2013 Cheverus Medals awarded at cathedral

SOUTH END -- Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley said the work of the Church would grind to a halt if not for people like those who received the Cheverus Award, Nov. 24, at a vespers service for the Solemnity of Christ the King.

"Each year we gather at this time so that the Catholic community might express our gratitude for some 100 men and women who faithfully serve the Church from their parishes and schools, central administration, campus and prison ministries, promoting the Gospel of Life, taking Holy Communion to the shut-ins, in countless examples of corporal and spiritual works of mercy," Cardinal O'Malley said in his homily.

At the evening prayer service, 95 laypeople, deacons and religious received the Cheverus Award from Cardinal O'Malley -- alongside two recipients who were honored last year -- in recognition of their commitment to parish life, to the Church, and to serving God's people.

"Today we are here because so many make such loving sacrifices and give such generous service without any fanfare or recompense," he said.

Each year, the pastors of one third of the parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston are given the opportunity to nominate a layperson or married couple for the award. The archdiocese asks that the pastor nominate a parishioner who has served the parish well over an extended period of time and has done so in a quiet, unassuming and, perhaps, unrecognized fashion. In that way the award recognizes the unsung heroes of the archdiocese.

Additionally, each of the regional bishops chose a deacon and a religious from their region. Bishops honor the recipients based on the same kind of service provided by laypeople who receive the award. The Archdiocesan Central Ministries also nominate recipients for their service on archdiocesan committees or leadership of important ministries.

"Today we want to thank them and thank God for them," Cardinal O'Malley said.

First presented in 2008 at the celebration to mark the conclusion of the archdiocese's bicentennial year, the medal is named for the first bishop of the archdiocese, Jean-Louis Lefebvre de Cheverus, who led the diocese from 1808 until his return to France in 1824. Bishop Cheverus died in 1836 as the Archbishop of Bordeaux. The oval-shaped medal made of sterling silver bears a likeness of Bishop Cheverus based on the Gilbert Stuart portrait, with Bishop Cheverus' coat of arms on the reverse side.

After refusing to renounce his fealty to the papacy at the time of the French Revolution, Bishop Cheverus escaped to England before coming to the United States.

"It wasn't easy to be a Catholic in those days," Cardinal O'Malley said.

Bishop Cheverus traveled all over New England in rough country, built theological bridges between the minority Catholic and majority protestant populations of Boston, ministered to Native American tribes throughout the region, and earned a reputation for hard work.

Cardinal O'Malley said the people who received the award stood ready to take up the kind of heavy lifting in the work of the Church, which the first bishop of Boston did not shy away from.

"These awardees are carrying the piano. Now there are others who are content to carry the piano stool, or write the sheet music, but these are our heroes and heroines who say yes to God and to their Church," he said.