Economic uncertainty, a war in Eastern Europe, continued domestic political polarization … this past year was marked in many ways by events that have been widely destabilizing and disruptive. But through it all, men and women of great faith have been beacons of hope and light.
This list of men and women, named to Our Sunday Visitor’s 2022 list of Catholics of the Year, have turned our hearts and minds to God with their words and salved our wounds with their deeds. And while many other Catholics have been beacons of hope in their families and local communities, we present this year’s nominees as having made an extraordinary impact in the life of the Church.
Accolades such as these are not given as the world gives them, to trumpet or triumph. Rather, we choose to honor the witness of these faithful sons and daughters in order that we might — each and every one of us — be inspired by their faith and imitate their virtue. Encouraged by their example, we will together seek the face of God with renewed fervor and zeal.
Archbishop Borys Gudziak
For being a shepherd who lifts up the light of Christ amid the world’s deepest shadows
By Gina Christian
Hours after 150,000 Russian troops launched their full-fledged invasion of Ukraine Feb. 24, Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia spoke with me by phone from Paris where he was in round-the-clock meetings responding to the crisis. He had spent some two decades in his family’s homeland as vice rector of the Lviv Theological Academy, and later as rector and president of the Ukrainian Catholic University.
“Ukraine is being crucified,” he said.
With those words, the archbishop revealed two things: the all-too-real horror of the genocidal attacks on Ukraine — a horror numerous researchers and officials would confirm within months — and the spiritual context in which such evil ultimately should be placed. For him, the two are inseparable.
Over the coming months, and in numerous nations, Archbishop Gudziak has raised a prophetic and pastoral voice against what he reminds us is the sin of Cain: the disordered and deadly grasp for empire, the betrayal of Gospel values for earthly gain, the moral consequences of silence in the face of suffering, the need for historical examinations of conscience and honest reckonings with both individual and collective failings.
Divine providence equipped the archbishop well for this moment. The son of Ukrainian immigrants, he completed his undergraduate education in record time at Syracuse University, eager to pursue his priestly vocation in Rome under Cardinal Josyf Slipyj, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, who had endured 18 years of imprisonment and torture at the hands of Soviet authorities. Archbishop Gudziak has carried on his mentor’s legacy, speaking out against Russian efforts to thwart Ukraine’s democratic progress and appearing on international media to provide expert commentary on the 2014 Maidan Revolution, also known as the Revolution of Dignity.
An accomplished scholar who has received multiple honors, Archbishop Gudziak can seamlessly quote Scripture and business statistics in a single sentence. Yet for all that knowledge, he remains extraordinarily humble. While touring a Catholic high school in Philadelphia, the archbishop was asked by one wide-eyed student how he’d managed to master six languages besides English. Archbishop Gudziak quickly admitted the skill came at the price of “a lot of post-it notes” pinned to household objects to build his vocabulary. A few minutes later, still wearing his cassock, he took to the school’s basketball court to shoot a few hoops (a moment I was fortunate enough to capture on video).
For being a shepherd who lifts up the light of Christ amid the world’s deepest shadows, Archbishop Borys Gudziak is rightly honored as one of Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholics of the Year.
Gina Christian is a National Reporter for OSV News.
The staff of Catholic News Service
For being a trusted source of Catholic media, even amid change
By Gretchen R. Crowe
When the U.S. bishops announced the closure of their primary communications arm, Catholic News Service (CNS), on May 4, CNS did what it has done for 102 years: reported the news. Longtime CNS reporter Carol Zimmerman broke the news on Twitter, and it was soon followed by a story. “The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced to staff May 4 a dramatic reorganization of its communications department, including the closure of the Washington and New York offices of Catholic News Service,” their lede read, accompanied by a photo of an empty CNS newsroom. “In meetings with newsroom staff, James Rogers, the chief communications officer of the conference, said that the Washington office would be closed at year’s end.” In the hours that followed, there was shock and scrambling, as news outlets that have relied on CNS for decades to report national and international news tried to regroup and determine next steps.
At the time, the Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board wrote: “With the dissolution of CNS, the national Church loses a valuable source of information on issues that affect every Catholic, such as respect for life, immigration, education, culture, racism, government and politics, community violence and Church initiatives, institutions and documents — the list goes on.” It continued, “The closing of Catholic News Service will eliminate one of the Church’s most credible news outlets at a time when the world sorely needs the faithful to be better formed — and more informed.”
For the majority of CNS’s domestic staff, led by director and editor-in-chief Greg Erlandson, their commission was clear: until Dec. 31, at least, the show must go on. For the past seven months, CNS staffers have continued to faithfully report the news: the Dobbs ruling and the ensuing political fallout for the pro-life movement; the kick-off of the National Eucharistic Revival; Pope Francis’ visit to Canada; the midterm elections; ongoing gun violence and natural disasters; the bishops’ fall plenary; and all the smaller stories that make up the fabric of everyday Catholic life.
