<br />

at St. María<br />

Eufrasia, where<br />

they receive help<br />

to pursue that<br />

goal. They are referred<br />

to the home<br />

by the Puerto Rican<br />

government’s<br />

social services.<br />

Once there, they live in a secure<br />

environment, surrounded<br />

by support staff 24 hours a day.<br />

More importantly, the girls can<br />

get away from the violence and<br />

betrayal they have been unjustly<br />

subjected to in their short lives.<br />


The residence, which sits<br />

on top of a hill with a sea view,<br />

elicits a certain sense of calm in<br />

The mural at St. María Eufrasia Home says “One person is worth more<br />

than the whole world.”<br />



Abused, pregnant<br />

teens heal and prosper<br />

at this loving center<br />

the chaos these girls are escaping.<br />

It houses up to 15 girls and<br />

their babies at a time. Each<br />

room is furnished with a bed<br />

and crib and has its own private<br />

bath. The girls learn the skills<br />

of motherhood in a supervised<br />

and communal environment.<br />

The current facility was built<br />

with support from Catholic<br />

<strong>Extension</strong> in 2001. Since the<br />

early days of St. María Eufrasia’s<br />

founding in the mid-1980s, over<br />

1,000 pregnant girls under the<br />

age of 18 have been helped.<br />

The girls need assistance<br />

not only with their own ongoing<br />

emotional and educational<br />

development, but also<br />

with caring for the babies they<br />

have decided to bring into this<br />

world. Psychological counseling,<br />

health services, tutoring, career<br />

support and up to two years of<br />

housing are all part of what they<br />

receive at St. María Eufrasia.<br />

Founded by the Sisters of<br />

the Good Shepherd, the home<br />

is named after their mother<br />

foundress, St. Mary Euphrasia.<br />

Sisters Socorro Contreras and<br />

Marta Villalobos continue to live<br />

on-site among the girls and their<br />

babies. For the past two years,<br />

Raquel González, a lay woman,<br />

has led the home. She has been<br />

an employee for eight years.<br />

A full-time social worker also<br />

works at the home.<br />

In addition to the dedicated<br />

staff, several volunteers care for<br />

the babies while the girls go to<br />

school and receive tutoring and<br />

counseling. These<br />

caretakers attend to<br />

the babies with the<br />

same love, smiles<br />

and tenderness one<br />

would expect from<br />

an aunt or grandmother.<br />


There are many success stories<br />

to celebrate at St. María<br />

Eufrasia. Currently, one resident<br />

is preparing to attend university<br />

this year, with dreams<br />

of being a physician’s assistant.<br />

Many other former residents<br />

are gainfully employed,<br />

live on their own and are in<br />

healthy relationships.<br />

Some of the people responsible<br />

for abusing the girls<br />

have been convicted of their<br />

BELOW (From left to right) Diocesan representative Mariluna Román<br />

Rodríguez embraces the home’s staff: Sisters of the Good Shepherd<br />

Socorro Contreras, Cristina Calderón and Marta Villalobos.<br />

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crimes and are thankfully<br />

behind bars.<br />

Meanwhile, the babies<br />

spend their first years of<br />

life surrounded by love.<br />

As they blissfully snooze<br />

in their cribs under the<br />

watchful eyes of caretakers,<br />

their young mothers<br />

are hard at work on their<br />

personal and educational<br />

goals in the hopes of eventually<br />

providing for them.<br />

Arecibo is a very poor diocese.<br />

Most of its buildings are<br />

still damaged from Hurricane<br />

Maria in 2017, and collections<br />

have plummeted since<br />

the pandemic. Yet even a poor<br />

diocese with few resources is<br />

making a powerful statement<br />

by operating a ministry like St.<br />

María Eufrasia, which signals to<br />

the rest of society that no matter<br />

the cost, it is essential to<br />

care for the least among us.

30 INSPIRE<br />

Lumen Christi Finalist<br />

<strong>Extension</strong> | <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 31<br />


María-Cruz Gray stands with her son, Father<br />

Christopher Gray, on the day of his ordination<br />

to the priesthood in 2013.<br />

An estimated 70<br />

percent of the<br />

Catholic population<br />

in the Diocese<br />

of Salt Lake<br />

City, Utah, is Hispanic—a<br />

250 percent increase over<br />

the past 30 years. The increase is<br />

especially notable in a diocese that<br />

encompasses the entire state of<br />

Utah, nearly 85,000 square miles,<br />

where Catholics are a small minority<br />

compared to members of the<br />

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day<br />

Saints, which is the state’s predominant<br />

faith community.<br />

More than just riding a demo-<br />

Why do 200,000<br />

Hispanic Catholics<br />

in Utah know<br />

this woman?<br />

<strong>2023</strong> u 2024<br />

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graphic wave, the growth of this diocese’s<br />

