WARWICK — It was over a year-and-a-half ago that the Diocese of Providence announced the winners of its 2020 Lumen Gentium Awards, with plans made to honor them at a ceremony and banquet scheduled for May 13 of that year. The presentation of the awards (which recognize service to the Church across a wide range of categories) has become a major event for the diocese, with the 2019 Award Banquet attracting close to 1,000 guests and raising over $86,000 for Catholic Youth Ministry. With such a precedent, it seemed reasonable at the outset of 2020 to expect a similarly grand celebration for the presentation of the 8th annual awards that spring.
Of course, the spring which followed was marked by COVID-19 lockdowns and quarantines rather than grand celebrations, and the lingering pandemic caused the banquet to be postponed no fewer than four times. It was therefore with great excitement that the diocese was able to finally gather on the morning of Thursday, Sept. 9, to present the 8th annual Lumen Gentium Awards. Although the event took place on a somewhat more intimate scale than previous ceremonies, it was nevertheless overflowing with a profound sense of gratitude — gratitude both for the privilege of being able to gather in-person to celebrate, and for the remarkable accomplishments of the 15 awardees.
Both Bishop Thomas J. Tobin and Auxiliary Bishop Robert C. Evans were present for the celebration, which was set against the stately backdrop of Warwick’s Aldrich Mansion. In his opening prayer, Bishop Evans gave thanks for the service and dedication of the many awardees, describing them as “bringing the light of Christ which glows within them to warm the hearts and enlighten the minds of those whom they encounter in the course of their earthly pilgrimage.”
The Lumen Gentium Awards are, indeed, a celebration of light, having been established in 2013 to recognize those “whose bright light of faith has been a benefit to the diocesan church, and an example embodied by the vision of the [Second] Vatican Council” (the central document of which shares its title with the awards). With the awards themselves — flames of crimson glass — arranged on a table beside him, Bishop Tobin also expressed his gratitude to the awardees, putting their work into historical context in light of the ongoing celebration of the 150th anniversary of the diocese.
“We recognize the fact that for 150 years, the Diocese of Providence has always been blessed by so many faithful people who have stood up and come forward to help the Church, to build the Church, to reflect the Gospel and make God’s presence known in our community,” Bishop Tobin said.
“Today, dear friends, we recognize you as being part of that remarkable heritage, and a part of the history of this spectacular diocese. This award you receive today is a small but very sincere way of saying ‘thank you’ — thank you for being faithful, for serving the Church; thank you for all the good you have done, and will continue to do; thank you, indeed, for being the ‘saints next door to us.’”
The Bishop’s final line was a reference to Pope Francis’s 2018 Exhortation “Gaudete et Exsultate,” and aptly described the way that the faithfulness and dedication of these awardees have made them familiar faces in their parish and school communities — and, in some cases, throughout the entire state. The sense of familiarity extended to the venue as well: despite its opulence and occasional appearances in film, the Aldrich Mansion retains a cozy, nostalgic sense of home for many local Catholics due to its popularity as a retreat center, wedding venue and site for a wide variety of diocesan events. These memories made the ceremony especially poignant for many attendees: Robert Orabone, a Lumen Gentium winner in the category of parish service, wore a lapel pin that he had received at the mansion on a retreat “many decades ago.”
“It was a special moment for me, and it feels great to be back here for the ceremony,” Orabone explained.
Former Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri, who (together with his late wife Suzanne) received the 2020 Lumen Gentium Award in the public service category, expressed similar sentiments.
“I’ve been here many, many times over the years for different functions, and I think it’s a magnificent facility,” he said.
“Monsignor [Albert] Kenney did a beautiful job putting it together, especially during such a crazy time to schedule things. It makes you proud to be a Catholic when you see the kind of work that so many people are doing.”
Gov. Carcieri specifically indicated Margherite Garrahy, wife of the late Gov. J. Joseph Garrahy, and winner of the 2020 Respect Life Lumen Gentium Award, as having helped to mentor him in his own career of service — the sort of light-giving example the award is meant to celebrate.
“Today, the Church is in more need than ever for the kind of people that were recognized here today,” Carcieri elaborated. “People who are following Christ’s message are trying to build the Church, be good stewards and ambassadors, and, most of all, servants of Christ. That’s really what it’s all about.”
Administration & Stewardship:
Trustees of the Thomas Becket Foundation Brown University
St. Joseph Church, West Warwick
The Late Sister Mary Bernice Pikul, C.S.S.F.
St. Adalbert Church, Providence
Lifetime Achievement Award in Catholic Education:
St. Philip Church, Greenville
Evangelization & Communications:
Serra Club Providence Chapter
Community Service & Charitable Outreach:
The Elmhurst Boys
St. Pius V Church, Providence
Distinguished Catholic Youth:
St. Francis Xavier Church, East Providence
St. Joseph Church, Woonsocket
Our Lady of Fatima Church, Cumberland
St. Andrew Church, Block Island
St. Lucy Church, Middletown
St. Ann Church, Providence
The Honorable Donald Carcieri & The Late Suzanne Carcieri
Our Lady of Mercy Church, East Greenwich
St. Thomas More Church, Narragansett
Friend of the Diocese:
Alan Shawn Feinstein