Fort Wayne & NE Indiana News

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Father Tom O’Connor Light Of Christ Award

St. Mary’s Catholic Church Fort Wayne and the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend announce that Megan Ryan, special education teacher at Bishop Luers High School, is the 2016 winner of the Father Tom O’Connor Light of Christ Award. The award will be presented to Ms. Ryan by Bishop Kevin C Rhoades at noon on Wednesday, March 30, during a ceremony and luncheon at St. Mary’s.

This is the tenth and final year of this award, created by the parish at the suggestion of the late Bishop John M. D’Arcy in memory of Father Tom O’Connor. Father O’Connor, pastor of St. Mary’s from 1970 until his death on St. Patrick’s Day, 2004, was well-known in the community for his untiring work in justice and peace and for his advocacy on behalf of the disadvantaged. The Father Tom O’Connor award is designed to encourage, in Bishop D’Arcy’s words, "the next generation of Father Toms."

Father Tom was instrumental in the creation of the St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen that has operated non-stop since opening on January 22, 1975, the Matthew 25 Health and Dental Clinics, St. Mary’s Thanksgiving Day dinner for the community, and an annual Christmas box distribution that helps more than 1000 families each year.

He was also part of the steering committee that created Vincent House/Vincent Village Transitional Housing. He helped to develop the East Side, West Side program that received a National Council of Churches 50th Anniversary Ecumenical and Interfaith Service Award, and he created the Bells of St. Mary’s, a multi-faceted charitable endeavor that helps to provide elementary and high school scholarships to young people in the heart of the city.

Father Tom was himself the recipient of many accolades and awards, including the prestigious Lumin Christi Award from the national Catholic Extension Society, an award it’s director described as "the Church’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize."

Ms. Ryan was selected for her outstanding work in education both inside and outside the classroom walls. Her work with Sodalitas, a service mission effort at Bishop Luers, engages almost 600 young people in work that helps to instill in them a desire to serve the community and each other not just today, but also as they move into adulthood.

She has also been actively involved in Teach on the Beach Ghana, an alternative approach to education in Africa, and has helped to create an aviary at the Southwest Conservation Club in an attempt to foster the honey bee colonies, which are declining worldwide. Her company, Southwest Honey, channels the money it raises through honey production into building more hives to support more bee colonies and to create educational programs for young people to help them understand the importance of these important pollinators.

Ms. Ryan was nominated by Luers Assistant Principal Jim Huth.