Hispanic Catholic population<br />

can be largely attributed to the<br />

tireless efforts of one leader in particular.<br />

During her 24 years as director<br />

of Hispanic ministry in the Catholic<br />

Church in Utah, María-Cruz<br />

Gray has left no community of the<br />

state untouched, no matter how<br />

small or remote. The result is that<br />

she has become a visible manifestation<br />

of the Church’s presence<br />

and care to 200,000 Hispanic<br />

Catholics.<br />

But the key to Gray’s success<br />

was to make her ministry more<br />

than the mission of one woman.<br />

Everywhere she has gone in Utah,<br />

she has empowered a new generation<br />

of leaders for the Church, finding<br />

new difference makers in the<br />

most far-flung communities.<br />


In her efforts to identify committed<br />

lay leaders across the state,<br />

Gray made sure that she went not<br />

only to the metro areas but also to<br />

places where Catholics are largely<br />

a minority and where people work<br />

difficult, laborious jobs in agriculture<br />

or mining. Many of the Catholic<br />

missions in these communities<br />

don’t have resident priests, adding<br />

urgency to finding committed lay<br />

leaders to ensure that the Church<br />

remains strong.<br />

Gray has been instrumental in<br />

the formation of 116 Hispanic lay<br />

ecclesiastical ministers through the<br />

diocese’s EMAUS program. Many<br />

of them come from the outlying<br />

communities of the state. The program’s<br />

four-year intensive curriculum<br />

forms leaders in human, spiritual,<br />

intellectual and pastoral areas.<br />

Gray guides these EMAUS groups so<br />

that these leaders can become active<br />

ministers themselves in religious<br />

education or respond to the<br />

pastoral and human needs of their<br />

communities.<br />

Over 24 years of ministry, María-Cruz Gray<br />

has touched the lives of 200,000 Hispanic<br />

Catholics in Utah.<br />

“She has spearheaded several<br />

very significant programs that are<br />

illustrative of her service to the<br />

Church, providing pastoral outreach<br />

to the families of workers on<br />

the farms and ranchos. She has organized<br />

a group of ‘missionaries’<br />

in the city who still provide food,<br />

clothing and personal supplies<br />

once a month to day laborers,” said<br />

Bishop Oscar Solis of the Diocese<br />

of Salt Lake City. “Her indefatigable<br />

spirit, vision and good works have<br />

benefited the diocese as a whole<br />

and, in particular, the Latinos.”<br />

Gray sets a tremendous example<br />

for the new leaders she is identifying<br />

across Utah on how to always<br />

lead with compassion and<br />

energy. As a result, her diocese is<br />

stronger and its faith communities<br />

are more vibrant.<br />


Gray’s encouragement and<br />

example of service have even<br />

spread within her own family. She<br />

is immensely proud of her son,<br />

Father Christopher Gray, who was<br />

ordained to the priesthood in 2013<br />

and is now pastor of St. Mary’s<br />

Catholic Church in Park City, Utah.<br />

Father Gray admires just how<br />

many people across Utah simply<br />

know his mother, not to mention<br />

the impact she has had on them<br />

in growing their Catholic faith and<br />

becoming leaders for the Church.<br />

When she was recognized by the<br />

Spanish-language cable TV station<br />

KUTH Univision 32 for her<br />

humanitarian efforts in 2022, Father<br />

Gray said, “Mom helps people.<br />

All throughout our diocese I run<br />

into people who say, excitedly, that<br />

they know my mom. She takes the<br />

time to listen to everyone, to show<br />

warmth and interest, and to help<br />

them if she can.”<br />

Gray’s late husband, Forrest, was<br />

a deacon for the Diocese of Salt<br />

Lake City, serving from 2004 until<br />

his death in January 2020.<br />

“We are one Church, professing<br />

one faith in one Lord, and we have<br />

one mission—to proclaim the Gospel<br />

or the good news of salvation to<br />

all people,” said Gray.<br />

She is not just committed to<br />

proclaiming the good news to the<br />

poor in spirit but also to the poor<br />

and downtrodden of society. Over<br />

the years she has worked with the<br />

government and other agencies to<br />

coordinate relief efforts and organize<br />

food drives to help those in<br />

need.<br />

“On top of all she does in terms<br />

of teaching and ministering, her<br />

personal service to the poor is<br />

quiet and as hidden as is possible,<br />

but consistent and generous<br />

over all the years she has served in<br />

leadership for the diocese,” added<br />

Msgr. Colin F. Bircumshaw, vicar<br />

general for the diocese. “She is a<br />

true modern-day saint without the<br />

halo.”<br />

Amid all that she has accomplished,<br />

Gray remains humble,<br />

but she cannot help from being<br />

visible and known to the hundreds<br />

of thousands of people she has<br />

touched in Utah over nearly a quarter-century<br />

of ministry.

