CHICAGO — Each year Catholic Extension, based in Chicago, asks the faith communities in U.S. mission dioceses to nominate individuals or groups for the organization’s annual Lumen Christi Award, and for the 2020-2021 award, it has received 47 nominees.

Latin for the “Light of Christ,” the Lumen Christi Award is the highest honor bestowed on a missionary working in the United States. It honors an individual or group working in one of America’s mission dioceses “who demonstrates how the power of faith can transform lives and communities.”

These 47 nominees for the 43rd annual Lumen Christi Award “are hidden heroes in our midst who are serving their communities selflessly to bring life and hope to the forgotten corners of our country,” Catholic Extension said in a July 27 news release announcing the nominees.

“These Catholic leaders have stepped up to the difficult task of helping their already marginalized communities battle the physical, mental and financial impacts of the pandemic,” Catholic Extension said.

“This diverse group of pastors, sisters, brothers, lay leaders, deacons, and community groups show the enormous breadth of the Catholic Church across the country,” it added. A full list of the nominees, their profiles and why they were nominated can be found online here.

The group includes a priest who is working for migrant rights on the U.S.-Mexico border; a religious sister from Puerto Rico serving her community on the road to recovery from natural disasters; and an ecumenical community group selflessly supporting immigrant families affected by raids in Mississippi carried out by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

“During these trying times of COVID-19, this year’s nominees have proven to truly be heroes working selflessly in our midst,” said Father Jack Wall, president of Catholic Extension. “These faith leaders have remained committed to their community and their mission, no matter the circumstances.”

Each Lumen Christi Award nominee receives $1,000 in support of his or her ministry, and the award recipient is given a $50,000 grant with the honoree and nominating diocese each receiving $25,000 for their own community and ministry.

The 2019-2020 winner was Mack McCarter, who founded Community Renewal International in 1994 in Shreveport, Louisiana. He had one goal in mind: to rebuild his home town of Shreveport by uniting individuals, churches, businesses and civic groups and to resurrect the foundation of relationships in neighborhoods.

Catholic Extension has been supporting the work and ministries of the nation’s mission dioceses since its founding in 1905. It raises funds to help build faith communities and churches in these dioceses, which are rural, cover a large geographic area, and have limited personnel and pastoral resources.