With the announcement of OSV News, and as the transition from CNS to OSV News began back in July, Erlandson and the members of his team, especially Edmond Brosnan, have gone to extraordinary lengths to see that OSV News has been supported in whatever way was possible. The team employed at the domestic offices of Catholic News Service might be disbanding, but their good work will live on in the stories, images, columns, catechetical articles, and more that they have put their hearts and souls into throughout the past many years. I am grateful for the excellent contribution to Catholic media that they leave behind, and I am proud that they number among Our Sunday Visitor’s 2022 Catholics of the Year.
Gretchen R. Crowe is editor-in-chief of OSV News. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.
Sister Alicia Torres
For helping advance the mission of the National Eucharistic Revival
By Bishop Andrew Cozzens
Sister Alicia Torres is a joyful witness of what it means to live a completely given life for Jesus. Her love for Jesus is manifest in all that she does, whether that’s caring for the poor in her apostolate or spreading the good news about Jesus in the Eucharist throughout our country in the National Eucharistic Revival.
Sister Alicia has a contagious love for the Lord that people find very attractive, and she has placed all of her energies at the services of Our Lord. She has single-handedly directed a great deal of the communication for the National Eucharistic Revival, and she is one of the reasons that it has begun to catch fire across the country.
People who encounter her and her love for Jesus in the Eucharist feel the fire beginning to develop in themselves. I can’t say enough how grateful I am for the way that she loves and serves Jesus as a Franciscan sister, and the fact that she has been so generous in helping out the National Eucharistic Revival. Her good cheer is constant, her dedication is unwavering, and her love is a witness to all who encounter her. She is well deserving of this award by Our Sunday Visitor.
Bishop Andrew Cozzens of the Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota, is a chairman of the U.S. bishops’ advisory group for the National Eucharistic Revival.
For glorifying the Lord Jesus in the world of entertainment
By Sister Nancy Usselmann
When a Hollywood entertainer uses his social media platform for prayer, Christians take notice. A professed Church-going Catholic, Mark Wahlberg consistently expresses the importance of faith and family in his life, “My faith means everything to me.” He says, “It provides the comfort and motivation to become a better person, a better father, a better husband, and to be an example.” This actor, producer and businessman is unabashed in sharing his faith through entertainment media.
Best known for his roles in Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” and David O. Russell’s “The Fighter,” Wahlberg took his acting and producing into his own hands through the release of his film “Father Stu.” He believes it is his mission to tell the incredible story of Father Stuart Long, a former boxer-turned-priest, whose short life impacted thousands. Speaking about the transformative power of suffering, Wahlberg said it is “just a reminder that things happen for a reason and if we trust in God and his plan everything is going to be alright.” Father Stu did better than expected during its box office opening weekend and reached the No. 1 spot its first week on Netflix. Wahlberg said this story is the culmination of his work as an actor: “This is one of the first opportunities for me to utilize all the blessings bestowed upon me to do God’s greater good.”
In his many business ventures, Wahlberg seeks to serve underprivileged youth through the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation and encourages people to live healthy lifestyles. His Instagram account is a platform for his business interests but also his faith. He often gives a shout out to priests for their pastoral service and prays the Rosary on the popular prayer app Hallow, promoting it with his tag line, “Stay prayed up!” With over 20 million followers, Wahlberg shares his spirituality with those who perhaps would never pray. In one recent post, he knelt before a cross and prayed a spontaneous prayer: “Lord Jesus, please help me to do your will, live up to your expectations, make you proud, humble myself and glorify you in everything I do. All praise, glory and honor due to Jesus. Stay prayed up! Hallow.”
Mark Wahlberg, a worthy recipient of Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholics of the Year honor, uses his fame and money to influence popular culture for good. He keeps his focus on what is most important — his love for God and family. He prays that his work inspires others to, “get out there and start doing some good!”
Sister Nancy Usselmann, FSP, is director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Los Angeles. She is a media literacy educator, writer, film reviewer, speaker and author of a theology of popular culture, “A Sacred Look: Becoming Cultural Mystics.”
For encouraging dioceses to support women and families through better maternity leave benefits
By Claire Swinarski
There are plenty of people who write and speak on how important women are to the Church. But fewer faithful Catholics are interested in having a conversation about practical ways to support those women, no matter their vocation or season of life. One woman in particular is calling attention to real issues facing women in the Church: Samantha Povlock of FemCatholic.
In her role as FemCatholic founder and CEO, Povlock has carved out a space for women who desperately want to improve the lives of their sisters while living out an orthodox Catholic faith. After graduating from Notre Dame and attending the Given Conference, Povlock began FemCatholic as a small blog-style website that has morphed into two conferences, intelligent reporting and active social campaigns.