32 INSPIRE<br />

Lumen Christi Finalist<br />

“And he began to send them out two by two...” – Mark 6:7<br />

<strong>Extension</strong> | <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 33<br />

IGNITE Making a difference<br />


Donors in the Two by Two Giving Society—leaders who give at least<br />

one $1,000 gift each year—walk in companionship and solidarity<br />

with poor Catholic faith communities.<br />

This esteemed group helps Catholic <strong>Extension</strong> recognize and support<br />

the hidden heroes lifting up the Church on the margins of society.<br />

Contact Kate Grogan, Development Coordinator, at 312-795-6046 or<br />

kgrogan@catholicextension.org for more information.<br />

Carrie Taylor,<br />

communications<br />

director at Christ<br />

the Redeemer<br />

Catholic Church in<br />

Houston, Texas,<br />

visits Central<br />

Washington’s<br />

cherry fields on a<br />

Catholic <strong>Extension</strong><br />

immersion trip.<br />

See Parish Partnerships,<br />

page 34.<br />


34<br />

IGNITE<br />

Parish partnerships<br />

<strong>Extension</strong> | <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 35<br />

Houston parish supports education<br />

for children of migrant farmworkers<br />

Father Jesús Mariscal welcomes (from<br />

left to right) Carol Hall, Carrie Taylor and<br />

Megan Dillingham, staff at Christ the<br />

Redeemer Catholic Church in Houston,<br />

Texas, to the agricultural fields of the<br />

Diocese of Yakima, Washington.<br />

Christ the Redeemer<br />

Catholic Church helps<br />

mobile literacy program<br />

in Washington state<br />

On a summer day in<br />

Monitor, Washington,<br />

children pour into a<br />

tent and are greeted<br />

by volunteers. They<br />

are getting ready for<br />

another day of learning and having<br />

fun with their friends while their<br />

parents head to the fields to pick<br />

cherries, pears and those famous<br />

Washington apples. They are the<br />

children of the thousands of workers<br />

that travel to Washington’s central<br />

valley each year to cultivate<br />

and harvest the summer crops that<br />

will be sold across the country.<br />

And for these children, while<br />

their parents are away from sunup<br />

to sundown, a tent in their camp is<br />

their summer school.<br />

Catholic <strong>Extension</strong> proudly supports<br />

the Literacy Wagon program,<br />

run by the Diocese of Yakima. The<br />

program addresses the need for<br />

summer learning and activities for<br />

the children of the workers. Run<br />

by a team of seminarians from the<br />

diocese, volunteers, librarians and<br />

local teachers, the Literacy Wagon<br />

brings books, education in<br />

reading and writing, and activities<br />

to migrant camps across<br />

the state.<br />

The program was launched<br />

in 2017, with seed funding<br />

from Saints Faith, Hope and<br />

Charity Parish in Winnetka,<br />

Illinois. Today, a parish from<br />

the Lone Star State has stepped<br />

in to ensure that this innovative<br />

program continues.<br />

Catholic <strong>Extension</strong>’s Parish Partnership program<br />

With a compelling list of urgent projects to support our Church, Catholic<br />

<strong>Extension</strong> has created a turnkey fundraising program that is easily adapted<br />

