Catholic Community Services honors President Russell M. Nelson

Credit: Intellectual Reserve Inc.
Credit: Intellectual Reserve Inc.
Credit: Intellectual Reserve Inc.

As a heart surgeon, Russell M. Nelson spent his professional career endeavoring to save physical lives. He took his skills and pioneering techniques around the world, teaching and performing operations where they were otherwise unavailable.

Now, as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, President Nelson “has been able to continue and expand his humanitarian work as he visits and serves countries and peoples around the world in need,” according to information provided by Catholic Community Services of Utah during its annual awards dinner.

Catholic Community Services honored President Nelson during its Humanitarian Awards Dinner on Friday, Nov. 4, at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City.

During the event, President Nelson said, “I am deeply honored to accept this award. It is especially meaningful to me because it comes from valued friends who are themselves such stalwart examples of dedication to people in need.”

Over the years, the Church has given support to Catholic Community Services — a ministry of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City — and its efforts to serve the hungry, the homeless, the immigrants and the refugees in the community. Bradford Drake, Catholic Community Services executive director, said, “It’s just an honor for two faiths to work so closely together. We feel honored at CCS to be able to honor the LDS Church for the many, many good things that they do for CCS.”

Also recognized at the event were victim advocate Elizabeth Smart and Catholic Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe. Archbishop Wester was the ninth bishop of Salt Lake City from 2007 to 2015 and chairman of the CCS Board of Directors. During his service, CCS Immigration and Refugee Resettlement doubled in size. He continues to advocate for immigrant and refugee rights on a national level.

Elizabeth Smart Gilmour, a Latter-day Saint, survived a nine-month ordeal after being abducted from her home in 2002. She now works as an advocate for victims and survivors of all tragedies.

President Nelson also expressed his appreciation for being recognized with Archbishop Wester and Sister Gilmour, who “have likewise dedicated — and continue to dedicate — their lives to the benefit of our brothers and sisters in distress.”

In accepting his award, President Nelson said when he thinks of the more than 1,000 meals served daily at the Catholic Community Services’ St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall, he is reminded of Christ’s words found in Luke 14:13-14. “But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee.”

When President Nelson thinks of the shelter, showers, laundry facilities and haircuts provided by Catholic Community Services’ Weigand Homeless Resource Center, he said he is reminded of the Lord’s words, “the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Luke 9:58).

And when he thinks of the more than 600 refugees who are helped by Catholic Community Services in resettling in Utah each year, President Nelson said, “Again, I am reminded that the Savior Himself was a refugee from His home country while still a child. His mother and Joseph had to rely on the mercies of the Egyptians until it was safe for them to return. Certainly it is an act of Christian kindness for us to reach out in hospitality and compassion to embrace those who have arrived as strangers among us.”

Hearts have been touched in observing the hardships endured by millions of refugees, President Nelson said. “They have embarked on long and hazardous journeys across treacherous waters or vast deserts to often inhospitable circumstances. They have left behind their professions, possessions, and many of their loved ones.”

The response to the invitation of the First Presidency one year ago to participate in local refugee relief projects has been remarkable, President Nelson noted. “Thousands of hosts have sought ways they can best be of help. Many of these good intentions could only be realized because of the groundwork already laid by our friends at Catholic Community Services, the International Rescue Committee, and other refugee resettlement organizations here and across the country.”

President Nelson shared his prayer “that we may continue to walk together as partners in this glorious cause of saving and lifting lives, that in so doing, we may each enjoy a purposeful life.”

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