Meet the Distinguished Alumni Award winners.
The Dei Verbum Award and the Lumen Gentium Award, which are presented annually, acknowledge two graduates of the Neuhoff School
of Ministry whose established records of outstanding accomplishment reflect the fruit
of "theological education for transformative service." These awards honor graduates
who have given exemplary service to the local church in general, the work of faith
formation in particular, and the larger community, especially the poor and needy.
The Dei Verbum Award annually honors a graduate of the Catholic Biblical School, while the Lumen Gentium Award is presented each year to an alumnus of the Neuhoff School of Ministry graduate
If you would like to nominate someone for one of our distinguished alumni awards,
please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will put you in contact with the Nomination Committee.
Deacon Ruben Natera | 2015-2016 Lumen Gentium Award
Deacon Ruben Natera has been an exemplary pastoral minister for many decades, serving
in a wide range of capacities in multiple parishes throughout the Diocese of Tyler.
He was chancellor for both Bishop Corrada and Bishop Strickland between 2008 and 2012
and has been actively involved in leadership with deacon formation, Hispanic ministry
and other ministries in the diocese. Deacon Natera is well-known and respected throughout
the state of Texas and beyond for his effective, generous and skilled ministry. He
is beloved by people who know him for his gentleness of spirit, his keenness of mind
and his openhearted sense of humor.
Beth Belcher | 2015-2016 Dei Verbum Award
Beth is an award-winning teacher with a Master of Theological Studies degree from
the University of Dallas, a graduate of the Catholic Biblical School, and a national
certification in Youth Ministry. She is the author of 60 resources, some also in Spanish,
leading families closer to God. Beth teaches parent sacramental classes at her parish,
St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Dallas, is a Middle School Religion teacher at St Maria
Goretti Catholic School in Arlington and a guest lecturer for RCIA classes. Beth has
been Hospitality Co-chair for the UDMC for the past five years and serves on the Bishop’s
Pastoral Council for the Diocese of Dallas. She is happily married and has six grown
Kevin Harrington | 2014-2015 Lumen Gentium Award
Kevin Harrington graduated with a master of theological studies degree in 1995, but
his record of service goes back to his youth. His formative experiences as an active
campus ministry leader in college and service as a member of the Happening Youth Retreat
team launched a lifetime of ongoing ministry in and for the church. As an active parishioner
at St. Thomas Aquinas parish in Pilot Point, Kevin has served the mission of the church
in a host of ways. He has been a catechist of adults and youth, served as a pastoral
council member, and contributed professional expertise in administrative areas. He
is also a decades-long supporter of retreat ministry through the Catholic Renewal
Center of North Texas and Montserrat Jesuit Retreat Center, where he has done everything
from maintenance to IT consultation, directed private and group retreats, and served
on the boards of directors. Of special import has been Mr. Harringtons work in ministry
with the incarcerated. He has been instrumental in the conduct of many Kairos Retreats
in the Texas penal system. He is a passionate and effective advocate for prison ministry,
and his gentle but persistent persuasion has drawn dozens of once reluctant volunteers
into committed service.
Cecilia Rangel | 2014-2015 Dei Verbum Award
Cecilia Rangel graduated with the first class from the Escuela Biblica Catolica at
the University of Dallas in May of 2010. She became a Eucharistic Minister in 2007,
and was eventually asked to create a formation program for Eucharistic Ministers and
altar servers in her parish, which she is still in charge of today. In 2011, alongside
other University of Dallas Escuela Biblica Catolica alumnus, she founded weekly Bible
classes at St. Ann, with an average attendance of 60 people. This November, the program
celebrated its third year. Cecilia has also participated as a volunteer in the fundraising
efforts of Radio Guadalupe, and most recently as a radio speaker. She is working at
St. Ann as Administrative Assistant to the Adult Religious Education Department, while
still volunteering by teaching Bible classes, serving as a Eucharistic Minister, and
training future Eucharistic Ministers. Cecilia and her husband, Raul, have been married
for eight years.
Lari Newman-Williams | 2013-2014 Lumen Gentium Award
Lari Newman-Williams graduated with the master of pastoral ministry degree in 2007.
