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Friday, September 27

Chicago (September 23, 2013) - The Archdiocese of Chicago will celebrate the 15th annual Noche de Gala, at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, September 27, at Drury Lane, 100 Drury Lane in Oakbrook Terrace. Francis Cardinal George, OMI, Archbishop of Chicago, will attend this annual recognition dinner and award ceremony that honors Catholics who serve and work in Hispanic ministry in the Archdiocese. Nearly 1,000 people, representing almost 150 parishes offering Hispanic ministry and various archdiocesan agencies, are expected to attend.

The Noche de Gala theme, 15 Years of Forming Families in Faith, was selected in conjunction with the Archdiocese’s Year of Strong Catholic Parents, and is dedicated to parents whose children are receiving their sacramental preparation in the Archdiocese.

The following individuals will receive awards in recognition of work and dedication to Hispanic Ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago:

  • Rev. John P. Smyth will receive the Blessed Pope John XXIII Award in recognition of priestly dedication to Hispanic ministry.  Fr. Smyth is the recipient of this year’s Blessed Pope John XXIII Award for providing a permanent home for a traveling Our Lady of Guadalupe statue in the northwest suburb of Des Plaines in 1988.  The Guadalupe statue became a welcoming gesture to the Hispanic community on the grounds of what was Maryville Academy and is now the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. For 45 years, Fr. Smyth worked on behalf of Maryville Academy, replacing a crumbling infrastructure on the main campus that served 250 youth, initiating extensive program changes and developing a highly-successful year-long calendar of fund-raising events.  Fr. Smyth, the recipient of countless honors, including the President's Child Safety Partnership Award presented by President Ronald Regan, currently serves as President of Notre Dame College Prep in Niles.
  • Sister Kristine Vorenkamp, SLW, will receive the St. Teresa of Avila Awardgiven in recognition of a woman religious or community in Hispanic ministry. Sr. Kristine Vorenkamp receives the St. Teresa of Avila Award for her ministry to Spanish-speaking communities across the United States. Sr. Kristine began her ministry as an elementary school teacher first in the Chicago area, and then in Minnesota and Louisiana.  She served in pastoral ministry in Texas and later managed a family birth center serving mothers in a poor, Mexican community in Brownsville.  Sr. Kristine now serves as part of the Archdiocesan Office of Immigrant Affairs and Immigration Education.
  • Deacon Mario Avila will receive the Saint Stephen Award, in recognition of a deacon in Hispanic ministry. Deacon Avila receives the award for a lifetime of helping communities with various needs through ministries that focus on family catechesis.  When Precious Blood Parish merged with St. Malachy Parish in 2005, Deacon Mario instituted worship services and programs that eased the transition for parishioners and helped unite the community. 
  • The Knights of Columbus will receive the Gaudium et Spes Awardin recognition of Hispanic lay ministry.  More than a century after it began, the Knights of Columbus organization remains true to its founding principles of charity, unity and fraternity. With more than 1.8 million worldwide members, the organization is now fully committed to welcoming its Hispanic brothers and their families to join its ranks.  Earlier this month, the first 4th Degree Initiation, conducted in Spanish, was performed in Illinois. 
  • The Sembradores Youth Group will receive the Blessed Pope John Paul II Award  in recognition of a teen or young adult or group.  The Sembradores Youth Group serves young people in the Archdiocese of Chicago.  Defining themselves as a “Community Missionary School,” the Youth Group began in 2008 at Most Blessed Trinity Parish in Waukegan, Illinois.  The Sembradores Youth Group aims to rescue young people from the terrible loneliness they often experience in this individualistic and materialistic society.  The Movement offers a sense of community which is found in the Gospel itself, the very essence of Christianity. 

The evening’s Master of Ceremonies will be Enrique Rodriguez, news reporter and anchor for Univision Chicago.  Entertainment and dancing follow the awards ceremony.

For more information contact Fr. Marco Mercado, Archbishop’s Delegate for Hispanic Ministry, 312-534-1080 or visit

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