2023 Spirit of Holy Cross Awards

The Congregation of Holy Cross, United States Province of Priests and Brothers, announced nine Spirit of Holy Cross Awards honorees for 2023. The awards are given annually to lay collaborators who faithfully serve the Province in the United States and abroad. The Spirit of Holy Cross Award acknowledges the critical role lay collaborators play in living out the vision and mission of Holy Cross founder Blessed Basil Moreau – to make God known, loved, and served through education, parish, and mission settings.

“We do not imagine that those who commit themselves in other ways to the following of Jesus are thereby hindered in their service of neighbor. On the contrary, we find in them willing and complementary partners in a shared mission. We want our vows, faithfully lived, to be a witness and call to them as their commitments, faithfully lived, are witness and call to us.” (Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross, 5:44)

The Congregation’s complementary partners in a shared mission and the recipients of the 2023 Spirit of Holy Cross Award are:

Steven Seitchik (King’s College) served at King’s College for over fifty years in a number of different capacities, including as registrar, associate professor in the Department of Economics, and vice-president for Business Affairs, representing King’s in all its business dealings, especially as it enhanced the campus by working with the city and neighbors to close Franklin Street and create O’Connor Park. Though he represented King’s at the highest levels, he was known for walking the campus and seemed to know every employee. He was always at King’s basketball games with his wife, Ellen. Steve has been enthusiastically supportive of Holy Cross’ mission at King’s, seeing in our call to educate minds and hearts a concrete way to help “repair the world” (“tikkun olam”), a cornerstone of his own Jewish faith and identity. That desire to help repair the world informed his support of Catholic education more generally. The congregation of which he was a board member, Temple Hesed, offered space in their synagogue, which allowed The Nativity Miguel School of Scranton to open its doors in 2015. Steve’s compassion led him to reach out, not only in institutional but in very personal ways, to those in the campus community who were suffering, even after they left employment at the College. He regularly visited a former staff member whose struggles with mental health issues left him homeless.

Mrs. Dolores Ocaña Martínez (District of Peru-Chile), commonly known as Lola, is an integral part of the Señor de la Esperanza Parish and the lay community of the area in San Juan de Lurigancho, Lima, Peru. Since the beginning of the parish in 1976, Lola has participated in growing in her own faith and helping to develop the nascent pastoral life. She was assistant to the first parish priest, Father Roberto Plasker, C.S.C., and to all the subsequent pastors. Her permanence in the parish, despite having parish priests of very different characters and ideas, is one of her gifts. She transmits to others her fidelity to her Church and her pastors. Her presence is transversal, capable of uniting amid the changes or crises that the parish has experienced. Dolores is the daughter of Juan Guillermo Ocafia Arevalo and Pastora Saturnina Martinez Balcazar, who arrived in Lima in 1967. Dolores is married and has three children: Selenia Milagros and twins Humberto and Julio. Since 1995, and thanks to the catechesis of her children, her bond with the parish has become even closer. No task has been too big for Dolores, from cleaning to accompanying some of the protests. She started as a lector in the Immaculate Conception Chapel, later becoming coordinator. She has been an advisor in the Familia de Nazareth Chapel and coordinator of the Liturgical dimension for the whole parish. In the last years, together with Father Jose Luis Tineo, Dolores has been part of the group “Logisticas,” helping to set up all the scenery for their TV program, serving in the special events of the parish, such as BINGO and the Masses of Confirmation, Anniversary, Retreats, among many other events. She is also the Parish Liturgy representative for the Diocese of Chosica. She has made good contributions as a member of the parish council and the “COMPE (Comité Planificación Estratégica),” the group closest to the parish priest that helps him with his planning and decision- making. Dolores has done the same for Congregation events such as religious professions, ordinations, sports activities, anniversaries, or birthdays of priests and brothers. There is hardly a special or planned event in the parish or in the Congregation without her presence. Dolores has also served on the Holy Cross Vocation Committee, where, because of her character, she easily befriends and sometimes counsels those with vocational concerns and C.S.C. formandi. For her witness of faith and prayer by participating in many novenas where she animates the spiritual life for her loyalty the Parish and to the Congregation, we present Dolores Ocaña Martínez as deserving of the SPIRIT OF HOLY CROSS AWARD 2023.

