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2011 Spirit of Holy Cross Award Honorees Named

Published: September 15, 2011

Author: Lucha Ramey

Notre Dame, Ind. - The Congregation of Holy Cross, United States Province of Priests and Brothers has named nine recipients for the 2011 Spirit of Holy Cross Award. The award is given annually on September 15, the solemnity of Our Lady of Sorrows and the Feast Day of the Congregation, to lay collaborators who serve with the Province in the United States and abroad. It was created to acknowledge the critical importance lay collaborators play in living out the vision and mission of Holy Cross founder Blessed Basil Moreau, C.S.C., to make God known, loved and served in education, parish and mission settings.

“Using the Holy Family as a model, Blessed Basil Moreau built his Congregation to include lay men and women as collaborators,” said Provincial Superior Rev. David T. Tyson, C.S.C. “This indelible model has been in place for 174 years, fulfilling not only Basil Moreau’s vision, but God’s mission. Around the world, thousands of lay collaborators work side by side with us every day in our schools, churches and ministries providing valuable support and service. Just as our Constitutions call on us to be, Holy Cross is one community working together to ‘spread the Gospel ... for the development of a more just and human society.’ ”

The recipients for 2011 Spirit of Holy Cross Award are the following:

  • Robert Coccagna: Volunteer, André House; Parishioner, St. John Vianney Parish, Phoenix
  • María Jesús Egaña: Executive Director, Fundación Moreau; Campus Ministry, Saint George’s College; Santiago, Chile
  • Margaret Lammers: Director of Nursing (retired), Holy Cross House, Notre Dame, Ind.
  • Elizabeth Marley: Dining Room Assistant, Holy Cross Community at King’s College, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
  • William O. Reed: Director of University Events, University of Portland, Portland, Ore.
  • Joseph A. Russo: Director of Student Financial Strategies, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Ind.
  • Julieann Smith: Parish Sacristan, Parishoner and Volunteer, Holy Cross Parish, South Easton, Mass.
  • Maura Geens Tyrrell, Ph.D.: Francis J. Hurley, C.S.C., Endowed Chair and Professor of Biology, Stonehill College, Easton, Mass.
  • Marion Woods: Dining Room Assistant, Holy Cross Community at King’s College, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Honorees will be recognized in their local communities during the month of January by the Holy Cross ministry for which they work or serve. At that time they will receive a proclamation of gratitude signed by the Provincial Superior on behalf of the entire U.S. Province.

Biographical Information:

Robert Coccagna
has been volunteering at André House (a Holy Cross a ministry serving the homeless and poor populations of the Phoenix area) since 2005, and for the past 2-and-a-half years he’s been working at least two days a week. Bob has taken on André House’s mission with full dedication showing compassion and dignity to all those in need. His preferential option for the poor and willingness to serve in whatever capacity he’s needed (whether it’s in the clothing closet, showers, main office, distributing hygiene products or serving as porter) have made Bob one of André House’s most valuable volunteers. Bob’s life of service includes working for the Philadelphia school system for 28 years as a special needs and English teacher before becoming an administrator. Seven years ago, he and his wife, Madeline, relocated to Phoenix. Bob ran a dropout prevention program for the Arizona Department of Education for five years before retiring. Bob and Madeline are members of St. John Vianney Parish where Bob has continued his vocation as an educator serving in the RCIA program. They have been married for 35 years and have two grown sons.

