Father Les Schmidt honored for his work with workers’ rights, mountain-top removal, and criminal justice in the South and Appalachia

In La Croix, June 2020:  The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests has presented its highest awards for 2020 to a nun who was former director of the Catholic Health Association and to a priest well known for his work with social justice issues.

The awards by US Catholic priests’ largest group were given to Sister Carole Keehan, a Daughter of Charity and to Father Les Schmidt, a Glenmary Home Missioner.

Sister Keehan received her award following her keynote address to the virtual assembly of the association June 23. Father Schmidt received his award the next day.

The St. John XXIII Award is given annually by the association to those who embody what Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council envisioned.

Sister Keehan who was a principal force in framing and supporting the Affordable Care Act was honored “for exercising her baptismal priesthood by promoting affordable health care for every person and serving prophetically as President of the Catholic Health Association of the United States from 2005 to 2019, witnessing to Church and society in the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louise de Marillac, and Vatican II.”

Father Schmidt is known for his work with workers’ rights, mountain-top removal, and criminal justice.

He was honored for “working tirelessly to make the Church happen in the U.S. South, especially on the peripheries among the poor and the marginalized, enabling lay leaders to take their rightful place in keeping with the vision and values of Vatican II.”

Schmidt served for more than 50 years as Regional Worker in Appalachia and the South. He held more than a thousand listening sessions in preparation for the “people’s pastoral” published by the Catholic Committee of Appalachia.

Past awardees include Archbishop John R. Quinn of San Francisco, retired, author of Ever Ancient, Ever New: Structures of Communion in the Church and Sister Simone Campbell, of Sisters of Social Service, executive director of Network, lobbyist, leader of Nuns on the Bus.

The AUSCP was founded in 2011 and is the largest association of priests in the United States. Part of its stated mission is to help support the continuing implementation of Vatican II teachings.

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