Patricio and Dora Aragon (St. John Vianney Parish) have been pillars of St. John Vianney Parish since its foundation in 1956. At that time, they were newlyweds and beginning their family – which would come to include six children, ten grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren – but were always present and involved in the parish. As a couple, they chaired the “Fall Fiesta” for many years and opened their homes to generations of the Holy Cross Associates serving in the West Valley of Phoenix. Pat is a Knight of Columbus, active in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and worked in the refurbishment of both the original St. John Vianney church and the current one. Dora has been a dedicated Communion Minister (at Mass and to the homebound) and has sung weekly in the choir for over 40 years! Among the many pilgrimages on which Pat drove the parish bus, he took the young Father (now Bishop) Patrick Neary and the youth group to Denver for World Youth Day 1993. Over the years, they have been great friends and wise mentors to many Holy Cross priests and have attended 18 ordinations or final vows at Notre Dame! Last year, they celebrated 70 years of marriage and have given witness to generations of faithful in the parish – beginning in their own family – of the sacrament of marriage well-lived. As our Holy Cross Constitutions observe of the laity in our apostolates, “we find in them willing and complementary partners in shared mission. We want our vows, faithfully lived, to be witness and call to them as their commitments, faithfully lived, are witness and call to us.” Dora’s and Pat’s service of God, the Church, and their beloved Holy Cross religious indeed are witness and call to us.

Patricia Turner (Stonehill College) is an extraordinarily active member of the worshipping community at the Chapel of Mary on Stonehill’s campus. She is an integral member of the community, spearheading monthly fellowship gatherings after the 11:00 liturgy and generously serving as a Eucharistic minister and lector, always willing to step up and ensure that those ministries are carried out with reverence. Pat is a retired physical education teacher in the city of Randolph, Massachusetts. She took a sabbatical from her teaching for two years from 1980-1982 to participate in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, ministering to the Cheyenne Native American community in Montana. She has been worshipping at the Chapel of Mary since 1997 and exemplifies the spirit of Holy Cross, especially in her formation of Christian community, abiding spirit of hospitality, and preferential option for the poor and marginalized.

Richard Wojtasik (St. Casimir Parish): There are just some people who make a place what it is simply by their presence. Richard Wojtasik is such a person at St. Casimir. Richard was born and raised in South Bend and attended St. Adalbert School and then Washington High School. After graduation, he went to St. Mary’s Seminary in Orchard Lake, Michigan, where he first learned to play the organ. Shortly after returning to South Bend in 1975, he took the job as organist and choir director at St. Casimir Parish. For the last 48 years, Richard has served alongside Holy Cross Religious at St. Stephen’s Parish and St. Casimir Parish in this same position. Richard’s love for music and liturgy is deep, and he always exudes great joy in leading the parish in song. He will often sing hymns in Polish to maintain the Polish heritage of the parish and also incorporates Holy Cross hymns due to his great love for Holy Cross. Additionally, Richard served as the parish cook at St. Casimir’s for many years. His love for cooking was enjoyed by many Holy Cross Religious who lived in the St. Casimir Rectory over the years, and because of his involvement, he has become a warm friend for many in Holy Cross. Richard loves St. Casimir, and he is always present at events and fundraisers to support the parish. He has truly become a staple and a steady presence who truly has shaped St. Casimir into what it is today.