After serving many years as a catechetical volunteer in the parish, Lari now works
as a parish administrator at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Southeast Dallas. Lari
returned to the classroom as the first student in the School of Ministry's church
management program, a joint venture with the University of Dallas Satish & Yasmin
Gupta College of Business. She completed this graduate certificate in 2012. She serves
in her parish as a cantor, liturgist, pastoral council member, and volunteer with
and advocate for the youth ministry program. She is integrally involved in the black
Catholic community, and has chaired the diocesan black Catholic "Come Home for Christmas"
initiative. In 2012, she was awarded the Servant of Christ Award in recognition of
outstanding leadership and service to the African American Catholic community of Dallas.
In 2013, Lari demonstrated her continued support for her alma mater when she began
working on a research project on contemporary parish life with undergraduate pastoral
ministry majors at the School of Ministry. Lari and her husband Ronnie have been married
for 31 years. They have one daughter, Annelle.
Mary Elizabeth Morgan | 2013-2014 Dei Verbum Award
Mary Elizabeth Morgan graduated from the School of Ministry Catholic Biblical School
in 2013 as part of the first class from the Diocese of Shreveport, LA. Mary is a member
of Christ the King Parish in Bossier City, LA, and she currently works as a nurse
at the Shriners Hospital in that area. In 1998, she completed the Loyola Institute
of Ministry Extension (LIMEX) Program at Chicago Loyola New Orleans. Mary is well-known
in the diocese as a self-less and caring minister who is generous with her time and
energy for the sake of others. Among other commitments, she is active in assisting
with RCIA, prison ministry, home visitations, taking food to the poor, working in
a free clinic, learning Spanish to better serve the Hispanic community, and doing
Pre-Cana at her home parish. Mary and her husband, Bob, have four grown children and
Denise Giegerich Phillips | 2012-2013 Lumen Gentium Award
Mrs. Phillips earned a master of religious education degree in 1990 as a member of
the inaugural class of the Institute of Religious and Pastoral Studies (now the Neuhoff
School of Ministry). A long time Dallas resident, she graduated from Bishop Dunne
High School before attending the University of Texas at Dallas, where she earned a
bachelor's degree in literary studies. She has served as catechist within the Catholic
Diocese of Dallas since 1981 and as director of campus ministry at the University
of Dallas since 1997. She is also currently the university's acting dean of student
life. Phillips earned a professional certification from the Catholic Campus Ministry
Association (CCMA) in 2004, and is part of that organization's Speaker Committee.
Last June, she was awarded CCMA's John Henry Cardinal Newman Legacy Society Award.
During her tenure as director of campus ministry, she collaborated with the School
of Ministry to establish the Campus Ministry Graduate Assistant Mentoring Program.
Deacon Eduardo and Olga Garcia | 2012-2013 Dei Verbum Award
Deacon and Mrs. Garcia graduated from the School of Ministry Catholic Biblical School
in 2010 as part of the first Spanish-language class. Members of Fort Worth's All Saints
Catholic Church until 1994, the couple is now active at St. Matthew Catholic Church
in Arlington, Texas, where Eduardo serves as a permanent deacon. Since 1995, the Garcias
have organized two retreats per year for couples who want to con-validate their marriage
in the church. Deacon Garcia also provides communion services at correctional institutions,
has assisted AIDS victims at John Peter Smith Hospital and serves as a pastoral counselor
within the parish, celebrating baptisms, weddings, quinceaeras and funerals. Mrs.
Garcia served on the Permanent Deacon Formation Board from 2000-2008. Together, the
couple serves their parish as Eucharistic ministers, catechists, presenters and small
Sr. Yolanda Cruz, SSMN | 2011-2012 Lumen Gentium Award
Sr. Cruz graduated from the School of Ministry with a master's in pastoral ministry
in 2005. She currently serves as vice-chancellor of the Diocese of Fort Worth, and
prior to that, she served as Director of Children's Catechesis for the diocese. She
has worked in catechetical ministry in several parishes in the Fort Worth, Mexico,
and her native New Jersey. A Sister of Saint Mary of Namur, she serves on the provincial
council and has worked in a variety of leadership positions within the order. She
has done extensive work to promote vocations to religious life, not only for her own
community, but more broadly in the local church, assisting with "Come and See" weekends
and other discernment programs across diocesan borders.
