For Sister Kathleen Wegman of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, help is always better than idleness.
“Each day, we have to decide whether to be Good Samaritans or indifferent bystanders,” the Jefferson City native said, echoing Pope Francis’s encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti: On Fraternity and Social Friendship.”
Sr. Kathleen spoke briefly to about 45 people Aug. 27 in the Alphonse J. Schwartze Memorial Catholic Center, after accepting the Missouri Catholic Conference’s (MCC) 2021 Citizen Recognition Award.
She was referring to Jesus’s parable about a man who was beaten, robbed and left for dead (Luke 10:25-37). Two people of religious stature indifferently walked past him, but a detested foreigner took pity on him and helped him.
“I pray for the grace that we can all assist one another by being that Good Samaritan and not engaging in being a bystander and walking past people in need,” said Sr. Kathleen.
She previously served this diocese as chancellor and then as director of parish and charitable services.
She was recently invited to serve as part-time director of mission integration for Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri (CCCNMO), which she helped establish in 2011.
She said this award means very much to her “because I know it comes from people who know me.”
The MCC is the public-policy agency of the state’s four Roman Catholic dioceses, actively promoting laws and policies that reflect the common good and the Church’s social teachings.
Each year, the MCC honors a Catholic individual from each of the state’s four dioceses, who has exemplified Catholic values and tried to promote them in public policy and in their community and their parishes.
Citizen Recognition Awards are usually presented during the MCC Annual Assembly in the Capitol each fall. This year’s assembly will be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bishop W. Shawn McKnight, executive secretary of the MCC’s board of directors, presented the award.
Sr. Kathleen previously served on the MCC’s Public Policy Committee, which helps shape the agency’s legislative priorities each year.
“She has always been a great voice for the poor, for the downtrodden,” stated Deacon Tyler McClay, MCC executive director. “As we worked through policy decisions, she always made sure we were keeping their needs in mind.”
The people who nominated her for the award pointed out her long track record for lifting up the vulnerable, whether as a teacher, administrator, SSND leader or participant in overseas missions.
“Sister Kathleen is a champion defender of the poor and socially marginalized,” the nominators stated. “She focuses her efforts on social justice issues and serving those who are poor in spirit.”
Sr. Kathleen was quick to point out that this award reflects all of the people who have helped shape her outlook on life.
“From my family to the Catholic schools I’ve attended, to many of my coworkers and former coworkers — it’s all of you that have pulled out of me the gifts that God has given me,” she said. “I’m very grateful.”
She shared an 1868 quote from Blessed Mother Theresa of Jesus Gerhardinger, foundress of the School Sisters of Notre Dame: “True and sincere love of our neighbor is at the same time the infallible criterion of our love of God.”
Deacon McClay noted that Sr. Kathleen has worked around the world, befriending people from many different countries, religions and walks of life.
“And she just has a way about her,” he said, “a way of bringing people together and reminding us of our mission as Catholics to look out for people who are less fortunate.”
The people who nominated her said her life’s example is a testament to Jesus’s proclamation of the greatest law:
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” (Matthew 22:37-40).
Sr. Kathleen thanked everyone present for their support and encouragement “in enabling me to try my best to be the best I can be, and to share the gifts that God has given me.”