Cardinal presents Cheverus Awards for service

SOUTH END -- Keeping in mind Thanksgiving and the spirit of thankfulness, Cardinal Seán O'Malley said how thankful he is for those men and women receiving Cheverus Awards Medals, Nov. 29.

"We gather here... to express our thanks to God for these brothers and sisters of the household of the faith who have given such generous and joyful service to our Church. We are also here to publicly thank them for all of their hard work and dedication, which keeps our Archdiocese running," the cardinal said in his homily.

The cardinal bestowed medals upon 127 laypersons, deacons, and religious during a 3 p.m. vespers service of the first Sunday of Advent, which was held at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

Inaugurated in 2008 at the close the archdiocese's bicentennial year, the annual award ceremony recognizes local Catholics for their dedicated service to the Church.

"So many wonderful works are being done by our awardees today," said the cardinal before listing a number of organizations and groups the awardees participate in.

Each year, one-third of the parishes of the Archdiocese of Boston are asked to nominate a parishioner for the award. A criterion given to pastors suggests that the nominee be a layperson who has served the parish over an extended period of time and has done so in a quiet, unassuming and, perhaps, unrecognized fashion. Award recipients also include deacons and religious nominated by regional bishops and episcopal vicars and individuals selected by Cardinal O'Malley personally.

During the service, awardees were called up one-by-one to receive their Cheverus Award Medal, and Cardinal O'Malley draped the medal's red ribbon around each person's neck.

The medal is named for the archdiocese's first bishop, 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 silver medal bears a likeness of Bishop Cheverus based on the Gilbert Stuart portrait. On the reverse side is Bishop Cheverus' coat of arms.

"On the medal is also the bishop's motto, the Latin words 'Diligamus nos invicem' -- 'Let us love one another.' That is the ideal upon which Christ wanted to build his Church," said Cardinal O'Malley.

The service ended with the cardinal sealing a holy door in the cathedral in preparation of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, which Pope Francis has decreed will begin on Dec. 8.

Following the event, a reception was held in the neighboring Cathedral High School gymnasium.

At the reception, award recipient Jim Spinale of St. Ann in Somerville said that while the getting the award is an honor, recipients "have to remain humble."

He noted that he has been on "parish council, finance council, school board -- I'm a lector, I've been the Eucharistic minister, so I've had a variety of ministries." Now, he is helping his parish move forward as a phase three collaborative, he said.

Another award recipient, Maryann Higgins of St. Luke in Belmont said she was "so surprised to receive the (award) letter."

"I'm a coordinator, hospitality, reader, cleaner, I'll do anything," said Higgins.

A woman with her jumped in, saying, "She's being modest, she does everything. She cleans everything, takes care of everything, sets up every Mass... she does everything."