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Fr. Lies honored with award

Catherine Owers | Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Fr. William Lies, vice president for Mission Engagement and Church Affairs, has always admired the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

But for the Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Washington and Catholic Charities USA, Lies himself is also admirable. The organizations presented him with a “Keep the Dream Alive” award in Washington D.C. on Jan. 12 at Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Roman Catholic Church.

The award honors King “by presenting awards to contemporary heroes working to keep his dream alive,” according to a press release from Catholic Charities USA.

“I’m humbled and honored to have received [the award], and I accepted it for the Center for Social Concerns and on behalf of Notre Dame,” Fr. Lies said, “Especially as it was given in the name of Dr. King who has been a hero of mine and of so many who care for the poor.”

Lies said the award is focused on “advocacy and poverty reduction.”

“It was an opportunity to honor Dr. King, primarily, by lifting up people who have fostered the dream he expounded on,” he said.

Lies expressed his belief that the award is a reflection on not only his work, but also the work of the faculty, staff and students at the Center for Social Concerns and is ultimately a reflection on the University.

“[And] as you look at the work of the Center, and the ways it tries to inculcate in our students a vision for a just and humane world,” he said. “The hope is to open our students’ eyes to some of the injustice present in our world, and have it strike them.”

Lies said King’s vision is derived from the call of Christ, something the University tries to emphasize through the Center for Social Concerns, as well as other programs on campus.

“At some point [we want] to have the undergrads realize what their responsibilities are before God and faith,” he said, as well as their responsibility to their neighbors, both next door and across the globe.

Fr. Lies had been a lay volunteer with the Dominican volunteers for a year after he attended college.

“It was there that I was awakened to that part of the Gospel call, … Jesus’ walking with the poor and calling us to be with them,” he said.

He said the passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians about Jesus and the power of his resurrection has spoken to him throughout his work.

“If we really knew Jesus and the power of his resurrection, we would be for others in a way that would be really impressive,” Fr. Lies said.

“This is really about inculcating in our students that great vision of Dr. King, and some of the others, who, in Christ’s image, have called folks to be with the poor and all those on the margins,” he said. “Much of what we have to offer the Church and the world as a Catholic university is part of his vision, and that is a more just and humane society.”