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Encouraging the Next Generation of Servant Leaders


St. Mary’s Catholic Church-Fort Wayne, in cooperation with Bishop John M. D’Arcy and the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, is now accepting nominations for the 2009 Father Tom O’Connor Light of Christ Award in the category of Education. The Father Tom O’Connor Light of Christ award is presented annually to an individual whose work reflects the strong values exemplified by Father O’Connor in one of the following areas: Peace and Justice, Nonviolent Resolution of Conflict, Racial and Cultural Diversity, Education, Food for the Hungry, and Shelter for the Homeless. One category is designated each year for nominations. This award carries with it a gift of $1000 given in the name of the recipient to her or his designated project, school, faith community, or nonprofit organization. In the words of Bishop D’Arcy, the Father Tom O’Connor Light of Christ Award has been designed to encourage “the next generation of Father Toms.” Previous winners include Cliff Kindy (2007 Peace and Justice) and Sister Janet C. Gildea, M.D. (2008 Racial and Cultural Diversity.)
Father O’Connor, who died March 17, 2004, at the age of 74, served as pastor of St. Mary’s Parish for 34 years, and is considered by many to be an icon of Catholic faith in action. He was instrumental in the creation of the St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen, which has operated non-stop since opening on January 22, 1975, the Matthew 25 Health and Dental Clinics, St. Mary’s Thanksgiving Day dinner, and an annual Christmas box distribution that helps more than 500 families each year.

After the death of Virginia Schrantz, Father O’Connor insured the continuation of Miss Virginia’s Mission House under the St. Mary’s parish umbrella, and he was co-creator of the national award-winning East Side, West Side program for children and families from diverse racial, cultural, and economic backgrounds. Father Tom was a member of the original steering committee of Vincent House at the time of its creation by the Diocese, and also worked tirelessly to secure Catholic school scholarships for central city youngsters through the Bells of St. Mary’s campaign.

Father Tom was actively involved in ecumenical and interfaith activities and was a strong advocate for peace, both locally as well as in the wider community. He was an important resource for persons seeking discernment as they considered conscientious objector status.

Father O’Connor was honored during his lifetime with many accolades and awards, including the prestigious national Catholic Extension Society’s Lumen Christi Award, described by the Society’s president as the “Church’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize. ”

Father Tom’s efforts, extended through the work of St. Mary’s parish, was rooted in his Catholic faith, in the Scriptures, and in his priestly vocation. Because of this nominees for the Father Tom O’Connor Light of Christ Award must be committed to and active in their own faith traditions. 2009 FATHER TOM O’CONNOR LIGHT OF CHRIST AWARD


The Father Tom O’Connor Light of Christ Award committee is seeking nominations of persons of faith, high school age or older, whose activities serve as an example and encouragement to youth through Education. The committee may, should it so desire, defer selecting a winner in any given year. Application information is available online at www.diocesefwsb.org , as well as from the St. Mary’s Catholic Church office, 260.424.8231.

For the 2009 award, the committee is seeking nominations in the area of EDUCATION




1.Nominations are to be made by letter from someone who knows the nominee well.


2.Nominees must come from a strong faith background and be of good character.
Nominations are open to persons of all faiths.


3.The nomination must include the following information in the order listed:

a. Nominee’s name

b. Contact information

c. Age and school or occupation

d. Faith affiliation

e. Where the cash award is to be directed, should the nominee receive the award

f. Name and contact information of the person submitting the nomination

g. Names and contact information of three references

h. A brief narrative no more than two pages in length explaining how the nominee’s activities in the field of education reflects the ideals exemplified by Father O’Connor’s life and work and why the nominee should be considered for this award


4. Email submissions (Word document attachment) are preferred and should be sent to jan.stmarys@verizon.net. Email nominations must be received no later than 4:00 pm, January 16, 2009.


5. Letters of nomination for 2009 may be mailed to Father Tom O’Connor Award Committee, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, PO Box 11383, Fort Wayne, IN 46857-1383, and must be received no later than January 16, 2009.

The Waynedale News Staff

The Waynedale News Staff

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