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Two receive ‘Spirit’ award

Tori Roeck | Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Over the weekend, two members of the Notre Dame community received the Spirit of Holy Cross award.

Larry Cunningham, professor emeritus of theology, and Barb Carlson, retired office manager and assistant to the director of the U.S. Province Office of Vocations, were recognized with the honor, which is sponsored by the Congregation of Holy Cross and given out on the eve of the Solemnity of Our Lady of Sorrows, the patroness of the Congregation.

According to a press release from the Congregation of Holy Cross, “The Spirit of Holy Cross Award acknowledges the critical importance lay collaborators play in living out the vision and mission of Holy Cross founder Blessed Basil Moreauto make God known, loved and served through education, parish and mission settings.”

Cunningham, who began teaching theology at Notre Dame in 1988, said he strongly believes in the mission of the Congregation and the University.

“I have always felt that being a professor is a kind of vocation to serve the University and to serve the Church and to serve the broader public,” Cunningham said. “Since the Catholic ethos of Notre Dame is shaped by the Congregation, that inevitably meant that I wanted to be supportive of that mission and try to do so in any way that I could.”

Some of these ways include teaching seminarians, being active in the Basilica and assisting Campus Ministry, he said.

Cunningham said the Congregation’s message of educating the mind and heart especially resonates with him.

“I think that not only do I have to try to be the best intellectual impact that I can be in my classroom but also to help develop the full person, which I understand the word heart to be a shorthand for that notion of helping people mature socially and spiritually and so on,” he said.

Carlson also devoted her life to teaching, living out the Congregation’s motto of educating the mind and heart as a kindergarten teacher at Christ the King School in South Bend, she said.

“It’s not the mind you’re educating. It’s a person’s faith and emotional development,” Carlson said. “The charism of Holy Cross is something I truly believe in. It’s reflected in faith, mission [and] service.”

Carlson said she has been involved with the Holy Cross since birth; first as a parishioner at St. Joseph’s Parish in South Bend and also as a graduate of St. Joseph Grade School, St. Joseph High School and Saint Mary’s.

In 1997, Carlson said she took time off from teaching to spend four months in East Africa interacting with Holy Cross missionaries and living the lifestyle of a third world country.

“I learned as much about myself in that four months as I did those that I met,” she said. “It was a great growth experience for me.”

After retiring from teaching, Carlson said she went on to work for the Holy Cross Office of Vocations.

“The part that I enjoyed most was meeting and working with the incoming seminarians,” she said. “They pretty much unequivocally were great young men who had many talents and were very committed to the work of God in their lives.”

In a Congregation of Holy Cross press release, Fr. Jim Gallagher, director of vocations, who nominated Carlson for the Spirit of Holy Cross award, said she has lived out the Holy Cross mission in all aspects of her life.

“As a collaborator in education, parish and mission, Barb has connected with many levels of our life and work,” Gallagher said. “In her fidelity to her vocation as a wife, mother, teacher and assistant, she has been a powerful witness and encouragement to us to remain faithful to our vocation.”

Carlson said she believes the Congregation has done more for her than she could ever do for it.

“All along the way, there have been associations with Holy Cross priests and religious [in my life], and it very positively affected my life,” she said. “From my standpoint, I have gained much from my association and apparently they felt that I contributed to the Congregation.”