Cardinal honors service to the church at Cheverus Award ceremony

BOSTON -- Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley presented 150 Cheverus Award Medals to laity, deacons, and religious for service to the church in Boston during a prayer service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Nov. 26, the feast of Christ the King.

The Cheverus Award, which was established in 2008 by Cardinal O'Malley as part of the archdiocese's bicentennial celebrations, honors local Catholics for service to the church, many of whom have done so for many years, often without public recognition. It is named for the first Bishop of Boston, Bishop Jean-Louis Lefebvre de Cheverus, and the silver medal given to recipients bears Bishop Cheverus' image and coat of arms.Each year, one-third of the parishes in the archdiocese are asked to nominate a parishioner to receive the award. The regional bishops and episcopal vicars are asked to nominate a religious brother or sister and a deacon, while the Central Ministries of the archdiocese may nominate people who serve on archdiocesan committees or lead key ministries. The cardinal can also select additional recipients.

In his homily, Cardinal O'Malley said that he created the Cheverus Awards 15 years ago "to honor so many unsung heroes and heroines whose work and generous service keep the parishes and institutions of the archdiocese running."

This year's Cheverus Award recipients included those who dedicated their lives to music ministry, hospitality, preparing sacraments, helping the homeless, serving as nurses, ministering in prisons, organizing food and clothing drives, serving on parish councils, and working with apostolates for different ethnic groups.

In his homily, the cardinal said that all recipients "have given years of loving service in the church, and helped to make the church more of a family, where everyone is welcomed, forgiven, cared for, and celebrated."

The cardinal also noted that he chose to honor several long-time employees of the archdiocese at this year's ceremony.

"During times of crisis and scandal," Cardinal O'Malley said, "I'm sure it's not easy to say 'I work for the Archdiocese of Boston.' But these workers, and so many others, have faithfully supported their church and stood with us during the most difficult times. Without them, I don't know what we would have done."

During the ceremony, a portrait of Bishop Cheverus, painted by Gilbert Stuart, stood on the altar. According to Cardinal O'Malley, Bishop Cheverus's "priestly holiness and pastoral service" made him beloved, even among Boston's Protestant establishment. He was so popular that when he was called back to his native France, his parishioners signed a petition in hopes that he would stay in Boston.

The awards are typically held around the feast of Christ the King, and Cardinal O'Malley used the date as a reminder of how the award recipients are following Jesus's teachings.

"Our faith allows us to discover the presence of Jesus Christ in the poor and suffering who are our brothers and sisters," he said.

Cardinal O'Malley finished his remarks by telling the award recipients that their lives "are an invitation to live the gospel imperative expressed in Bishop Cheverus's motto: 'Diligamus nos invicem.' 'Let us love one another.'"