Light of Christ awards highlight stewardship in action in local parishes
FORT WORTH — For a brief morning, parishioners who usually serve behind the scenes were cast into the spotlight.
The Advancement Foundation for the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth hosted the second annual Light of Christ Awards on June 24 at Holy Family Parish in Fort Worth.
Pastors of each parish were invited to nominate an individual or couple who exemplifies the four pillars of Christian stewardship: prayer, hospitality, formation, and service. At the ceremony, 47 individuals or couples were presented with certificates in appreciation of their service to their parish.
Clint Weber, president of the Advancement Foundation, thanked the Light of Christ award winners, who “exemplify the light of Christ through your lives of Christian stewardship and leadership and live out your baptismal call in an extraordinary way, using your God-given gifts, and deepen the life of the Church through your service in the parish, through your discipleship, embracing stewardship as a way of life.”
Several priests attended the reception, including Father Albert Kanjirathumkal, HGN, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Henrietta, St. Jerome Parish in Bowie, St. Joseph Parish in Nocona, and St. William Parish in Montague.
Fr. Kanjirathumkal acknowledged that the hard work of parishioners often goes unnoticed by busy pastors, but “we do not miss everything.” He appreciated having a special opportunity to pause and recognize the laity’s contributions.
He nominated Nora Flores, who has served as a reader, religious education teacher, church decorator, and more in her 26 years at St. Joseph Parish. She said she doesn’t wait to be asked to help. “I just step in and do it,” she said, adding that she gets satisfaction from “serving in the house of God.”
Father Joseph Keating, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, traveled south from Muenster to the Light of Christ Awards with Brad and Mary Endres and their three-month-old son Kolbe, who was the youngest in the room.
Mary Endres explained that as a young couple, their family’s financial resources are limited, but at this stage they can share their time and talents with the parish, which dates to 1889. Mary leads a support and spiritual growth group for young mothers, and Brad started a young men’s Bible study and heads the parish’s capital campaign.
She said, “For the parish, obviously the financial support is very important — you don’t have a parish without it — but you also don’t have it without the people. So at least at this point in our lives, that’s where we’re called to serve. We try to do our part in the community.”
The award recipients deflected any special honor, instead stating that fellow parishioners contribute just as significantly to the church.
On behalf of the diocese, Very Rev. Jonathan Wallis, vicar general, expressed gratitude and acknowledged the essential nature of stewardship to the life and mission of the Church.
He said, “There’s no magic bag of resources … that we dip into. It really is an effort of us all together. We are all members of the Church. We all serve the Church.
“All things come from God,” he continued. “All things return to Him. Our lives. Our resources.”
“Each of you in your own way have given generously to the mission of the Church, the Church which Christ established on the rock of St. Peter. It’s important for us to have these gatherings so that we can see that our life of faith is very particular, but also universal. That we labor not only in our own parishes, our own diocese, but throughout the world.”
It was fitting, the vicar general added, that the event was held on the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. In John 3:30, the saint states that “He must increase; I must decrease,” a verse that encapsulates the heart of stewardship.