for any parish and provides materials and guidance. Please contact Natalie<br />

Donatello at ndonatello@catholicextension.org for more information.<br />

Father Sean Horrigan (far back) was inspired<br />

by the work of the Catholic Church in Central<br />

Washington and urged his parish to support<br />

the Literacy Wagon program during Lent.<br />

ners at Mass just days before Lent.<br />

Ordained in 2019, Father Mariscal<br />

has a strong connection to the Central<br />

Washington farmworkers. His<br />

father first came to Washington to<br />

pick fruit, and after he passed away,<br />

Father Mariscal worked alongside<br />

his mother and siblings in the fields<br />

as a family.<br />

His mother knew he’d be a<br />

priest one day. As a seminarian<br />

and now as a priest, he has always<br />

stayed connected to the laborers<br />

in the fields. He has helped<br />

launch many migrant ministries<br />

over the years, including the Literacy<br />

Wagon.<br />

“Every kid has a right to dream<br />

regardless of where this child is<br />

from, and that’s what we try to<br />

do in this migrant camp,” Father<br />

Mariscal told Christ the Redeemer<br />

parishioners. “It’s not the most<br />

fancy summer camp like you may<br />

Children read and play at the Literacy Wagon,<br />

a ministry of the Diocese of Yakima, Washington,<br />

while their parents pick crops.<br />

Empowering children to dream<br />

After personally witnessing<br />

the impact of the Literacy Wagon<br />

in the summer of 2022 during<br />

an immersion trip for pastors<br />

organized by Catholic <strong>Extension</strong>,<br />

Father Sean Horrigan, pastor of<br />

Christ the Redeemer Catholic<br />

Church in Houston, Texas, urged<br />

his congregation to support the<br />

program for their <strong>2023</strong> Lenten<br />

almsgiving campaign.<br />

“The children I met there are<br />

just lovely kids, and their parents<br />

are working hard in the hot<br />

sun. When I was there it was 108<br />

degrees,” Father Horrigan recalled.<br />

To drive home the importance<br />

of supporting the Literacy Wagon,<br />

Father Horrigan invited Father<br />

Jesús Mariscal from the Diocese<br />

of Yakima to speak to parishiohave<br />

here, but it’s a beautiful environment<br />

that we try to provide for<br />

these children so they can dare<br />

to dream, so they can continue to<br />

learn, so they can continue to grow<br />

in their imagination and be inspired<br />

to be doctors, engineers or whatever<br />

they want to be.”<br />

Through their time together, not<br />

only do the children<br />

advance in reading, but<br />

also they learn to be<br />

family to each other.<br />

The impact of<br />

partnership<br />

Parishioners at<br />

Christ the Redeemer<br />

went on to raise tens<br />

of thousands of dollars<br />

to support the Literacy<br />

Wagon program and migrant ministry.<br />

The money raised will help<br />

the diocese continue these vital<br />

ministries for years to come.<br />

In June <strong>2023</strong> three Christ the<br />

Redeemer parishioners and staff<br />

members traveled with Catholic<br />

<strong>Extension</strong> to Central Washington<br />

so they could witness the impact<br />

of their almsgiving.<br />

They celebrated Mass, presided<br />

by Diocese of Yakima Bishop<br />

Joseph Tyson, with the migrant<br />

families at a camp. They went to<br />

the cherry fields where the workers<br />

pick crops in the intense summer<br />

heat, and they visited a Literacy<br />

Wagon site where those workers’<br />

children learn, grow in faith and<br />

form new friendships each day.<br />

“It was incredible to see our parish<br />

rally around the Literacy Wagon<br />

and all of the other programs that<br />

Catholic <strong>Extension</strong> continues to<br />

support here,” said Megan Dillingham,<br />

director of development and<br />

stewardship at Christ the Redeemer.<br />

“I couldn’t be prouder to be part of<br />

this community and everything we<br />

were able to do. Now to be able to<br />

come and see it for ourselves, it’s<br />

been incredible. I can’t wait to get<br />

back and tell the parishioners what<br />

we’ve seen and all of the good work<br />

that’s being done here.”<br />

Parish partnerships like this not<br />

only make an enormous difference<br />

in the lives of the poor, but they<br />

also help transform the donor parish.<br />

“We are a people of mission. It<br />

is what we are called to do: go out<br />

and experience God and those communities<br />

outside of our own,” said<br />

Carrie Taylor, director of communications<br />

at Christ the Redeemer.<br />

“When we deprive ourselves of that,<br />

when we don’t go out of the bubbles<br />

that we have, we deprive ourselves<br />

of experiencing the rich complexity<br />

of our faith and of God, who reveals<br />

himself to us through others, especially<br />

those who do not walk the<br />

same path as us.”

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<strong>Extension</strong> | <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 37<br />