One of FemCatholic’s greatest achievements was their 2022 campaign encouraging more dioceses to embrace paid maternity leave as part of their employee benefits packages. Numerous studies show the multitude of advantages paid maternity leave lends to families. As a Church that proclaims family to be the cornerstone of culture, Povlock and her team at FemCatholic correctly identified that only 31 of 176 dioceses in the United States offer fully paid family leave policies. Thanks to FemCatholic’s petition and awareness efforts, a national conversation was started on how to best support working mothers in a church setting, and multiple dioceses (such as the Archdiocese of Denver) implemented policies that better support the mothers that work for them.
Povlock’s continued focus on research, action, conversation and love over online vitriol have helped FemCatholic blossom from a one-woman organization to a thriving organization focused on educating, encouraging and empowering Catholic women. In a world full of mixed messages for women — that they need abortion to thrive, that they should never dream of working outside the home, that they should have corner offices no matter what, that they should pump in the bathroom because it grosses male coworkers out — Povlock’s clear vision for FemCatholic has blessed the women of the Church with the consistent reminder of their dignity as daughters of Christ.
Povlock’s inclusion as one of Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholics of the Year is a well-deserved honor. But more importantly, Povlock is a woman of God, a humble leader and a shining example of Pope St. John Paul II’s call for a new feminism.
Claire Swinarski writes Letters From a Catholic Feminist. She lives in Wisconsin.
For uniting Christians and non-Christians alike through his portrayal of Christ
By Father Jonathan Mitchican
It is a massive challenge to bring a depiction of Jesus to film or television. All of the hopes and dreams of Christians around the world are wrapped up in such a characterization. It is easy to offend people or to draw criticism. Yet Jonathan Roumie has managed to portray Jesus in a way that has endeared him to millions of viewers, Christian and non-Christian alike, of “The Chosen,” the series about the life of Christ and his apostles. Roumie brings a sensitivity to the role, a recognizable compassion, and even a sense of humor.
While the show is created by an evangelical, Roumie is a Catholic. He has said in numerous interviews that his work portraying Jesus has helped him to rekindle and grow his Catholic faith. He likes to use the phrase “Born Again Catholic” to describe the deepening of his conversion. It has led him to become more involved in his own parish and to support Catholic engagement with media through his place on the board of Catholic Media Associates.
This November, the third season of “The Chosen” launched the first two episodes for a limited time in theaters before releasing them through multiple streaming platforms. As the reach of the show has grown, so have the challenges. In the third season, Roumie plays Jesus in a number of pivotal moments, including the miracle of the multiplying of the loaves and fish, a story very important for Catholics because of its foreshadowing of the holy Eucharist. Yet early reviews have been favorable, and Catholics can take particular joy in seeing the relationship portrayed on the screen between Jesus and his mother Mary (played by actress Vanessa Benavente). Roumie’s work on this series has helped to build bridges between groups of Christians, while creating a lasting version of the story of Christ that can appeal to many different audiences, including non-believers.
All of these accomplishments make it clear why Jonathan Roumie deserves a place as one of Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholics of the Year.
Father Jonathan Mitchican is a priest of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter and works as Chaplain at St. John XXIII College Preparatory in Katy, Texas. He is also the co-host of the podcast “God and Comics” (godandcomics.com).
For coordinating the Knights of Columbus’ aid to Ukraine
By Paulina Guzik
Within 36 hours of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council committed 1.5 million US dollars toward humanitarian aid. This extraordinary amount of money could not have been well distributed without the coordination of Szymon Czyszek, Director of International Growth in Europe for the Knights of Columbus. But that was only the beginning.
The Krakow office of the Knights of Columbus is not a big one. But since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, it has become a hub of help, the last peaceful harbor before the rough waters of the war in Ukraine.
The rule applied was simple — to help on the spot those in need: first, women and children fleeing Ukraine; but, just as urgently, those who decided to stay in the country invaded by Russia on Feb. 24.
Thanks to the impressive logistic coordination of Szymon Czyszek along with his fellow Knights, in the first months of the war, Knights of Columbus Mercy Centers served more than 300,000 Ukrainian refugees at the Polish-Ukrainian border with food, medical assistance and heated tents.
The order has sent more than 3.8 million pounds of food and other supplies to Ukraine, and while 80,000 packages have already been delivered, by Christmas the number will reach 100,000.
The Knights are not only feeding, sheltering and clothing people for the harsh Ukrainian winter. They are also thinking about the future of the war-torn country, supporting a program of clearing landmines in Ukraine, a program aimed to protect children, who are the most vulnerable victims of unexploded landmines following a conflict.
