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10 Catholics who restored our faith in humanity in 2021

CATHOLICS RESTORE HUMANITY

lev radin/Shutterstock | pursuedbytruth/Instagram | Anthony WALLACE/AFP

Theresa Civantos Barber - Zoe Romanowsky - published on 12/30/21

Let’s take a moment to honor some modern-day heroes.

It’s been a rough year for most people, and there’s a real temptation to lose hope and feel that goodness is gone from this world. But the heartening truth is that there are countless good people out there dedicating their lives to serving others as Christ did. Some of these people end up making the news, but others work quietly. Regardless, their witness of faith, courage, and sense of mission always brings a strong sense of hope.

So let’s take a moment to honor some of these heroes from the past year. There are many others who deserve to be mentioned, but these 10 will inspire you as the calendar year comes to an end and we get ready for a new one to begin, with all its joys and challenges.

1Sister Ann Nu Thawng

MYANMAR

This Catholic nun courageously offered her life in place of others when a peaceful protest turned deadly in Myanmar. As police cracked down on marches, the Sister of St. Francis Xavier knelt down in front of troops, raised her hands into the air and cried out, “Don’t shoot, don’t kill the innocent. If you want, hit me.” 

Reports say that the soldiers were surprised at her actions and did not shoot but stopped their advance. Joseph Kung Za Hmung, editor of the Gloria News Journal, the first online Catholic newspaper in Myanmar, said, “Sr. Ann Nu Thawng is today a role model for Church leaders: bishops and priests are called to step out of their comfort zones and follow her courage as an example.”

2The Cuban freedom fighters

HAVANA

After decades of brutal oppression, the people of Cuba rose up against the regime several times this past year. Their fight is ongoing as they cry out for “a Cuba where justice, freedom and peace reign.” While not all of the protestors are Catholic, of course, we are thinking in a special way of the Catholic priests and bishops of Cuba who have voiced support for the protestors. 

3Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP

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A post shared by Sr. Theresa Aletheia 💀 (@pursuedbytruth)

Noble is a religious sister with the Daughters of Saint Paul — the “media nuns.” Her work to promote the life-changing Catholic practice of memento mori has been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, WPR and other media outlets. At at time when sickness and death is very much in our midst, Sister has reached so many people with the invitation to contemplate and prepare for the fact that each of us will die — and the Church is rich in practices and prayers to help us do that.

4Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades and Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens

Bishops Rhoades and Cozzens serve as chairmen of the USCCB committee on doctrine. In that role, they are spearheading a document on Eucharistic consistency to serve the Catholic Church in the U.S. Their goal? A Eucharistic revival.

“There is a great need for a Eucharistic revival in the Church, a deeper understanding of the Eucharistic mystery and its centrality in our life,” Rhoades said in a recent interview. Their work will be a guide to reviving belief in the Eucharist in the coming year.

5Molly Burhans

Founder of GoodLands and a Catholic laywoman, Burhans mission is to help the Catholic Church utilize its global landholdings for the good of the environment. She recently earned a National EarthCare Award for the way she has used her maps to help address climate change. Her maps have also helped religious communities around the world to map and understand their parish boundaries, landholdings, and programs.

6Jimmy Lai and others fighting for liberty in Hong Kong

Lai Chee-ying or “Jimmy Lai” is a Catholic entrepreneur and activist living in Hong Kong. He founded Next Digital, a media company, and the popular newspaper Apple Daily. He has worked, suffered, and fought for democracy in Hong Kong and is currently serving a prison sentence for attending a Tiananmen Square massacre memorial.

Mr Lai’s Apple Daily newspaper published a handwritten letter by him, sent from prison, which read, “It is our responsibility as journalists to seek justice. As long as we are not blinded by unjust temptations, as long as we do not let evil get its way through us, we are fulfilling our responsibility.”

7José Andrés

JOSE ANDRES

A famous chef and Catholic humanitarian, José Andrés dedicates much of his time, energy, and resources to helping those in need. After the recent devastation in Kentucky from powerful tornadoes that ripped through the Midwest, he was there with his team feeding the uprooted communities. Among other impressive efforts, he’s also gone to places particularly hit hard by the coronavirus.

8Jonathan Roumie 

Catholic actor Jonathan Roumie has lit up the screen playing Jesus in The Chosen, helping millions of people around the world feel closer to Christ and connect to the Gospels. Roumie “brings an unparalleled warmth, gentleness, and humor to this daunting role.” The actor has also become a popular voice on Hallow, the number one Catholic meditation, prayer, and sleep app.

9Sir David Amess

Catholic pro-life British parliamentarian Sir David Amess was assassinated in October 15 during a meeting with constituents at a church in east London. But he spent his long career as a public servant working to better others’ lives, including the poor and marginalized.

England’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson described Amess’s “outstanding record of passing laws to help the most vulnerable” and called Amess “one of the kindest people” in politics. Amess’ work to promote the dignity of life included helping vulnerable women and working to restrict assisted suicide. The husband and father of five will be remembered for his efforts to restore a culture of life in the UK.

10Hidilyn Diaz

Hidilyn Diaz

Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz made history this summer, becoming the first athlete from the Philippines to win a gold medal at the Olympics. The emotional moment on the Tokyo podium was made all the more powerful by the athlete’s profession of faith.

Raising Our Lady’s Miraculous Medal high above her head, Diaz gave thanks to God. Reflecting later on her impressive lift she shared, “I did not expect to lift it yesterday. I guess that was God and all the people who prayed for me yesterday. I’m thankful to those who prayed and did the novena.”

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