Catholic <strong>Extension</strong> program<br />

leads Latino<br />

young adults<br />

to lives of<br />

service<br />

Growing up, Cindy<br />

Rodríguez never<br />

imagined becoming<br />

a religious sister.<br />

She was born to Mexican<br />

immigrant parents<br />

in Beaumont, Texas. The religious<br />

part of her life was simply<br />

to attend Mass and “be good,” she<br />

said.<br />

She went to college and studied<br />

for a career in civil engineering<br />

at Lamar University. But her life<br />

plans changed after an unexpected<br />

experience.<br />

Two years ago, while in her<br />

A LEAP<br />

OF FAITH<br />

early 20s, she attended Catholic<br />

<strong>Extension</strong>’s Encuentro y Misión<br />

(Encounter and Mission) program,<br />

which was created with support<br />

from the Henry Luce Foundation.<br />

Through this program, Rodríguez<br />

saw the power of the Catholic<br />

Church’s work among the poor.<br />

She saw the difference a life of<br />

service could make, and she saw<br />

up close what religious sisters do.<br />

Something changed inside of her<br />

after participating in the program.<br />

The immersive theological<br />

program shows young people<br />

like Rodríguez the beauty of the<br />

Engineering<br />

graduate<br />

embarks<br />

on path to<br />

religious life<br />

Catholic faith and how it can be<br />

put into practice for the benefit of<br />

society. Students first take a theology<br />

course at the Mexican American<br />

Catholic College, then attend a<br />

weeklong immersion experience<br />

in one of <strong>Extension</strong>’s dioceses,<br />

where they work alongside<br />

Catholic leaders and fellow young<br />

people in service of the poor.<br />

The program intends to reach<br />

Latino young adults. About half<br />

of U.S. Catholics ages 14 to 29 are<br />

Hispanic, according to data from<br />

ENAVE, a group of national Hispanic/Latino<br />

Catholic organizations<br />

that led the 2018 V Encuentro<br />

initiative. This generation of<br />

young people promises to be a<br />

source of leadership for the entire<br />

Catholic Church.<br />

While the main goal of Catholic<br />

<strong>Extension</strong>’s program is to encourage<br />

new leaders for the Catholic<br />

Church, the outcome we did not<br />

anticipate was that some participants<br />

would immediately gravitate<br />

toward priesthood or religious<br />

life following the program. Since<br />

the program’s launch in 2020, five<br />

of the nearly 90 participants have<br />

started a process of discerning<br />

priesthood or religious life.<br />

Likewise, other participants<br />

remain active in different<br />

Cindy Rodríguez and ministries in the Church.<br />

her fellow postulants More than 30 dioceses from<br />

are forming spiritually at coast to coast have had<br />

the motherhouse of the young people participate in<br />

Missionary Servants of the<br />

the program to date. Participants<br />

remain in touch and<br />

Divine Spirit in Colombia.<br />

gather together even after<br />

the program concludes to create a<br />

supportive network.<br />

Cindy Rodríguez takes a<br />

theology course at Mexican<br />

American Catholic College<br />

through Catholic <strong>Extension</strong>’s<br />

Encuentro y Misión program.<br />

Young adults from across<br />

the country reunite to<br />

reflect on the Encuentro<br />

y Misión program.<br />

Learning what it means to serve<br />

Rodríguez had attended a<br />

retreat in college that sparked a<br />

“closer relationship with God,”<br />

she said. Around that time the<br />

coordinator of Hispanic ministry<br />

in the Diocese of Beaumont<br />

invited her to Catholic <strong>Extension</strong>’s<br />

Encuentro y Misión program.<br />

After some initial hesitancy, she<br />

joined the program in the summer<br />

of 2021, which began with a theology<br />

course at the Mexican American<br />

Catholic College in San Antonio,<br />

Texas.<br />

“It was concrete material I<br />

could apply to my formation as a

38<br />

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Feature Story<br />

<strong>Extension</strong> | <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 39<br />