While war in Ukraine was and is a test on many fronts, including testing the charitable response of the Church, the Knights of Columbus passed that test and are showing the way forward on how to assist the most vulnerable.
Charity operations of this kind always have many fathers, and are a fruit of teamwork, but one must admit that without the calm and firm strategy of Szymon Czyszek in that time of hectic turmoil, the whole plan would not have proceeded. Dedicating even time reserved for his family, he traveled to Lviv multiple times, both with supplies and officials who could bring even more help, working closely with Church hierarchy both in Poland and in Ukraine. Above all, leading 2,000 members of the Knights in Ukraine and 7,000 in Poland, he did what had to be done: provided what had to be provided. In fact, as a father he engaged his own children in the charitable activities of the Knights so that the next generation of Catholics would be raised on the foundation of loving thy neighbor, but above all, on the foundation of hope. For that, he is well honored in being recognized as one of Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholics of the Year for 2022.
Paulina Guzik is an international Catholic journalist who covers the Church from Poland.
For her pro-life, pro-woman leadership
By Sara Perla
In the early 1990s, pro-life advocates in Maryland founded an organization to help women in crisis pregnancies, modeling it after a Texas program called the Gabriel Project. It eventually transformed into a network of churches (the Gabriel Network), whose volunteers accompany pregnant women, supporting them spiritually, emotionally and materially. There are currently 39 churches in the Gabriel Network, spanning nine counties.
When the Executive Director announced his departure in 2021, the Board of Directors looked for someone who could hold the ship steady while they began a search for the next director. Tiffany Farley fit the bill: Having worked as the executive assistant for over 10 years, Farley knew the various facets of the organization and how it functioned. Her presence ensured that there was no gap in serving the women of Maryland.
It did not take long for Farley to prove to everyone — board, staff, volunteers and moms — that she was the right person to lead the organization. Her faith in God’s providence, her energy and positivity have lit a new fire in the team. The staff are fully aware that in this post-Dobbs moment, Christians must demonstrate commitment to tangibly supporting pregnant women in need. “As a Christian, I realize the importance of the opportunity we have been given through the Dobbs decision,” Farley said. “This gift shines a light on organizations like the Gabriel Network that seek to help those who want to help, know how to help. Each precious life that God puts in our path is a gift and we are thankful for every single one of them.”
Farley’s leadership of The Gabriel Network is simply the newest chapter in the story of a woman who has devoted herself to Christ’s service. Married to husband Brendan for 24 years, Farley has raised four children, one of whom is a second year novice in the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan. Farley was a parish youth minister for 15 years and also ran a business helping other busy mothers stay organized. Oh, and did I mention that she speaks Japanese?
For the myriad ways that Tiffany Farley is building up a culture of life in her corner of the U.S., Our Sunday Visitor recognizes her as a Catholic of the Year.
Sara Perla is the communications manager for The Catholic Project at The Catholic University of America, and she sits on the board of directors for the Gabriel Network.
Sister Dolores Aviles
For creating a space for children to heal and be kids after tragedy
By Leticia Adams
Uvalde, Texas, has a group of religious sisters known as Teresian Sisters, inspired by St. Teresa of Ávila with the mission of evangelization. In their mission statement they say, “We are called to be prophetic signs of God’s merciful love.”
In the aftermath of the shooting at Robb Elementary that left 19 students, two teachers and the shooter dead, the order and the sisters have been a comforting presence to the mourning community, which they have served since their founding in 1913.
When I spoke with Archbishop Garcia-Siller of San Antonio, he told me the sisters were going door to door talking to people and asking them how they were and if they needed anything. They were not showing up with an agenda. They just wanted to know how everyone in the town of Uvalde was doing after such a horrific thing happened in their community. This is the love and presence of God.
Sister Dolores Aviles had an idea to have a summer camp for the kids of Uvalde. She wanted them to have a place where they felt safe and loved. She had no idea how she was going to fund her idea, and then funding came through Catholic Extension. Sister Dolores showed up in a way that Christ would have. She showed up for the children understanding that they were grieving and scared. She showed them the love of God by giving them a safe space where they could be kids.
From the Catholic Extension website, “Camp I-CAN, which stands for Inner strength, Commitment, Awareness and Networking, provided third, fourth, and fifth graders a safe space to heal, have fun, and gently reintegrated the children into a school-like setting around their peers. The majority of the children who attended the camp are survivors of the Robb Elementary mass shooting, although all Uvalde children of age were invited to participate.”
Sister Dolores is from Uvalde; it is her home and her community. Her love for them is a love for home. This is the kind of showing up that is needed in our communities right now, not just after tragedies happen, and Sister Dolores is a great example of that.
In honoring Sister Dolores Aviles as a 2022 Catholic of the Year, we see the role of community building in evangelization. All of us are called to and capable of showing our communities God’s merciful love.