April 6, 2016 // Local

Father Tom O’Connor Light of Christ Award presented to Megan Ryan

Megan Ryan, special education teacher at Bishop Luers High School, receives the Light of Christ Award in memory of Father Tom O’Connor.

FORT WAYNE — St. Mary Mother of God Parish and the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend announced that Megan Ryan, special education teacher at Bishop Luers High School, is the 2016 winner of the Father Tom O’Connor Light of Christ Award.

Father William Kummer, Vicar Forane and pastor of St. Joseph-Hessen Cassell, presented the 2016 Father Tom O’Connor Light of Christ Award to Megan Ryan in the absence of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades on Wednesday, March 30, during a ceremony and luncheon at St. Mary Mother of God Church.

This is the tenth and final year of this award, created by the parish at the suggestion of the late Bishop John M. D’Arcy in memory of Father Tom O’Connor. Father O’Connor, pastor of St. Mary’s from 1970 until his death on St. Patrick’s Day, 2004, was well-known in the community for his untiring work in justice and peace and for his advocacy on behalf of the disadvantaged. The Father Tom O’Connor award is designed to encourage, in Bishop D’Arcy’s words, “the next generation of Father Toms.”

Father Tom was instrumental in the creation of the St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen that has operated non-stop since opening on January 22, 1975, the Matthew 25 Health and Dental Clinics, St. Mary’s Thanksgiving Day dinner for the community and an annual Christmas box distribution that helps more than 1,000 families each year.

He was also part of the steering committee that created Vincent House/Vincent Village Transitional Housing. He helped to develop the East Side, West Side program that received a National Council of Churches 50th Anniversary Ecumenical and Interfaith Service Award, and he created the Bells of St. Mary’s, a multi-faceted charitable endeavor that helps to provide elementary and high school scholarships to young people in the heart of the city.

Father Tom was himself the recipient of many accolades and awards, including the prestigious Lumin Christi Award from the national Catholic Extension Society.

Megan Ryan Ryan was nominated by Luers Assistant Principal, Jim Huth, and was selected for her outstanding work in education both inside and outside the classroom walls. Her work with Sodalitas, a service mission effort at Bishop Luers, engages almost 600 young people in work that helps to instill in them a desire to serve the community and each other not just today, but also as they move into adulthood.

She has been actively involved in Teach on the Beach, Ghana, an alternative approach to education in Africa, and has helped to create an aviary at the Southwest Conservation Club in an attempt to foster honey bee colonies, which are declining worldwide. Her company, Southwest Honey, channels the money it raises through honey production into building more hives to support more bee colonies and to create educational programs for young people to help them understand the importance of these important pollinators.

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