SALT LAKE CITY — There are refugee families in Utah who would literally be lost without Katherine Mahoney.
Having lived in tent camps for five, 10 or even 20 years, they come to this state with no clue about the appliances in their new kitchens, or the routes of the buses zooming outside their windows. But with Mahoney, a volunteer at the Parish Refugee Resettlement Ministry at St. John the Baptist in Draper, together they navigate first visits to imposing grocery stores and first TRAX rides.
"No matter where you come from, people really are the same," Mahoney said at an event recognizing her humanitarian efforts Thursday.
Mahoney and four other individuals and organizations were honored at the Catholic Community Services of Utah banquet for their support and involvement in the lives of the state's disadvantaged and needy.
Mahoney, Jon and Karen Huntsman, The Sisters of Saint Benedict in Ogden, the Sisters of the Holy Cross in Salt Lake and LDS Welfare Services were all honored for their contributions. Olivia Chacon was honored as the Catholic Community Services employee of the year.
"They're always there where the need is," said the Most Rev. John C. Wester, bishop of the Salt Lake Catholic Diocese, in a prerecorded statement about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Welfare Services. "They're motivated by the gospel of Christ."
Leaders recognized Welfare Services for stepping in to provide regular meals for the city's homeless and for working closely with other faiths and charities.
"What I'm not sure people really recognize is how much they do here locally," Wester said.
H. David Burton, Presiding Bishop of the LDS Church, accepted the award on behalf of the welfare department, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
"For many of those years, we have been honored to have the opportunity of partnering with … Catholic Community Services," he said. "We are honored."
The Sisters of Saint Benedict delighted the audience by singing their blessing, which they've used over the last nearly 70 years to comfort hospital patients at St. Benedict's Hospital — now Ogden Regional Medical Center.
"They became the angels of caring and compassion," said Monsignor Terrence Fitzgerald with Catholic Community Services.
The Sisters of Holy Cross, who serve immigrant families in gaining self-reliance in addition to other roles, received similar standing ovations.
"Those success stories tell us of the possibilities when we all work together to solve the problems," said Sister Suzanne Brennan with the Sisters of the Holy Cross.
Karen Huntsman accepted the humanitarian award on behalf of her and her husband. The Huntsmans were recognized for their significant charitable donations in the state and beyond.
"I know each one of you as you go forth each day makes a difference," she said. "(Heavenly Father) judges people by the size of their heart. … He will judge us on our goodness and the reaching out that we do for his children."
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