Jim and Jean Fuehrmeyer (St. Adalbert Parish): St. Adalbert would not be what it is today without Jim and Jean Fuehrrneyer. Their love and dedication to our parish and school have been paramount, and their work has left a deep print on the hearts of so many. Both are parishioners of St. Pius X Parish in Granger, Indiana, with no prior ties to the school. Just by the fact that St. Pius and St. Adalbert are sister parishes, they longed to jump in and use their talents and zeal to serve the growing Hispanic community of our parish. Jim is a retired professor of finance at the University of Notre Dame. He served alongside many Holy Cross Religious on both the parish finance council and the school board for nearly 15 years. His expertise in finance was very instrumental in the difficult days of the 2000s when school enrollment was low, and the school did not have the means to support itself. When the State of Indiana instituted the Choice Scholarship in the early 2010s, he helped the school maneuver the changes but also take advantage of the income. As the school strengthened during the 2010s, he was instrumental in forming a plan to pay back a nearly $1.5 million debt to the diocese. But with his guidance, the parish was able to do so in only 18 months. As he retired from the finance council and school board in 2023, he left the parish and school in the strongest financial position in recent history. Jean has been active at St. Adalbert for the same amount of time as her husband. She was very influential in connecting St. Adalbert School with the Christ Child Society, which has brought great benefit to our students. Jean served alongside her husband and other Holy Cross Religious on the St. Adalbert School Board during some tumultuous years, and by seeing the great need of the school, she always worked to fulfill needs. Her greatest gift to the school was the revamping of the school library. She volunteered as the librarian and found another long-term volunteer to serve. Her passion is to promote reading among the students, and she did this by always looking for good quality books, often just donating them to the school. Additionally, she was very influential in the centennial committee for the parish and school, organizing and fundraising for a great event to mark that important milestone in the parish’s history. From that, she became very active in alumni relations with the school, even developing a regular alumni newsletter to keep alumni connected to the school. She also founded the Madrinas group, which acted as the parent association of the school, and offered spiritual guidance and a strong vision to what the group would carry out for the school. Whenever there was a Christmas party or a teacher appreciation luncheon, you could also count on Jean heading the charge. Jean was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and had to resign from her commitments, but even as her body begins to fail, her heart still fully loves St. Adalbert, and her prayers certainly sustain us as we grow.

Both Jim and Jean have been giants in our parish and school community and have deeply marked this parish and school on the path to success that we find ourselves on.

Jerry and Lillian Smith: (U.S. Province) Jerry and Lillian’s journey with Holy Cross began when Jerry’s brother, Rev. Tom Smith, C.S.C., joined the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1964. They are the parents of seven Notre Dame alums (out of eight children) and grateful for the education their children received as family of Holy Cross. They have been giving back to Holy Cross for years, particularly in support of Holy Cross missions in East Africa, where Fr. Tom has faithfully served for many years. But their generosity extends beyond their financial support. After Jerry retired from his CPA business in Nebraska, he and Lillian moved to Granger, Indiana, and began volunteering with the Holy Cross Mission Center, bringing much-needed accounting experience to the Mission Center’s operations. After returning to Nebraska some nine years later to be closer to many family members, Jerry and Lillian consistently welcomed and hosted representatives of Holy Cross in their home and made extensive arrangements to assist Holy Cross in meeting benefactors through small group gatherings and individual meetings. They are exceptional ambassadors for Holy Cross. Recently, Jerry and Lillian created the Smith Family Endowment for East Africa, a fund that, in perpetuity, will support Fr. Tom’s legacy in East Africa by funding a number of essential priorities. Jerry and Lillian recognize God’s blessings in their lives and are faithful in sharing their blessings with others. Holy Cross has been and continues to be blessed by their witness and their stewardship.

Dr. Robert J. Bernhard (University of Notre Dame): served as vice president for research at the University of Notre Dame from 2007 to 2023. While serving in that position, he led efforts that dramatically increased Notre Dame’s research profile in ways consonant with the University’s Catholic mission and the charism of the Congregation of Holy Cross. An aerospace and mechanical engineer by training, Dr. Bernhard’s career at Notre Dame has been dedicated in a special way to promoting research that addresses challenges faced by the marginalized and vulnerable in the United States and around the world. He led efforts to significantly enhance Notre Dame’s research dedicated to alleviating poverty, promoting health and well-being, and addressing the environmental crisis, all while deepening investments in the humanities and arts. He has taken a special interest in connecting Notre Dame researchers to parts of the world served by the Congregation of Holy Cross in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. His work has been animated by a desire to serve the work of the Church and Holy Cross so that both may proclaim the Gospel and ever more faithfully and effectively minister to those in most need. Dr. Bernhard and his wife, Deborah, live in South Bend, Indiana, and have four children and four grandchildren. They continue to be wonderful friends of Holy Cross.

