Catholic Extension, a nonprofit organization that supports dioceses and parishes across the United States, awarded University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., with the 2018 Spirit of Francis Award on Tuesday night at a dinner in his honor at the Mandarin Oriental in Boston. Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, the Archbishop of Chicago and chancellor of Catholic Extension, presented the award.
The Spirit of Francis Award recognizes an individual or group for their commitment “to reach out to the margins of society” in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis, and Catholic Extension founder Rev. Francis Clement Kelly, a press release explained.
“I accept this award on behalf of Boston College and all the students, faculty, staff, administrators, and alumni who help BC live out its mission,” Leahy said. “It is truly a community effort.”
Leahy accepted the award in the presence of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, BC ’09, and Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley. Also in attendance were prominent figures in the BC community, such as Peter Markell, chair of the Board of Trustees and BC ’77; Joseph Hooley, vice chair of the Board of Trustees and BC ’79; John Fish, chair of the Board of Regents and a trustee; and Jack Connors, a longtime trustee and BC ’63.
“What I see in Father Leahy is an individual who is curious about others,” Cupich said. “He is willing to stretch himself, extend himself … That really is at the heart of what Catholic Extension is about. It is about the Church extending itself, stretching itself, being curious about those who are in need, not thinking that they’re going to impoverish us because they need our help and assistance.”
Leahy spoke about the partnership BC has with Catholic Extension, which began in 2012 and provides educational opportunities for participants in a number of its programs. Since 2012, religious sisters, young adults, and lay leaders from under-resourced mission dioceses have had the opportunity to study at BC’s School of Theology and Ministry, as well as the Woods College of Advancing Studies.
“The partnership has enabled Catholic Extension to offer scholarships to young adult leaders who serve in parish, diocesan and campus ministries throughout the United States to earn master degrees in theology and ministry,” the press release read.
The program also allows Hispanic lay leaders to attend summer programs and pursue graduate certificates in Hispanic ministry. With the benefit of the Woods College’s new Spanish-language program, sisters can receive educational opportunities often lacking in their own communities.
“This evening, we acknowledge in a very special way the partnership between Boston College and Catholic Extension, a partnership that has grown and matured and that has allowed women religious, young adults, [and] lay Catholics to come and develop their talents and use those talents for the good of others,” Leahy said.
The award has previously been given to other Catholic religious leaders, such as Rev. John Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame; Rev. Joseph P. Parkes, S.J., president of Cristo Rey New York High School; and Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick.
Leahy’s speech also cited the need for committed Catholics and organizations like Catholic Extension to carry out the message of Christianity and Catholicism.
“Each of us can carry out that mission of preaching and living the Gospel by the quality of our lives, and it’s how we show our faith in action, how we are people motivated by what has gone on in our lives … and the gifts that our shared, gifts given to us,” Leahy said. “We are to be signs of faith so that we can extend the message of Christ and the Church.”
Featured Image by Rich Kalonick / Catholic Extension