Cheverus Award honors ‘those who have witnessed to Christ the King’

BOSTON -- The Feast of Christ the King was the occasion for the archdiocese to thank some of those who quietly and humbly build Christ’s kingdom in this world.

The Archdiocese of Boston recognized the humble service of 133 faithful Catholics by presenting them with its annual Cheverus Award at a Nov. 22 evening prayer service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

The cathedral was filled nearly to capacity with family, friends and fellow parishioners on hand to witness the presentation of the awards.

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley presented the awards, which consist of a medallion bearing the likeness of Boston’s first bishop, Jean-Louis Lefebvre de Cheverus. Recipients included lay men and women, priests, deacons, and religious from throughout the archdiocese.

“Today, we are here honoring those among our midst, in a special way, those who have witnessed to Christ the King and have worked in their own quiet way to make the Kingdom more visible and build a civilization of love in our midst,” Cardinal O’Malley said in his homily that afternoon. “Their truth and generosity have been an inspiration to fellow Christians and all those who have been asked to witness to service. Their lives have been an inspiration and an invitation to others to follow the Lord in a way of discipleship.”

Cardinal O’Malley began the tradition last year, when he presented medallions to 67 Cheverus Award recipients at the closing Mass of the archdiocese’s bicentennial year.

Recipients spoke of the importance of humility in Christian service, and cited the example of Jesus.

“Jesus was the one who served,” said Sister Eileen Theresa Burns, SND, the executive director of the Notre Dame Education Center in Lawrence, which provides adult education for immigrants. “We have all the magnificent trappings of the cathedral, and we have a humble servant who asked us to serve as well, who gave us the spirit to do that.”

Christopher Kierce agreed, describing himself as “unassuming” and noting that humility is a component of his service to the Church.

Kierce has contributed to his parish, St. Anthony in Cohasset, in a wide variety of ways over the last 12 years, including as a lector, extraordinary minister of Communion, and chairman or vice-chairman of many parish committees. Currently, he leads a prayer service at a local nursing home on Sunday mornings.

“It’s all part of my own personal makeup -- to be working with other people and show them that you care, and the caring process as well, to get on the same level that they may be at,” Kierce said. “I think that’s very important today -- to be on a level that you’re dealing with people so they understand where you’re coming from. The good Lord always did that. He always managed to somehow be at the same level of the people.”

Kierce said that he and his wife have been able to identify with people. As a father of eight, he understands the emotional and financial stresses that large families may experience.

Laura Hogan, a parishioner at St. Patrick Parish in Stoneham, was also touched by Cardinal O’Malley’s remarks about humility, noting that she does not want anyone to think she is seeking glory.

“I am actually breathless because I never expected that anything I did was that great,” Hogan said. “I have a tremendous faith in God. I have done everything because I know that that’s what I should do. I was breathless when I heard that I got it.”

Hogan has been an active volunteer at her parish, especially when the parish was undergoing a capital campaign a few years ago to raise funds to construct an addition to the church.

She joined the committee at the request of the pastor, Father William Schmidt.

“I knew nobody else liked to do the telephoning, so I did it,” Hogan said. “Thank God it worked out well.”

She and her colleagues raised $1 million to enlarge the church, despite the challenges of fundraising in the wake of the sexual abuse crisis.

For Louis Thibault, whose wife Jesse was also honored with an award Nov. 22, his inspiration comes from those in his faith community.

“We pray and we share with other people in prayer group,” Thibault said. “We’re very involved with our community. That’s where we get the support. They are all heroes to us in some quiet way.”

The Thibaults are parishioners at St. Mary of the Annunciation Parish in Danvers. They have also been involved in marriage preparation. Jesse assists the parish in the anointing of the sick.

“I think the cardinal said it very well when he said it’s the spirit of thanksgiving and here we are thanking the countless untold heroes and heroines of the diocese,” said Sister Burns. “I think that example of the archdiocese saying thank you to so many who served so well -- that’s the powerful message of today.”