Three south Louisiana residents have been named finalists for the Lumen Christi Award from Catholic Extension.
The award is the organization's highest honor, and is reserved for those determined by the group to "radiate and reveal the light of Christ present in the communities they serve."
Each finalist is provided with $10,000 to support their ministries.
The winner of the award will get a $25,000 grant and their diocese will get another $25,000 grant. The winner will be announced next month.
Catholic Extension is a non-profit that focuses its efforts to build Catholic communities in the poorest areas of the U.S.
Here are the seven finalists:
- Francis Leblanc (Diocese of Lafayette, LA) – For decades, Francis Leblanc’s music ministry has enriched the lives of thousands. As music minister for a variety of parishes, his gifts are present at people’s brightest and darkest moments. He is a leading fixture at the diocese’s annual African American Youth Congress. This event, which is supported by Catholic Extension, invites young Black Catholics from across the state to celebrate and affirm their faith and culture and the gifts they bring to the Catholic Church. “His vocal talents provide an unforgettable and uplifting spiritual experience that transpires through all generations,” said Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel.
- Very Rev. Simon Peter Engurait and Karen David (Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, LA) – This dynamic duo has led spiritual and humanitarian relief efforts for thousands of vulnerable families impacted by Hurricane Ida’s devastation in 2021. In the hurricane’s aftermath, Engurait and David spent all their energy and efforts responding to the needs of the underserved, poor and most vulnerable. Their outreach focused on sharing hope and leading with faith. They truly exemplify how the Church always rises to the occasion, especially in times of difficulty.
- Gregory Crapo (Diocese of Biloxi, MS) – Gregory Crapo is the Director of De l’Epee Deaf Center in Biloxi. He and his staff promote independence and community appreciation for the deaf, hard of hearing, and disabled. Crapo oversees a wide array of social services including American Sign Language classes, a food pantry, transportation, and outreach during emergency/disaster situations. The De l’Epee Deaf Center’s outreach is at an all-time high. More and more hearing-impaired people are moving into the area for the Center’s services. Bishop Louis Kihnemann credits Crapo’s efforts with expanding the diocese’s ministry to– and appreciation of–people of all disabilities.
- Father Stuart Long (Diocese of Helena, Montana) – Father Stu’s impact in his short time as a priest is legendary. A former boxer who became a priest later in life, Father Stu was diagnosed with a debilitating terminal illness around the time of his ordination. That did not deter his energy and pastoral duties as he enthusiastically engaged all needing help—while in his wheelchair. Since his passing, numerous stories of his impact have come out—including marriages healed, wayward lives transformed and young people considering vocations. His amazing story is now being shared nationwide through the biographical film, “Father Stu.”
- Sister Mary Lisa Renfer, RSM, DO (Diocese of Knoxville, TN) – Sister Mary Lisa’s mobile clinic ministers to over 1,500 low-income patients a year. She has assembled a network of 100 health care professionals who lend their medical expertise to the clinic. She says, “Jesus comes to meet you in each person. Sometimes I can’t fix them, but I have to walk with them. And the more you walk with them, the more you know how to help.” Our Catholic faith comes alive when we stand in solidarity with those who suffer and Sister Mary Lisa shows us the way.
- Deacon Casey Walker (Diocese of Sacramento, CA) – Deacon Walker, after the social unrest following the high-profile shooting of Stephon Clark in 2018, accepted his bishop’s invitation to find a path for healing through dialogue in these divided times. Deacon Walker has led numerous listening meetings and training sessions, in parish schools and church leadership groups. As he says, “All I can do is go out and serve in the community and bring the hope, needs, and prayers of those I encounter back to the altar and ask for the graces of God…so I may be a useful instrument of the Lord.”
- Jean Fedigan (Diocese of Tucson, AZ) – Jean Fedigan founded the nonprofit Sister José Women’s Center in 2009 while still serving as Chief Nursing Officer at University of Arizona Healthcare Hospital. The center is dedicated to the care of homeless and trafficked women living on the streets of Tucson. More than just providing shelter, the center seeks to ensure that these women feel loved, respected, and assured of their human dignity. Her compassion is freely offered to all without judgment because she sees the face of Christ in all whom she meets. Many guests have simply told her, ‘You made me feel human today.’