Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

The good stuff. Country music legend Dolly Parton, movie icon legend Sylvester Stallone and popular comedian/sitcom star Jim Gaffigan are among those whose work is being honored at the 67th annual Christopher Awards, to be presented in New York City on May 19th, 2016. The awards, which were created in 1949, celebrate media that “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.”

Christophers’ Director of Communications Tony Rossi says, “The world around us can seem like a dark place in light of all the violence and hatred we hear about in the news. But the stories we honor with Christopher Awards remind us that we can shine a light that illuminates the darkness by choosing to practice faith, love, compassion, courage, teamwork, and determination.”

And the honorees are:

TV & Cable

ABC News 20/20: Escaping ISIS  (ABC)

The documentary follows 189 Iraqi Christians as they find safe haven from terrorists in a Catholic Church in Erbil, Iraq, before two Americans help them escape the country.

America ReFramed: If You Build It (World Channel/PBS)

Two architectural designers move to North Carolina’s poorest county and use creative educational techniques to teach high school students how to transform their lives and community.

Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors (NBC)

Parton’s classic song is brought to life in a story that addresses working through grief, bullying, and the riches beyond money that are found in a loving home. Asked to commenting on the Christopher honor, the legendary singer/songwriter/actress replied “I love the Christopher Award slogan, ‘Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.’ I personally believe that with all my heart. I think the movie, ‘Coat of Many Colors,’ a true story from my childhood, does throw a light on a lot of things like family, hope, love, kindness, understanding, and acceptance. It really spoke to the issue of bullying. I am very proud at how God works through me to shine a light, and to help heal a lot of hurt in a lot of people, and I am very proud of this award.”

The Jim Gaffigan Show: My Friend the Priest (TV Land)

The episode finds the Catholic comedian feeling comically uncomfortable because his friendly parish priest tags along with him wherever he goes—even an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

Tashi and the Monk (HBO)

The documentary takes us to the Himalayas where a Buddhist monk has created a home for abused, neglected and orphaned children, teaching them to move beyond their violent pasts and find healing through love and compassion.

Feature Films

Creed (Warner Bros.)

The Rocky movie series comes full circle as Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) mentors aspiring boxer Adonis Creed, the son of his opponent in the original 1976 classic. Together, the unlikely pair face self-doubt, loneliness and even cancer as they pursue victory in the ring and in life.

The Drop Box (Arbella Studios)

A documentary about a pastor in South Korea who gives abandoned, disabled babies a loving home. The film highlights the inherent dignity of society’s most vulnerable.

The Martian (20th Century Fox)

Stranded on Mars because his fellow astronauts believe he’s dead, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) uses science and determination to keep himself alive until he can be rescued.

Room (A24 Films)

The powerful love between a mother (Brie Larson and son (Jacob Tremblay) sustain them through the years they’re held in captivity by a kidnapper and the hardships that arise after they escape and return home.


Books for Adults (Movie Producers Take Note!)

Five Years in Heaven (Image Books/Crown Publishing)
John Schlimm chronicles his friendship with an 87-year-old nun whose kindness and wisdom led him to renewed hope, faith, and purpose in life.

The Gift of Caring (Taylor Trade Publishing/Rowan and Littlefield)
Marcy Cottrell Houle, MS and Elizabeth Eckstrom, MD, MPH join forces for  a heartfelt memoir of a daughter supporting her aging parents through their medical problems—and an empowering handbook on navigating the perils of the healthcare system.

One Righteous Man (Beacon Press)
New York City’s first African-American police officer, Samuel Battle, maintains his dignity and Christian principles in the face of racism to help integrate the department in Arthur Browne’s revealing biography.

Tough As They Come (Convergent Books/Crown Publishing)

U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills, who lost all his limbs in an IED explosion in Afghanistan, fights through a painful rehabilitation to live a full life as a husband, father and veterans advocate.. Written with Marcus Brotherton.

Under the Same Sky (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Joseph Kim documents his journey from starvation and homelessness in North Korea, to his new life in the United States, made possible by activists and Christian missionaries. Written with Stephan Talty.

The Wind in the Reeds (Riverhead Books/Random House)
Wendell Pierce’s memoir about the family values and community atmosphere in which he was raised in Pontchartrain Park, New Orleans, and his efforts to rebuild that community after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.


Books for Young People (Again, movie producers take note)

One Good Deed (Preschool and up, Kar-Ben Publishing)
In a community where neighbors don’t smile or talk to each other, a child’s act of kindness sets off a chain of events that transforms strangers into friends. Written by Terri Fields. Illustrated by Deborah Melmon.

An Invisible Thread Christmas Story (Kindergarten and up, Little Simon/Simon & Schuster)
A fact-based story about a young woman opens her heart and home to a boy who’s never celebrated Christmas, teaching them both lessons about family and giving. Written by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski. Illustrated by Barry Root.

Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton (ages 6 and up, Peachtree Publishers)
Written and illustrated by Don Tate, the story presents the inspiring biography of a slave who taught himself to read and eventually became the first southern African-Ameri man to be published.

Katie’s Cabbage (ages 8 and up, Young Palmetto Books/University of South Carolina Press) 


A third-grader donates the 40-pound cabbage she grew in her backyard to a local soup kitchen, and launches a national youth movement called Katie’s Krops to end hunger one vegetable garden at a time in the true story by Katie Stagliano (now a high school student) with Michelle H. Martin. Illustrated by Karen Heid.

Firefly Hollow (Ages 10 and up, Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster)
A tale of adventure, friendship and courage about a lonely boy who befriends a firefly that wants to touch the moon and a cricket that wants to be a baseball catcher like his hero Yogi Berra. Written by Alison McGhee. Illustrated by Christopher Denise.

Paper Hearts (Young Adult, Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster)
A birthday card for a fellow Auschwitz inmate becomes an act of defiance and statement of hope for two Jewish young women with the determination to survive in Meg Wiviott’s “based on a true story novel in verse.”

Note: The 2016 special Christopher Awards (given to individuals or groups) that personify the Christopher motto that “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness” will be announced soon.

The Christophers, a nonprofit organization founded in 1945 by Maryknoll Father James Keller, is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition of service to God and humanity. More information about The Christophers is available at

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

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