Thanks to all: Hundreds receive service awards

Sunday, October 01, 2017 - Updated: 9:00 am

By JOHN FRANKO Staff Writer

In a special way, Bishop David Zubik said, those receiving the Manifesting the Kingdom Award are doing what St. Paul challenged the church to do at Philippi — “to magnify the Lord.”

“Proclaiming what it really means to be a Church Alive,” he said.

He conferred the awards during a Sept. 24 Mass at St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood. Representatives from each of the 188 parishes of the diocese were recognized. Also recognized were 16 representatives of religious communities and six who were nominated for diocesan-wide service.

In addition, several other honors were conferred. Msgr. Ronald Lengwin, vicar for church relations, was publicly bestowed the honorary title of “Monsignor.” It is in recognition of his exemplary and faithful service as a priest. Pope Francis issued the official decree June 22.

Bishop Zubik spoke of his honorable service to the Diocese of Pittsburgh, much of it in communications and ecumenical and interfaith efforts. “A man whose soft voice speaks the powerful message of God’s love,” he said of his brother priest.

The Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice papal honor was presented to Maureen Lally-Green, David Malone and Gretchen Roos. Established by Pope Leo XIII in 1888, it recognizes distinguished service to the church. It is the highest honor that can be awarded to the laity by the pope, and it is based on the recommendation of the diocesan bishop, with final approval by the Vatican.

“Thank you for all that each and all of you do for the Church of Pittsburgh,” Bishop Zubik said. “On behalf of the entire church, congratulations from the bottom of my heart.”

Esther Bush, president and CEO of the Urban League of Pittsburgh, received the Benemerenti Medal. It is given to “a well-deserving person” who has served the church, Catholic or non-Catholic.

Bishop Zubik pointed out that in a time when the nation is suffering from the great sins of racial hatred and ethnic intimidation, Bush has consistently established herself as a voice of reason, a coalition builder and a force for abundant change in Pittsburgh and throughout the United States. He recognized her efforts to “tear down those walls and join our hands to our hearts.”

“Thank you for what you do from your heart for our community,” he said.

The Church ALIVE Award, the highest recognition bestowed by the Diocese of Pittsburgh was presented to Joseph and Brenda Calihan. Established by Bishop Zubik in 2010, it recognizes exemplary commitment to every component of the Church ALIVE — Eucharist, catechesis, evangelization, formation and stewardship.

The bishop spoke of their strong dedication to Catholic education and recognized their efforts “to take seriously the challenge of Jesus to pass on the Good News.”

In his homily, the bishop said that we are “fence-sitters.” We’re often faced with making decisions — in the voting booth, buying a car, a new house and so many other choices. In the midst of them, we are often tempted to do something wrong, in the face of what is right.

He reflected on the spring and summer of 1967. He was accepted into three colleges and still had visions of being a lawyer, but he was “sitting on a fence” of whether to enter the priestly formation program at St. Paul Seminary. But Bishop Zubik noted the example of two seminarians he met at a summer activity that helped him to “jump off the fence and move in a direction where God called me to move.”

We all need to be like St. Paul, Bishop Zubik said. We must challenge the people we meet daily to get off the fence and land on the solid ground of Jesus Christ.

He reflected that “God is always present, but not always apparent,” in pointing out that faith communities have recognized the ability of the awardees to make Jesus present.

“Thank you for the way in which you inspire so many people,” he said.

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