December 31, 2009 // Local

Father Tom O’Connor 2010 Light of Christ Award:

Encouraging the next generation of servants
FORT WAYNE — St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Fort Wayne, in cooperation with the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, is now accepting nominations for the 2010 Father Tom O’Connor Light of Christ Award.

This award is presented each year in March to an individual whose work reflects the strong values exemplified by Father O’Connor during his many years as a priest. This year the award committee invites nominations of persons of faith whose work among the disadvantaged encourage a just society and peaceful resolution of conflict. The award carries with it a gift of $1,000 given in the name of the recipient to his or her designated project, school, faith community or nonprofit organization. In the words of Bishop John M. D’Arcy, the Father Tom O’Connor Light of Christ Award has been designated to encourage “the next generation of Father Toms.”

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.

Father Tom believed that providing food to the hungry was a matter of both justice and charity. He was instrumental in the creation of the St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen that has operated since opening on Jan. 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. He was also part of the steering committee that created Vincent House/Vincent Village Transitional Housing.

Father O’Connor was actively involved in ecumenical and interfaith activities and was a strong advocate for peace both locally and in the wider community. He was also a strong advocate for civil rights.

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

Father Tom O’Connor Light of Christ Award nominations are open to persons of all faith traditions. Previous award winners are Cliff Kindy, 2007, for his work in nonviolence; Sister Janet Gildea, M.D., 2008, for her efforts among diverse cultures, and William Critell, 2009, for his dedication to education among the disadvantaged.

Nomination guidelines
Each year the Father Tom O’Connor Light of Christ Award committee seeks nominations of persons of faith, high-school age or older, whose activities serve as an example and encouragement to youth. One category is designated each year in which to receive nominations, and only one nominee in the designated category will be selected as the winner. The committee may defer selecting a winner in any given year. Application information is available from the St. Mary’s Church Office, (260) 424-8231, and is available online at and

For the 2010 award the committee is seeking nominations of persons whose work among the disadvantaged serves to encourage a just society and peaceful resolution to conflict locally, nationally or globally.

How to apply
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:
• Nominee’s name
• Contact information
• Age and school or occupation
• Faith affiliation
• Where the cash award is to be directed, should the nominee receive the award
• Name and contact information of the person submitting the nomination
• Names and contact information of three references
• A brief narrative no more than two pages in length explaining why the nominee should be considered for the award

4. E-mail submissions (Word document attachment) are preferred and should be sent to [email protected] with Father Tom Award in the subject line. E-mail nominations must be received no later than 4 p.m. on Jan. 22, 2010

5. Letters of nomination may be mailed to Father Tom O’Connor Award Committee, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, P.O. Box 11383, Fort Wayne, IN 46857-1383, and must be received no later than Jan. 22, 2010

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