CHICAGO, Sept. 10, 2013 /PRNewswire-HISPANIC PR WIRE/ — Catholic Extension, a national organization devoted to supporting poor Catholic communities, has given its highest annual award to a lay couple who, for more than 20 years, have trained, mentored and inspired thousands of Latino youth and migrant workers in the Stockton, Calif. area, deeply affected by both urban and migrant poverty.
(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130821/MM67692-a )
(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130821/MM67692-b )
“Jose and Digna Lopez personify the very essence of our mission,” said Father Jack Wall, Catholic Extension’s president. “Grounded in a deep faith which has shaped their lives and ministry, Jose and Digna have journeyed from their immigrant roots inspiring hope and effecting real change in their community, among Youth and Hispanic Ministries, and throughout their diocese.”
The Lumen Christi Award, now in its 36th year, is presented annually to one or more priests, religious or lay persons who have demonstrated how the power of faith can transform lives and communities. The award includes a $50,000 grant.
“Individually and together, Jose and Digna have been the light of Christ directly to our Latino people, including migrants, youth, young adults, parish priests and parish volunteer-ministry teams,” said the Most Reverend Stephen E. Blaire, bishop of Stockton, who nominated the couple. “We are proud of their work and humbled by their generosity. They are most worthy of receiving the Lumen Christi Award.”
The Lumen Christi Award and grant will allow Jose and Digna Lopez to further their ministry in a community where young adults are challenged every day by gang activity, drugs, violence and insecurity. “Our goal is to multiply; we are dedicated to motivating new lay leaders so that we can bring a message of change,” explains Digna Lopez.
The couple’s ministry reaches many thousands each year. The annual Congresso Hispano for more than 1,000 youth and young adults and the annual, diocesan Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration that draws more than 10,000 of the faithful are vivid examples of their organizational and inspirational skills.
Many people whom Jose and Digna have helped over the years have stepped forward to testify to their good works and its results. Two are highlighted below.
After participating in Jose and Digna’s youth groups and learning through a transforming faith to set goals, Adriana Calderon overcame the insecurities she felt in being a minority and went to college to earn a Master’s degree. Adriana is now a social worker who gives back to her community by being a youth leader in the Stockton Diocese. She says, “What really motivated me to help others and to better myself was being close to the Church; knowing that with faith, everything is possible and you can overcome all obstacles.”
Joaquin Ocequera credits Jose with helping him navigate from troubled adolescent to respected member of the community and dedicated volunteer youth leader. “When I was a teenager, I got in a lot of trouble, was suspended from school. When I met Jose, he planted a seed, and he’s one of those people who stays on it until he makes a change. He saw something in me that I never saw.”
Catholic Extension will, beginning in the Fall, bring a panel of leaders, including Jose and Digna, to selected cities to offer an exchange of knowledge and create awareness of today’s essential youth issues.
About Catholic Extension
Catholic Extension uniquely contributes to the growth and vibrancy of the church in the U.S. by strategically investing in poor mission dioceses to unleash the power of faith that transforms hearts, lives and society. Based in Chicago, this national organization provides funding resources to dioceses and parishes to support programs and services investing in people, infrastructure and ministries. This support is given based on need, as well as passion and commitment to the growth of the Catholic faith. Since 1905, Catholic Extension has distributed more than $500 million to communities across America. For more information, visit http://www.catholicextension.org.
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SOURCE Catholic Extension