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Honoring the best in us. I attended the 65th annual Christopher Awards ceremony last Thursday recognizing those who use the power of communication to uphold the Catholic organizations motto (and Chinese proverb) that “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness”

Father David T. Link, [right] a lawyer-turned-priest, is recipient of the James Keller Award.
Father David T. Link [right] receives  of the James Keller Award from Father  Jonathan Morris.

Father David T. Link, a lawyer-turned-priest was honored with the James Keller Award. The medal, is named after the Maryknoll priest who founded The Christophers in 1945, recognizes “individuals who put their faith into action and change the world for the better.” Previous winners include former New York Jet and patron of critically-ill children Marty Lyons and Special Olympics founder Eunice Shriver.

As a young lawyer, David T. Link reserved one day a week to counsel those who couldn’t afford to pay him, and served as co-founder of the Center for the Homeless in South Bend, Indiana. He began teaching at Notre Dame in 1970 and served as dean of its law school from 1975 to 1999. During those years, students carved out careers marked by pro bono work and civil rights activism with a view of the legal profession as something noble.

With his career winding down, Link’s wife, Barbara, suggested that he try volunteering in prison ministry. At the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, he found himself teaching “lifers” and marveled at their eagerness to learn. “They’re all children of God,” he said.

After Barbara died in 2003, Link stepped up his volunteer work at the prison as a sort of therapy. His bishop in the Diocese of Gary, Dale Melczek, asked him to consider entering the seminary so he could serve as the prison chaplain. Link took that suggestion and was ordained at age 71. His enthusiasm for his calling continues to this day. “I need to bring [these prisoners] hope, and knowledge of eternal life,” he said. “And I love that.” Father Link’s life and work were recently profiled in the book Camerado, I Give You My Hand by Maura Poston Zagrans.

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Tom Leopold winner of the 2014 Christopher Spirit Award

Comedy writer Tom Leopold (Cheers, Seinfeld) was present with The Christopher Spirit Award. The honors is given to individuals or projects that reflect the Christopher motto (and Chinese proverb) that “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

Tom Leopold experienced an intense period of darkness when his 12-year-old daughter began struggling with a life-threatening eating disorder. “It’s a whole lot easier to hold your heart together when it’s you who does the suffering,” he wrote on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ blog, “but when it’s your child and nobody can fix her…Well, it would take more than a comedy writer to say how it feels.”

Two years later, with progress still hard to come by, Leopold, who was born Jewish but wasn’t religious, prayed to God for help saying “I just can’t make it alone.” That simple prayer, voiced on Christmas day, set him on a spiritual journey that eventually led him to convert to Catholicism. Leopold, who currently co-hosts the weekly show Entertaining Truth on Sirius-XM’s Catholic Channel, has shared his journey of faith in the one-man show A Comedy Writer Finds God in which he  expresses gratitude for the kindness and compassion many people showed him during his struggles and search for God.

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On a personal note: In their acceptance speeches, both these guys demonstrated the sort of grace, gratitude and wisdom that inspires all of us to seek to appreciate the gifts and opportunities that we have been given and to try to do more with them. Even adults need role models and these guys certainly fit the bill.

The Christophers, a nonprofit organization, is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition of service to God and humanity which guides its publishing, radio, online and awards programs.  Presenters at Thursday’s event included Ernie Anastas of New York’s WNYW-TV/Fox 5, Chris Jansing of MSNBC and Father Jonathan Morris of SiriusXM’s Catholic Channel and Fox News.  Someone suggested that any event that can bring folks from Fox News and MSNBC together in common purpose is pretty special. I agree. Perhaps The Christophers should receive a Christopher Award — or, maybe, a Nobel Peace Prize.

More information about The Christophers is available at www.christophers.org. For info on this year’s other Christopher Award honorees click here.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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