For more than 40 years, Catholic Extension has asked mission dioceses to nominate their best, brightest and most inspiring people for their annual Lumen Christi (Light of Christ) Award. This year, the prestigious Lumen Christi Award sponsored by Catholic Extension has been awarded to Sister Nancy Edwards, CSJ.
After joining the Congregation of St. Joseph and teaching school in her home state of New York, Sister Nancy Edwards requested a missionary assignment, imagining being sent to a faraway country. Instead, she was asked to go to Appalachian Kentucky to teach Bible school, in an area where Catholics comprise less than one percent of the population. She fell in love with the people and the land and realized that even within the United States, missionary experiences exist. Moving there in 1970, she has spent the last decades in several roles. She is described as a modern day “circuit rider” and makes her rounds in Paintsville teaching at Our Lady of the Mountains School and serving as parish director of religious education and outreach coordinator at St. Michael Church. She even went back to school to become a LPN to help staff the local health department as a public health nurse. Each year, she helps the pastor of St. Michael, Father Terry Hoppenjans, to host volunteer groups who come to support residents in Appalachian. Having worked with Sister Edwards for 53 years, he sums up her ministry as “doing whatever is needed.”
This year’s group of 47 nominees – pastors, sisters, lay leaders, brothers, deacons and community groups – show the enormous breadth of the Catholic Church across the country. These women and men are offering their hearts and hands to build faith, inspire hope and ignite change. In America’s poorest places, they bring the light of Christ to those who struggle.