TORONTO, June 7, 2007 – The Catholic Civil Rights League is happy to announce the winners of this year’s Archbishop Exner Award for Catholic Excellence in Public Life. The League created the award in 2004 to mark the retirement of Archbishop Exner, Archbishop Emeritus of Vancouver and League chaplain. The award honours outstanding achievements in the service of the faith by Catholic laity.
This year the League extends the award to two outstanding Catholic laypersons, J. Fraser Field of Powell River BC, and Jim Hughes of Toronto, for service to education and to the pro-life movement respectively. The awards were given at the League’s recent Spring dinner. Coverage of the event, and other League initiatives, will be included in the upcoming edition of the League’s quarterly newsletter Civil Rights.
Detailed information about the award winners follows.
Fraser Field, for services in education:
Fraser Field is the founder and managing editor of the Catholic Education Resource Center, popularly known as CERC, an online library of articles and book excerpts of special interest to teachers and professors but greatly appreciated by many others for their fidelity to orthodox Catholic teaching. CERC (www.catholiceducation.org) is on a mission of evangelization in the age of the Internet.
While teaching, Mr. Field became aware of the need to provide teachers with the wide variety of teaching tools about the Catholic faith that are available by integrating them on an attractive, easy-to-use website. This venture went live in 1998, and has since attracted thousands of regular visitors and subscribers.
“I am very honoured to be receiving the Adam Exner award and I believe that His Grace Adam Exner will be pleased as well; he was very encouraging of our initiative,” said Mr. Field. “I would like to thank (League President Emeritus) Tom Langan publicly. Tom is my dear friend and mentor; he has been a serious supporter and encourager of this initiative since the beginning. In fact, CERC would not have come into being had not Tom believed in and supported it as and when he did. God bless and grant long life to both Tom and Janine Langan.
“I converted to the Catholic faith in 1987 and, after working in counselling psychology for several years decided to return to school and obtain a Bachelor of Education in order to help spread the good news of the Catholic faith in the Catholic schools.
“As a relatively new and very keen convert in those early days of new life, I found myself increasingly alarmed at what seemed a growing effort in diverse educational and cultural circles to paint Christianity, and especially the Catholic Church, as a blot on human existence. In the media and in the public square the Church was taking a beating.
Noting that these indictments were going largely unchallenged, despite being false or misleading, Mr. Field said that the work of CERC and the League has been complementary in meeting the challenge.
The Church’s challenge in communicating her message in a climate of such widespread misinformation seemed at the time daunting, even overwhelming. Added to all this was the consideration that the religious education of most Catholics — even well-educated Catholics — is doctrinally at an elementary school level.
Since its inception, CERC has been dedicated to compiling an Internet resource library made up of the clearest, most accurate and convincing articles we can find on all aspects of the Church’s teaching and history. CERC has worked to make freely available and easily accessible a well-reasoned Catholic perspective on everything from social justice issues to history and religion, from sexuality to literature and politics, from the environment to parenting and the latest trends in education.
Today, CERC is educating a broad range of Catholics and enquiring non-Catholics about the positive role Catholicism has played and continues to play in the world. As well, it has become a major clearinghouse for the best well-reasoned responses to the widespread indictments and misunderstandings about the Catholic Church coming from the larger culture.
Of particular interest is CERC’s popular email newsletter, the CERC Bi-Weekly Update. The update is a free service, listing all the new articles posted to the CERC site during the past two weeks and pointing readers to important editorials of interest on matters of faith and culture from around the world. People can sign up for the update from the front of the site (www.catholiceducation.org).
Jim Hughes, for services to the pro-life movement
Award recipient Jim Hughes has served the pro-life movement for over 40 years in the pro-life movement, first as a tireless volunteer and then as a guiding force in broadening the scope of Canada’s pro-life movement to combat other anti-life forces such as the re-definition of marriage, euthanasia and assisted suicide. Mr. Hughes is the National President of Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), which is the political arm of the pro-life movement here in Canada, and the Vice President of the International Right to Life Federation.
Jim Hughes was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He has been married for 41 years to Virginia, a registered nurse. They have four adult-aged children and are blessed with five grandchildren.
Shortly after the death of fellow parishioner, Canadian artist William Kurelek, the priests at Corpus Christi parish in Toronto, encouraged Jim to join the pro-life movement. So in 1978, Mr. Hughes interrupted a successful 10-year career in his own wholesale/importing business to dedicate his services to the pro-life cause. It was through the urging of his wife, Ginny, that he joined CLC. She suggested that he volunteer at CLC for two years to help get it off the ground. The two years rolled into 29 years and counting.
Campaign Life Coalition works with all levels of government in Canada to secure full legal protection for all human beings, from the time of fertilization to natural death. Through the years of changes in the political climate, Jim Hughes has kept working relentlessly to establish and re-establish a Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus in Ottawa. He regularly meets with Members of Parliament, Senators, and leaders of life and family organizations here in Canada, in the United States and in Europe.
CLC is actively involved at the international level, representing pro-life and pro-family Canadians. It became involved at the United Nations in 1994, at the urgent request of the Holy See and immediately obtained official UN recognition as an NGO (non-governmental organization). CLC has sent participants to various UN conferences including Cairo (on Population & Development), Copenhagen (on Social Development), Beijing (on Women), Istanbul (on Housing), Rome (on Food), and Lisbon (on Youth).
Thanking the League for the award, Mr. Hughes joked about how his initial commitment of two years had turned into 30, and recalled meetings with many people involved with life issues, including Henry Morgentaler, who “thanked me for the prayers.”
The story underlines the importance of prayer in combating the issues of the day, Mr. Hughes reminded the audience. “Before I became involved with this work, I went to Mass on Sundays. Since then, spiritual reading, the rosary and other frequent prayer, and daily Mass, have become part of my life.”
In March 1983, Campaign Life Coalition founded The Interim, Canada’s only pro-life, pro-family newspaper, in answer to the need for truth in journalism. In keeping pace with the electronic-savvy population, The Interim started the Internet-based LifeSite Daily News in 1997.
Jim strongly believes that our youth “are not our future but our present” and must be an integral part of the pro-life movement. In this regard, CLC, from its inception, has hired summer students as interns who, through their work with and courses at CLC, gain knowledge and awareness of the issues involved in respect of abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research, cloning, marriage and other family issues, and are trained in pro-life activities. Many of these young people have gone on to become leaders of pro-life groups in their communities and in other international organizations. Many of them have represented CLC at U.N. conferences. Pro-life Members of Parliament and Senators rely heavily on the briefs these U.N representatives write on the unreported machinations of elements at the United Nations.
Jim is also one of 18 individuals named in a lawsuit launched by the former Ontario New Democratic Party government to silence the pro-life movement. The case has not been resolved.
Catholic Civil Rights League (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization and has chapters across Canada. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.