leader in my parish,” she said. The<br />

coursework equipped her with<br />

skills to connect youth to their<br />

faith back at her home parish,<br />

Cristo Rey Church in Beaumont.<br />

Following her course in theology,<br />

Rodríguez attended a<br />

hands-on immersion experience<br />

that Catholic <strong>Extension</strong> organized,<br />

which opened her eyes to life as<br />

a religious sister for the first time.<br />

She went to the Diocese of Kalamazoo,<br />

Michigan, and witnessed the<br />

work of missionary sisters serving<br />

migrant farmworkers and their<br />

families through Catholic <strong>Extension</strong>’s<br />

U.S.-Latin American Sisters<br />

Exchange Program. Rodríguez<br />

was immediately impressed by<br />

the way the sisters interacted with<br />

the families. They laughed, danced<br />

and sang songs. They labored in<br />

the fields alongside the workers.<br />

Sister María Eugenia Gómez<br />

of the Missionary Servants of the<br />

Divine Spirit is one of the sisters<br />

that Rodríguez met.<br />

“What intrigued me the most<br />

was that she was a charismatic<br />

nun,” Rodríguez said. “I was kind<br />

of thrown aback. Initially there<br />

was no intention of me looking<br />

into the congregation.”<br />

The Missionary Servants of<br />

the Divine Spirit was founded in<br />

Colombia but now serves in nine<br />

Poor faith communities<br />

Catholic <strong>Extension</strong>’s support for<br />

need your help.<br />

ongoing ministries in this Native<br />

American parish represents a<br />

true blessing for a community in a<br />

desperately poor area.<br />

Donate today.<br />

Scan code or<br />

text “<strong>Extension</strong>”<br />

to 50155 to make<br />

a gift<br />

catholicextension.org/give<br />

Cindy Rodríguez sings<br />

with the children of<br />

migrant farmworkers as<br />

part of the Encuentro<br />

y Misión program<br />

immersion experience.<br />

countries—including the United<br />

States. The congregation’s charism<br />

is to serve the poor who live on the<br />

margins, using joy as its primary<br />

tool to bring people closer to the<br />

Church.<br />

That summer, Rodríguez could<br />

feel the joy that Sister María Eugenia<br />

brought to the workers as they<br />

picked blueberries and other seasonal<br />

crops. Rodríguez saw how<br />

the sisters lovingly interacted with<br />

the children of the farmworkers<br />

living in rustic camps by offering<br />

outdoor games, arts and crafts, and<br />

catechesis. The sisters’ methods of<br />

evangelization intrigued her.<br />

“It wasn’t only preaching to<br />

[the families] and telling them the<br />

story. It was them living the story,”<br />

she said.<br />

Rodríguez headed back home<br />

to Texas with her horizons broadened<br />

and her heart full. She spoke<br />

with Sister María Eugenia roughly<br />

every month while completing<br />

her final year at Lamar University,<br />

still discerning her future. She had<br />

planned on pursuing a master’s<br />

degree after graduation. Something<br />

didn’t feel right though. She<br />

couldn’t see herself living a regular<br />

life and career anymore.<br />

Taking the leap into religious life<br />

That summer after graduation,<br />

Sister María Eugenia invited<br />

Rodríguez to experience life at<br />

the motherhouse near the city of<br />

La Ceja in northwest Colombia.<br />

Meeting the sisters and community<br />

helped Rodríguez in her discernment,<br />

but she still went back<br />

home undecided. After reflecting<br />

on the relationships in her life<br />

and the eye-opening experience<br />

through Catholic <strong>Extension</strong>’s program,<br />

she moved to Colombia and<br />

entered the Missionary Servants of<br />

the Divine Spirit as a postulant.<br />

“It was just like a leap of faith,”<br />

she said. “It has all been a plan of<br />

God.”<br />

She is learning from the other<br />

Sister María Eugenia<br />

Gómez, MSDE, harvests<br />

crops alongside migrant<br />

farmworkers as part<br />

of her ministry in the<br />

Diocese of Kalamazoo,<br />

Michigan.<br />

postulants in the motherhouse<br />

who all come from different walks<br />

of life and countries, including<br />

Ecuador and Chile.<br />

“Apart from growing spiritually,<br />

it’s also another country. So, it’s<br />

trying to learn the culture, trying<br />

to live among people who don’t<br />

know the same customs as I do,”<br />

she said.<br />

The young postulants grow in<br />

faith, complete chores and play<br />

sports together.<br />

Rodríguez knows that discernment<br />

is a long road. “My goal is to<br />

continue this process of interior<br />

healing and spiritual liberation and<br />

to grow in relationship with the<br />

Lord, as one would grow in relationship<br />

with a friend,” she said.<br />

Reflecting on Catholic<br />

<strong>Extension</strong>’s program that changed<br />

the course of her life, Rodríguez<br />

said, “Sometimes we don’t know<br />

that we need something until<br />

we’re actually receiving the<br />

medicine for it.”

40<br />

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Lumen Christi Nominees<br />

<strong>Extension</strong> | <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 41<br />