William E. O'Connor | 2011-2012 Dei Verbum Award
Mr. O'Connor graduated from the School of Ministry Catholic Biblical School in 2007.
An active member of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Azle, TX, Bill currently serves
as a lector, Eucharistic minister, RCIA catechist and sponsor, director of the altar
servers, and member of the Pastoral council and Liturgy committee. Four years ago,
Bill began a weekly bible study at the parish, drawing nearly 25 attendees each week
from his parish of only 300 families. A rancher by trade, Bill is also very active
in the Azle community. He serves on the board of directors for Green Light in Azle,
which provides housing and other services to battered women, and he sponsors the Azle
Future Farmers of America, FFA, and Beef Show Team, providing cattle, facilities,
training, and transportation to Azle youth who would not otherwise have the opportunity
to show cattle.
Dcn. Arnold Picon | 2010-2011 Lumen Gentium Award
Arnold Picon was ordained a deacon for the Diocese of Dallas in 1992. He serves at
St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Plano and throughout the Diocese wherever a Spanish
speaking deacon may be needed. He has been Director of Diaconal Ministry and Formation
in the Diocese of Dallas since 1997. He coordinates the ministry of deacons in the
Diocese and the formation of candidates for diaconal ministry. He also chairs the
Deacons' Advisory Council and the Deacons' Personnel Board, serves on the Hispanic
Leadership team, and the Landregan Lecture Series Board.
Tena Allain | 2010-2011 Dei Verbum Award
Ms. Tena Allain is a longtime member of St. Ann Catholic Church in Coppell, Texas.
Her generosity and skill have been applied in multiple areas of ministry to assist
the parish in its mission of proclaiming and living the gospel. A partial list of
her accomplishments includes service as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist,
finance council member, leader of adult mission trips to Mexico, Sunday School catechist,
communications director for youth ministry, LifeTeen Parents for Life leader, coordinator
of the parish Sunday School, and chair of the parish Pastoral Council.
Michele Elchlepp | 2009-2010 Lumen Gentium Award
Elchlepp chairs the Theology Department at Jesuit College Preparatory School, where
she has taught since 1994. She has been recognized for excellence in teaching and
served in leadership positions of the Jesuit Secondary Education Association, a national
coalition of educators serving schools staffed by the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).
Described by colleagues as "indefatigable," Ms. Elchlepp's effort, while always centered
on her students, extends to faculty development, curriculum design, and an innovative
program of volunteer service for Jesuit alumni. A graduate of Ursuline Academy, she
serves the larger community through participation in a variety of charitable and civic
organizations. Ms. Elchlepp called her studies at the School of Ministry "a touchstone"
in her work with students. "That knowledge has given me a base which I use while interacting
with my students as part of the formation of their knowledge and the development of
their personal relationship with God."
Reyna Casteln | 2009-2010 Dei Verbum Award
Casteln, a volunteer Bible study leader at the Federal Correctional Institution in
Fort Worth for over ten years, had been helping out at the federal prison on Fort
Worth's south side for several years when she began studies in the Catholic Biblical
School. That experience opened up the riches of the bible in a new way. "The classes
gave me more than just information about the Bible, "Ms. Casteln said. "They helped
me know at a new level that God loves us, no matter what. The teachers' love for the
Scriptures inspired me to share that deep truth with my brothers in prison." After
graduation, she arranged with professors at the School of Ministry to lead a small
group of Spanish speaking inmates through the comprehensive curriculum. A long time
volunteer for Tarrant County Aids Outreach Center and an ardent supporter of the work
of Catholic Charities, Ms. Casteln is also an associate of the Sisters of St. Mary
of Namur. She also served as an employee of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth for
over 20 years.
Barbara Landregan | 2008-2009 Lumen Gentium Award
Stephanie Reiter | 2008-2009 Dei Verbum Award
Jeff Hedglen | 2007-2008 Lumen Gentium Award
Delora Leder | 2007-2008 Dei Verbum Award
Dr. Judy Henneberger | 2006-2007 Lumen Gentium Award
Ceil Ladda | 2006-2007 Dei Verbum Award
Ruth Martin | 2005-2006 Lumen Gentium Award
Linda Khirallah Porter | 2004-2005 Lumen Gentium Award