María Jesús Egaña has worked with Holy Cross for nearly 30 years. She began her work in Campus Ministry at Saint George's College in Santiago, Chile, in the 1980s when the Congregation returned to the school after the military intervention. Doing her part to educate both the heart and mind of Saint George's students, María Jesús helped reformulate the social service and immersion programs for students to assist the poor in Santiago. She has been involved with Fundación Moreau in its work with the disadvantaged children of Chile both in Talagante and Santiago for more than 20 years. Now in her role as executive director for Fundación Moreau, María Jesús is leading the strategic planning that will strengthen Fundación Moreau’s relationship with Holy Cross apostolates ultimately enhancing the wholistic personal, psychological and spiritual care that is given to the children. María Jesús and her husband Alfredo, a Saint George’s alumnus, have four children, all of whom have attended Saint George’s. Her three grandchildren are also currently enrolled at the school’s elementary school.  In 2009, María Jesús received the Medalla Spes Única, an award given annually by the Community in Chile to a lay colleague whose collaboration in Holy Cross’ mission has helped serve the Church and most needy.

Margaret Lammers administered loving nursing care to Holy Cross religious at Holy Cross House in Notre Dame, Ind., for 22 years, 10 of those as the director of nursing. For most of those years, Peg worked the night shift. As a tireless advocate for the priests and brothers, Peg taught her staff and fellow co-workers, by example. Holy Cross Constitutions call on the Community to care and pray for their sick and aging brothers. Peg took this to heart as a lay collaborator. She has a deep appreciation for the vocation of religious life, and worked to help a priest or brother maintain his vocation during his transition to Holy Cross House. She saw her time at Holy Cross House not simply as a job, but as a vocation of service, her own personal ministry to the religious of Holy Cross. Peg retired on April 1, 2011 with a roaring celebration attended by nearly 150 religious, co-workers, and fellow lay collaborators. She has four children and six grandchildren.

Elizabeth Marley has worked as a dining room assistance for the Holy Cross Community at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., for 25 years. Bette’s compassion and caring for the Holy Cross religious goes far beyond expectations and her job responsibilities. She is in tune with the Community and is always aware of the members’ needs, giving personal and attentive care to each priest and brother. She demonstrates her Christian faith in every day acts as she seeks out ways to enhance the quality of life of those around her. Bette’s work with the Community is her “labor of love.” She tackles each day’s work with zeal, and the manner in which she finds ways to express her artistic talents is inspiring. It is Bette’s dedication and devotion which reminds us all of what is stated in the Holy Cross Constitutions, “our work itself becomes a prayer: a service that speaks to the Lord who works through us.” Through the many years of dedicated service with Holy Cross, she has also helped carry out the mission set forth by Blessed Basil Moreau, C.S.C., in her own neighborhood and with her extended family.

William O. Reed was first introduced to Holy Cross more than 40 years ago when he was a student at the University of Portland, graduating in 1972. Bill rejoined the family in 1982 when he became the alumni director. In 1990, he took on the role as director of University Events, a position he’s held for the past 21 years. On the “Bluff,” Bill welcomes the University’s countless guests with hospitality and charity. His office easily handles about 1,000 events each year, from commencements to Presidential visits to hosting musical legends like Bob Dylan. In his role, Bill is an ambassador for Holy Cross welcoming everyone from the families of graduating students to the Dalai Lama with the same benevolence. His zeal and enthusiasm to share Holy Cross and UP with others demonstrates how faith makes our work a ministry and not just an employment. In 1994, Bill received the Rev. Charles C. Miltner, C.S.C., Award for outstanding service to the University. Bill’s commitment has also been noted by longtime UP benefactors, John and Patricia Beckman, when they endowed a scholarship in Bill’s honor. Bill and his wife and fellow alum, Suzanne, have two children.

Joseph A. Russo has spent his 33-year career at the University of Notre Dame helping to make a quality, Catholic education accessible to all eligible students. Joe is the director of Student Financial Strategies and is an internationally recognized leader and expert in higher education financial aid. With 46 years of experience, he’s has testified before congressional committees, been appointed to federal financial aid committees, and published a number books in the field, both for parents and fellow professionals. Working at a Holy Cross university, Joe is supporting the mission and contributing in his role to help make a college education a reality for so many worthy students, doing what he can to assist them to not only to recognize but to also develop their God given gifts. Before coming to Notre Dame, Joe was the financial aid administrator at both Le Moyne College (his alma mater) and Genesee Community College in New York. He holds two masters degrees in student personnel from Syracuse University and in education from the State University of New York. This past July, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators honored Joe with its Lifetime Membership Award. He and his wife, Eileen, of 42 years have three children who all graduated from Notre Dame. He also delights in his six grandchildren.

