Editor's Report

Honoring Christ-Bearers


It’s hard not to feel a little bit of pride when you attend the 62nd annual Christopher Awards ceremony, which honors works in film, publishing and television that affirms the highest values of the human spirit. I mean, you rub elbows with a pretty nice collection of folks, some of whom you wouldn’t likely meet in any other place. You look around the room and see people like director Tom Hooper and screenwriter David Seidler of the 2011 Academy-Award-winning best picture “The King’s Speech.” A glance in another direction spots Sister Charlene Smith, F.S.P.A., and John Feister, co-authors of “Thea’s Song: The Life of Thea Bowman.” Or you listen as Shannon Hickey, the founder of Mychal’s Message, describes her charitable organization that carries on the spirit of Father Mychal Judge, O.F.M. In the past decade, it has given out more than 200,000 items such as warm socks, blankets and baby formula to homeless and disadvantaged adults and kids in New York and Pennsylvania.

Ms. Hickey, who received the James Keller Award, named for the Maryknoll priest who founded the Christophers 65 years ago, was (by design) one of only two award winners to make remarks at the ceremony May 19 at Mutual of America headquarters in Manhattan. (The other was Capt. Scotty Smiley, the U.S. Army’s first blind active duty officer and current commander of the Warrior Transition Unit for ailing or wounded soldiers at West Point, who received the Christopher Leadership Award.)

Courtesy of The Christophers
GENERATIONS—Shannon Hickey, second from left, the founder of Mychal's Message, smiles after receiving the James Keller Award at the 2011 Christopher Awards May 19. She is joined by, from left, Mary Ellen Robinson, vice president of The Christophers; Shannon’s mother, Kelly Ann Lynch; Shannon's grandmother, Sharon Hickey; and David Seidler, author of the original screenplay of “The King’s Speech,” which was honored in the Feature Film category.

Photo by Matt Schiller
CHRISTOPHER AWARD—John Feister, left, and Sister Charlene Smith, F.S.P.A., accept Christopher Award for their book, “Thea’s Song: The Life of Thea Bowman,” from Msgr. Peter Finn, pastor of Blessed Sacrament parish on Staten Island and a member of the Christophers’ board of directors.

“This journey has taken me to so many places, from the Breadline (at St. Francis of Assisi parish in Manhattan) at 7 a.m. in the dead of winter…to the White House to meet President Bush,” Ms. Hickey said. After her first visit to the Breadline, she said she found it impossible not to return. “It opened my eyes to the needs of the world and not to take things for granted,” she said.

She spoke poignantly about living out the legacy of service exemplified by Father Judge, the Franciscan friar who was killed while responding as a New York City fire chaplain to the attacks at the World Trade Center on 9/11.

“One act of kindness, no matter how small or how big can make a difference in someone’s life,” she said.

The word Christopher means Christ-bearer, as one of the presenters, Father Edward M. Dougherty, M.M., superior general of Maryknoll, reminded the audience. Of course, bearing Christ means to shine light into a world that can often seem like a dark place.

Here are just a few of the honorees: In the feature films category, “The Human Experience,” a documentary produced by Grassroots Films, follows two brothers who live homeless on the streets of New York, take care of disabled children in Peru and visit lepers in Africa as a way of affirming the dignity of all people. In the TV and cable category, the Lifetime Movie Network cable channel won for “Amish Grace,” a dramatization of the 2006 school shootings in Nickel Mines, Pa., and the community’s struggle to forgive the murderer and support his wife. In “Thea’s Song: The Life of Thea Bowman,” the authors delved into the life of the late Sister Thea Bowman, an African-American who became a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration and became nationally known for her work to establish greater intercultural understanding within the Church.

The Christophers, like many media organizations, have gone through a number of transitions in recent years. But I’m happy to report that this year’s awards ceremony was as impressive as ever.

I think I’ll give David Seidler, the screenwriter of “The King’s Speech” the last word. When I asked him to compare the Christopher Awards to some of the other awards galas he has attended recently, he replied, “It’s a lot more real—the glitz is peeled off.”


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