Kelly Fox (University of Portland): Prior to becoming an assistant professor, and assistant to dean for innovation (August 2023-present), director of graduate education (May 2021-August 2023), director of the Harrington Health Clinic (February 2019- present), and University Innovation Fellow (September 2022-present), Kelly served ten years as adjunct faculty at the University of Portland School of Nursing and Health innovations (UPSONHI) in the undergraduate and graduate programs with a focus on leadership and innovation. In practice, she maintains a commitment to clients and a focus on leadership and professionalism. Kelly assisted in developing Corporate Health NW, a nurse-managed health clinic that provided primary health care and education to employees. In 2007, she established Healthcare Professionals of Portland PC, which provides primary healthcare, advocacy, health consultation, and coordination of care. Identifying the need to serve the broader population, she obtained her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Leadership and Health Policy from Yale University. During this time, she developed an employee-centered model of care that combines on-site nursing care and telemedicine for corporations. This model has been the foundation of her Scholarship of Practice at UPSONHI and served as the framework for the development and implementation of the Harrington Health Clinic and Holy Cross Clinic. The Harrington Health Clinic (HHC), launched in January 2021, was designed using the Donabedian Framework and adapting the Employee-Centered Model of Care. HHC, co-­founded with Emily Harrington, is the first nurse-owned, nurse-led academically affiliated clinic in the State of Oregon. Developed to provide care to a transitional houseless population at the Blanchet House (BH), this clinic has served over 150 individuals, spanning nearly 500 visits. In 2023, the clinic was awarded the BH Founders Award. Understanding the broader needs of our houseless population and inspired by the works of Dorothy Day, Josephine Ensign, and the BH founders, the foot clinic was designed to provide extended care to Portland’s broader houseless community. With a trauma-informed approach, this nurse-led model enhances the care of our community’s most vulnerable population. The clinic is offered monthly and provides basic foot care, socks, shoes, music therapy, and a warm environment of hospitality. The clinic is operated by UPSONHI faculty, students, and alumni. In March of 2023, it was announced that the Foot Clinic was awarded the 2023 BH Service Award. Building on these prior works, Kelly was given the opportunity to collaborate with Rev. Charlie McCoy in the design and implementation of the Holy Cross Clinic. Her role included model design, physical re-design of the clinic space, an implementation of health care services, and an aging-in-place protocol for the Congregation of Holy Cross. Healthcare services currently include RN care coordination, health and wellness education, and telehealth access. The foundation of this work was informed by UPSONHI DNP student projects, Congregation of Holy Cross stakeholder meetings, prior model and clinic design, and in collaboration with April Henry, the NP at Holy Cross House. The Holy Cross Clinic was established in November 2022. Teaching continues to be an integral part of Kelly’s contributions to UP. Key to the mission of UP is to create a teaching learning environment that is dedicated to excellence and innovation. The UP mission and inclusion of the Holy Cross tradition to educate the mind, heart, and hands of the student; resonates, aligns, and informs the foundation of her personal teaching philosophy. Kelly’s philosophy of teaching acknowledges the UP mission and focuses on the creation of an environment that invites the student to critically analyze and master competency through scholarship and innovation. By embracing the Holy Cross tradition, emphasis is placed on attaching relationships to content, assisting the student to embody the process of learning through engaging the mind, body, and spirit. The goal is to inspire the student to attain greater knowledge and deeper understanding in pursuit of excellence. In the teaching-learning environment, the goal is to foster inquiry, honor diversity, ignite passion, seek truth, generate critical analysis, promote autonomy, value reflection, and advance professionalism. Kelly obtained her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Portland, Master of Nursing from the University of Washington, and Doctor of Nursing Practice from Yale University.

The Spirit of Holy Cross Award honorees will be recognized in their local communities by the Holy Cross ministry for which they work during January as part of the Congregation’s celebrations of Blessed Moreau’s life. At that time, they will receive a proclamation of gratitude signed by the local superior that nominated them and Rev. William M. Lies, C.S.C., provincial superior, on behalf of the entire U.S. Province.

Author: Congregation of Holy Cross United States Province
Published: November 15, 2023

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