CHICAGO (CNS) — Catholic Extension announced the 11 finalists for its 2019-2020 Lumen Christi Award Sept. 10, saying they include a “cowboy priest” who became “an unlikely national icon at the nation’s southern border” and “a visionary” who is leading a community transformation in the toughest part of his hometown in Louisiana.

Also up for the award is a group of “angels” in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas who feed and minister to the poorest of the poor using their own finances “and a desire to want to be better every day.”

The finalists also include a retired Army officer who sprang into service after Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle, eventually helping lead response efforts to five distribution sites serving 81,000 individuals over seven weeks.

“Each year I am humbled by the remarkable and inspiring work of our Lumen Christi Award finalists,” Father Jack Wall, president of Catholic Extension, said in a statement.

The award, which is Latin for “Light of Christ,” is now in its 42nd year and is the highest honor bestowed by the Chicago-based papal society.

Catholic Extension raises and distributes funds to support U.S. mission dioceses, many of which are rural, cover a large geographic area, and have limited personnel and pastoral resources. It has been supporting the work and ministries of these mission dioceses since its founding in 1905.

These award finalists “show us that when we bring good people together in faith, good things happen, and we can change the world around us,” added Father Wall.

The group of 11 was chosen from 48 nominees announced Aug. 20. Each nominee receives $1,000 in support of his or her ministry. The Lumen Christi Award recipient is given a $50,000 grant, with the honoree and nominating diocese each receiving $25,000 to enhance their community and ministry.

This year’s finalists are: Santa Monica Angels, Diocese of Laredo, Texas; Deacon John Archer, Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama; Dominican Sister Barbara Bogenschutz, Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota; Deacon Don Bouchard, Diocese of Kalamazoo, Michigan; Andy Cornett, Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida; Glenmary Home Missioners Priests and Brothers, Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee; Mike Hentges and Steve Smith, Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri; Father Fabian Marquez, Diocese of El Paso, Texas; Mack McCarter, Diocese of Shreveport, Louisiana; Oblate Father Roy Lee Snipes, Diocese of Brownsville, Texas; and Father Omar Soto Torres, Diocese of Ponce, Puerto Rico.


Editor’s Note: More information about the 2019-2020 Lumen Christi Award finalists is available here