via the USCCB:
A convert to Catholicism dedicated to “serving the immigrant and the stranger” is the recipient of the 2014 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award. Bethany Welch, Ph.D., is being recognized for her commitment and work to empower immigrants and the poor as founding director of the Aquinas Center, a center of community development created in partnership with the South Philadelphia parish community of St. Thomas Aquinas.
“Bethany Welch is practicing her Catholic faith in an inspiring way. She lives at the service of immigrants and the working poor, those on the margins of our society,” said Bishop Soto. “Her work echoes Pope Francis’ call to reach out to those whom the culture excludes with the evangelii gaudium, the joy of the Gospel. Bethany brings to life the mission of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.”
“I am part of a generation that wants more. I want the Church and my community to ask more of me, to challenge me, to expect a lot,” said Welch.
Working with parishioners in South Philadelphia, she led efforts to found the Aquinas Center, re-purposing a former convent to create a space for community organizing, advocacy, service for the immigrant community, urban immersion experiences and revitalization projects, like community gardens. Welch has served in multiple leadership and volunteer positions within the Catholic Church, including service on parish councils, in national Catholic organizations, and with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Congratulations to Bethany, a very worthy choice.