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Boston College and Catholic Extension Showcase Catholics Responding to Pope Francis' Call

“the transformative power of faith": march 31, 2014

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (February 2014) — On Monday, March 31, the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry (STM) will host “The Transformative Power of Faith: Responding to Pope Francis’ Call,” an event that will spotlight Catholics today in the U.S. who are models of Pope Francis’ desire for Catholics to be advocates for the poor and agents of change. The event will feature a panel discussion of Catholics who have been honored nationally by Catholic Extension for their ministry. It will take place at 5:30 p.m. in Robsham Theater on BC’s main campus in Chestnut Hill. The moderator will be STM Dean Mark Massa, S.J.

The panelists will share compelling stories about the work they do to transform the lives of people in some of America’s poorest communities. For example, a Felician Sister will describe the unexpected ecumenical movement her order jump-started since their move to the poorest county in South Carolina; a couple from California will reveal how they are keeping the Church present for young people as an alternative to drugs and violence; and a priest serving on a Native American reservation will discuss his life-changing efforts to promote sobriety and build community while maintaining the Lakota traditions for the people he serves.

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Boston College School of Theology and Ministry Dean Mark Massa, S.J.

The event is co-sponsored by the STM and Catholic Extension, a national nonprofit that uniquely contributes to the growth and vibrancy of the Church in the U.S. by strategically investing in poor mission dioceses (Catholic dioceses that cannot financially sustain themselves). Since 1905, Catholic Extension has provided funding to dioceses and parishes to support programs and services that invest in people, infrastructure and ministries. The “Transformative Power of Faith” panelists are past recipients or finalists for Catholic Extension’s Lumen Christi Award, which recognizes those in mission dioceses who have devoted their lives to serving the poor and to fostering Catholic communities that build faith, inspire hope and ignite change.

“St. Francis of Assisi told his earliest followers to 'preach always. If necessary, use words.' What makes the Dean's Colloquium this year so exciting is that we will have an opportunity to encounter some extraordinary individuals who have, in fact, followed St. Francis' advice: the message of their lives will be matched by powerful words from those who know them," said Fr. Massa, S.J., who is hosting the event as his annual Dean’s Colloquium on Religion and Public Culture. The STM and Catholic Extension have partnered in several educational initiatives. Four adults in Catholic Extension’s Young Adult Leadership Program are pursuing masters in pastoral ministry degrees at the STM and four Hispanic Lay Leaders took classes last summer toward either a master’s degree or certificate program in Hispanic Ministry.

“It is a rare and wonderful opportunity to bring these unsung heroes to tell their stories to this colloquium,” said Catholic Extension President Rev. John J. Wall. “The challenges of their communities might seem insurmountable to some, but through the remarkable transformative power of faith, these panelists are changing lives, hearts and society. They are living examples of Pope Francis’ call to bring the light of Christ to those on the margins.”

Boston Archbishop Cardinal Sean O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap., who once served as a bishop of a mission diocese (St. Thomas, Virgin Islands) is a strong supporter of Catholic Extension and its mission, added Fr. Wall.

Panelists will be [see video of panelists]:

Sister Mary Susanne Dziedzic, CSSF, Felician Sister serving in Kingstree, South Carolina
The Felician Sisters arrived in Kingstree, a rural, impoverished town, more than 20 years ago. The sisters began their outreach with an after-school tutoring program for neighborhood children. Their ministry continued with a food pantry, clothing closet, hot meal program, cooking classes, home repair program, legal advocacy and medical services. Despite an environment of deeply ingrained mistrust and fear, the sisters brought churches together, and created an army of volunteers from 11 different denominations. Sister Dziedzic and fellow Felician Sisters Mary Jacqueline Benbenek, CSSF, and Mary Johnna Ciezboka, CSSF, received Catholic Extension’s 2012 Lumen Christi Award. 

José Lopez and his wife Digna R. López, Director of Migrant Ministry and Director of Hispanic Ministry, respectively, in the Diocese of Stockton, California
Both immigrants from Mexico, José and Digna Lopez serve a diocese that is home to migrant workers and a growing, youthful Latino population. They train and support more than 15,000 people annually.  They also are deeply involved in programs that give young people alternatives to lives of drugs and violence. In addition, they serve as visible advocates for these youth and for migrant workers, making sure their voices are heard. They received Catholic Extension’s Lumen Christi Award in 2013.

Reverend John Hatcher, S.J., President, St. Francis Mission, St. Francis, South Dakota
Rev. John Hatcher, S.J. has served as head of the St. Francis Mission, a Jesuit ministry among the 20,000 Lakota (Sioux) people on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, for 10 years. Father Hatcher has revitalized six parishes, urging people to more fully participate in parish life and bring the gift of their culture to the universal Church. Father Hatcher also launched two recovery centers that have helped more than 300 families maintain sobriety. He has instituted religious education programs that serve more than 400 children per week, and he has developed Lakota leaders who successfully manage the Mission’s programs: two recovery centers, four religious education centers, a suicide hot line, a dental clinic, a radio station and a museum. Father Hatcher was named a finalist for Catholic Extension’s Lumen Christi Award in 2012.

In addition to the Lumen Christi Award recipients and finalist, participants will hear from those mentored or inspired by their leadership. A reception will follow the event.

For more information on Catholic Extension, visit: www.catholicextension.org.