Celebrating our<br />

Lumen Christi Award nominees<br />









<strong>2023</strong> u 2024<br />

Lumen<br />

Christi<br />

AWARD<br />

Catholic <strong>Extension</strong>’s seven Lumen Christi Award finalists<br />

were selected from an inspiring group of 41 nominees<br />

who each uniquely radiate and reveal the light of Christ<br />

present in the communities where they serve.<br />

Here we highlight the accomplishments and good works of<br />

the other 34 nominees whose diverse ministries are leading<br />

people closer to God and transforming communities across the<br />

country.<br />

Their passion, sacrifice and unshakable faith showcase the<br />

enormous impact of the Catholic Church across the country.<br />

At 80 years old, Father<br />

Skalsky remains active in<br />

ministry and finds ways to help<br />

people every day. In 2020 he<br />

established a community<br />

program to lift people out<br />

of poverty.<br />

Msgr. Bakh founded St. John<br />

Maron Parish 33 years ago,<br />

building it from the ground<br />

up to the vibrant community<br />

it is today. He always pays<br />

special attention to those<br />

who have “fallen through<br />

the cracks.”<br />

When a young priest tragically<br />

passed away, Father Minasian<br />

said “yes” to his bishop’s<br />

request to become a priest<br />

in the Armenian Catholic<br />

community, which has just<br />

nine parishes across the<br />

country.<br />

For 30 years these two religious<br />

brothers of the Holy Spirit<br />

have helped bring those<br />

who are suffering closer to<br />

God. They visit the sick and<br />

dying, listen and pray with and<br />

on behalf of others.<br />















Despite his busy schedule as<br />

a lawyer, Helfrich commits<br />

himself fully to helping his<br />

community. He serves on<br />

parish committees, volunteers<br />

at the food pantry, organizes<br />

bilingual Masses, and plays<br />

music at church gatherings.<br />

For 20 years, Green has served<br />

as the director of a Catholic<br />

ministry for the elderly,<br />

homeless and disabled.<br />

Leading 125 volunteers,<br />

she provides hundreds of<br />

thousands of meals, as well as<br />

clothing and other assistance.<br />

As executive director of the<br />

St. Vincent de Paul Society,<br />

Hogrebe is a beacon of hope<br />

to the poor and hungry in East<br />

St. Louis. She offers life-saving<br />

services and helps those<br />

seeking her aid get back on<br />

their feet.<br />

After retirement, Ayoob gave<br />

herself fully to her Pennsylvania<br />

faith community. She manages<br />

bookkeeping and countless<br />

parish activities. She was an<br />

anchor when the parish<br />

moved to a new church and<br />

welcomed a new pastor.<br />

As director for the diocese’s<br />

Office of Faith and Family<br />

Formation, Colwell has<br />

engaged a growing number<br />

of faithful across all age<br />

groups and ethnicities, including<br />

remote Native Alaskan<br />

villages.<br />

A retired Air Force veteran,<br />

Deacon Seitz developed a<br />

ministry for men to form<br />

them in faith and service<br />

to their families, parishes<br />

and community. Over the<br />

past three years, 36 men have<br />

completed the program.<br />

A lay leader of Navajo and<br />

Mexican decent, Tsosie is inspiring<br />

confidence and faith<br />

among young Native American<br />

Catholics. She helps<br />

them understand that their<br />

voice, talents and experiences<br />

are valuable in the Church.<br />

















For two decades Sister Marivel<br />

has provided counseling,<br />

religious education, assistance<br />

and hope for Hispanic<br />

immigrants striving for a better<br />

life. She ministers late into<br />

the night and even opens<br />

her home to those in need.<br />

Pettyjohn founded Salt & Light<br />

Radio to help Catholics feel<br />

connected, informed and<br />

passionate about their faith.<br />

His work reaches 140,000<br />

people, especially the<br />

growing Hispanic population,<br />

rural communities and even<br />

prisoners.<br />

Sister Pat’s decades of religious<br />

education work has strengthened<br />

Catholic schools and<br />

formation programs. She<br />

oversaw a high school and 10<br />

elementary schools, including<br />

the <strong>Extension</strong>-supported<br />

St. Mary’s Mission for the Ojibwe<br />

people.<br />

For over 40 years, Father<br />

Juárez has advocated for<br />

social justice and served<br />

the poor. As the first Spanish-speaking<br />

priest in the<br />

diocese, he has been a<br />

bridge between Hispanic<br />

and Anglo communities.<br />

For 30 years Curry has<br />

clothed, fed and aided people<br />

through the Sacred Heart/St.<br />

Joseph St. Vincent de Paul<br />

Society. As president, she<br />

touches the lives of over<br />

12,500 residents annually.<br />

Sister Mary Lisa is the medical<br />

doctor behind the wheel of<br />

a mobile health clinic that<br />

travels to impoverished communities<br />

in Appalachia. Her<br />

team of health care professionals<br />

and volunteers will<br />

serve over 1,500 patients<br />

this year.<br />

Sister Joyce established a<br />

home to house the large<br />

number of volunteers who<br />

help La Frontera, a migrant<br />

shelter in this border city. The<br />

lodging enabled the shelter<br />

to serve 40,000 asylum<br />

seekers last year.<br />

Franciscan Fr. Jankowski<br />

recently celebrated 70 years<br />

of religious life. He is beloved<br />

as pastor of Our Lady of<br />

Guadalupe Parish in the<br />

Tortugas Pueblo. He raises<br />

about 30 chickens and gives<br />

their eggs to his parishioners.

42<br />

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Lumen Christi Nominees<br />

<strong>Extension</strong> | <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 43<br />











From the Lumen Christi Award judges<br />

Within 18 months, two<br />

devastating floods hit eastern<br />

Kentucky. As a newly arrived<br />

parish life director, Thorstad<br />

coordinated relief efforts to<br />

distribute 12,000 pounds<br />

of food to 750 families and<br />

provide emergency shelter.<br />

Awakim welcomes the stranger<br />

by providing legal assistance<br />

at a Catholic immigration<br />

center. For over 20 years, her<br />

knowledge and heart have<br />

offered a safe landing for<br />

immigrants seeking their<br />

new home in Arkansas.<br />

Sister Peggy sparks a deep<br />

love and understanding of God<br />

among people of all ages<br />

across 61 parishes in the<br />

diocese. She spearheaded<br />

a successful diocesan-wide<br />

family faith formation program<br />

in the wake of the pandemic.<br />

Johnson coordinates 50 volunteers,<br />

inventory, communications<br />

and more at St. Mary’s<br />

Soup Kitchen. Last year he<br />

helped the organization<br />

provide 93,600 meals and<br />

18,000 clothing items to<br />

those in need.<br />

Puchner is a mentor and<br />

guardian for at-risk Ojibwe<br />

children. A respected<br />

presence in the community,<br />

she helps them graduate high<br />

school, ensures healthy home<br />

environments and helps them<br />

know that they are loved.<br />

ACH YEAR, Catholic <strong>Extension</strong> invites our Two by Two donors to<br />