Julieann Smith has been a parishioner at Holy Cross Parish in South Easton, Mass., since 1972. She also served as parish secretary for ten years. When she retired, she did not sit idle. Wishing to do her part to make God known, loved and served, Julie works tirelessly in the background assisting wherever her talents are needed at the parish. As the parish sacristan she’s come to be known as one of the “backbones of Holy Cross Parish.” In her role as sacristan, Julie has helped the priests and brothers of the former Eastern Province celebrate their annual Jubilee Masses. She’s also served as Eucharistic minister at Masses and for the homebound, coordinator for the annual Catholic Charities Appeal, helps lead the Widows and Widowers group, served on the parish pastoral council, served as a religious education teacher, assisted with the Mom and Tots program, and volunteered for the church cleaning crew--just to name a few things! Julie exemplifies the spirit of auxiliary service and serves faithfully as a sacristan and in other liturgical roles. For her numerous contributions, she received the annual diocesan Marian Award. Julie was married for 44 years to her beloved husband Walter, who passed away eight years ago. She has one child and three grandchildren.

Maura Geens Tyrrell, Ph.D. was named this past year the first Rev. Francis J. Hurley, C.S.C., endowed chair and professor of Biology at Stonehill College, Easton, Mass. The late Fr. Hurley, known as the “father of biology” at Stonehill, was credited for being ahead of his time in encouraging women in the sciences, so it was only fitting when Maura was named to be the first endowed chair established in his honor. Around campus and amongst the Holy Cross community at Stonehill, Maura is known for being not just a knowledgeable scientific professor, but also an educator in the faith who values Stonehill’s Catholic identity and works hard to maintain and deepen it. In her 36 years at Stonehill, she has worked to educate both the heart and the mind. In 2000, she and a colleague in the Religious Studies Department co-authored a course proposal, Ecology, Theologies, and Worldviews, which earned a course award and grant from the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences. In 1991, she received Stonehill’s Louise F. Hegarty Award for Teaching Excellence and the Sears-Roebuck Foundation award for Campus Leadership. For the past ten years, she has worked with colleagues and students on a fungal genetics and ecology project that has produced two published and two submitted papers. A Stonehill student in 1960-1961 and later a graduate of Trinity College, now Trinity Washington University, she completed her doctorate in Biological Sciences at the University of Delaware, specializing in marine biology. Maura and her husband, George, who is assistant director of Technology Services at Stonehill, have three children and two granddaughters.

Marion Woods is celebrating her 15 year anniversary with Holy Cross this month. She works in the Holy Cross Community’s dining room at King’s College as an assistant working alongside this year’s other honoree Bette Marley. Mickey is known for her quick wit and humor, but also her dedication to her vocation. She is a native of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and until she joined the kitchen staff, Mickey, like many other women in this area of Pennsylvania, worked tirelessly in the garment industry while the men worked in the coal mines. As a Holy Cross lay collaborator, Mickey carries the Holy Cross charism with her outside of work as she goes about her daily life in the local community, volunteering at a local hospital, singing in her parish choir, and being a wonderful, caring neighbor and friend to all those she encounters. Mickey is known for her generosity, often sharing the bounties of her garden (flowers and crops) with the Community. Her love and concern for the priests and brothers is always evident. She, herself, is nurtured through her deep prayer life, taking to heart what the Holy Cross Constitutions say, “We turn to Him in prayer that He will clasp us more firmly to Himself and use our hands and wits to do the work that only He can do.” Mickey also finds strength and joy from her immediate family members of two sisters, a brother, and eight nieces and nephews.