E<br />

serve as Lumen Christi Award judges and provide feedback on<br />

who they think is deserving of the award. This year, over 200<br />

people accepted the invitation to participate. Below is a small<br />

selection of responses from the judges praising this year’s nominees.<br />

See page 32 to see how you can become a judge.<br />


Like St. Paul and Mary Magdalene, Martin had a complete conversion and<br />

decided to serve the Lord and His people. He was not asked or called upon,<br />

but decided to turn his life around 180 degrees and help those who were less<br />

fortunate, even though he himself was one of the less fortunate.<br />

He is carrying out some of the corporal works of mercy to feed the hungry and<br />

clothe the naked. —John Holecek<br />












We sometimes forget the people who make possible the hands, feet and<br />

desire of volunteers. Sister Joyce invested her talents to assure the most was<br />

achieved with those who cared enough to volunteer.<br />

She is an unsung hero, altering her life because of great need.<br />

—Carolyn Murphy<br />

Eilers leads the diocese’s<br />

home repair ministry for elderly<br />

and disabled homeowners.<br />

He builds wheelchair ramps,<br />

fixes roofs, paints and more<br />

for these grateful residents. In<br />

2022 he supervised over 50<br />

repair projects.<br />

Gillis advocates for the<br />

miracle of new life and<br />

well-being of families at a<br />

pregnancy services center.<br />

Her strong faith and gentle<br />

demeanor have allowed the<br />

center to expand its services.<br />

As director of the <strong>Extension</strong>-supported<br />

Sioux Spiritual<br />

Center, Dr. Brown provides<br />

a sacred space for Lakota<br />

faithful, who comprise about<br />

27% of the diocese’s Catholic<br />

population, to celebrate their<br />

faith and Native culture.<br />

Choi unites Korean young<br />

adults in prayer and catechesis<br />

to involve them<br />

in the parish community.<br />

She is serving as a voice for<br />

her community during the<br />

Church’s synodal process.<br />

At 19 years old, Miles invites<br />

people to the Catholic<br />

Church simply by openly<br />

talking about his faith. He<br />

draws this strength from his<br />

home parish, St. Theresa,<br />

where he has led youth ministry<br />

programs.<br />


What is truly inspirational about Kirsten’s story is how quickly and completely<br />

she adopted her mission as parish life director. In response to record-breaking<br />

flooding, Kirsten stepped up to help obtain the basic necessities of<br />

clothing, housing and furniture for those whose homes were destroyed.<br />

Kirsten’s accomplishments personify the mission of Catholic <strong>Extension</strong>. She<br />

has worked with people in the poorest regions of Kentucky not only to build but<br />

also to re-build Catholic communities.<br />

Kirsten appears to be a person who does not just talks the talk but also walks<br />

the walk. That is to say, she is a person who gets the job done under any situation.<br />

—William Sabo<br />












Mr. Eilers displays a profound commitment to using his skills and talents to<br />

benefit others. A person’s home is so very important to his or her quality of life,<br />

and an inability to do needed repairs oneself is demoralizing. Mr. Eilers lifts<br />

that burden from the people he serves and restores their homes to comfortable,<br />

welcoming living spaces.<br />

For me, the story of the young man needing a ramp for his wheelchair exemplified<br />

the life-changing impact of the service Mr. Eilers provides. —Jacky Walther<br />

Father Werth overcame a<br />

troubled past and now shows<br />

prison inmates God’s love<br />

and forgiveness. He administers<br />

the sacraments and<br />

personally counsels detainees.<br />

He has baptized 56<br />

prisoners and confirmed 71.<br />

For 45 years Woodbury has<br />

used his musical talents to<br />

bring his community closer to<br />

God. He teaches liturgical<br />

music classes, directs worship<br />

music at Mass and has<br />

established several choirs.<br />

Fasola started the Miracle<br />

of Life Support Group in<br />

2001 in a church basement<br />

to care for new mothers in<br />

need. Many are released from<br />

the hospital with nothing. She<br />

provides diapers, clothing and<br />

more for hundreds every year.<br />

Sister Wanda accompanies<br />

deacon candidates and<br />

their wives through the sixyear<br />

process of diaconate<br />

formation. She is a beloved<br />

guiding light for these future<br />

church leaders.<br />

A child of agricultural laborers,<br />

17-year-old Torres rolled up<br />

her sleeves to raise $20,000<br />

towards a new church<br />

building for her parish, Our<br />

Lady of the Assumption. It<br />

will accommodate the growing<br />

faith community.<br />


Dr. Carole Brown welcomes the Lakota Sioux with open hearts and arms to a<br />

Church to which they bring many gifts. The need to create the space between<br />

heaven and earth is timely, insightful, and prophetic.<br />

Her focus on bringing the Native American Lakota Sioux peoples and<br />

the Catholic Church together, literally, is perhaps a foreshadowing of the many<br />

other places and peoples who yearn to be part of the People of God.<br />

—Carol Zinn, SSJ

150 South Wacker Drive, Suite 2000<br />

Chicago, IL 60606<br />

Support poor Catholic<br />

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A religious sister helps students in Monitor, WA.<br />


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