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Bishops Award for Marion Elliott, retired principal
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Marion Elliott with a plaque he received in 2009 for being inducted in the Babe Ruth Baseball Hall of Fame. - photo by GLENN KAHL

Marion Elliott has been a “bright light” to countless school children in the Manteca Unified School District for many years.

This year, the retired educator and principal will also be recognized as one of 11 “Bright Lights” in the six-county jurisdiction of the Catholic Diocese of Stockton. Elliott and 10 other outstanding Catholics from various parishes in the diocese will be honored at the 10th Annual Bishop’s Awards Dinner on Saturday, Oct. 15. The event will be held at the Church of the Presentation, 6715 Leesburg Place in Stockton, starting at 6:30 p.m.

“The 2011 Bishop’s Awards Dinner will celebrate the humanitarian work being done every day by Catholics in our Diocese. Their lives embody the concepts of charity and social justice and are shining examples of faith, courage, and service to God and community,” Bishop Stephen E. Blaire stated in a press release.

“This is a way to honor outstanding Catholics in the community, people who are really outstanding examples of their faith, service to God and service in their community,” diocesan spokeswoman Rebecca Glissman said of the reason behind the establishment of the recognition award 10 years ago.

“It’s a lifetime achievement award. These are people who didn’t just do a couple of good things. They have been doing these things their whole lives,” added Glissman.

She said the honorees are being recognized in seven different categories. Elliott is being honored for his “Life of Youth Service” encapsulated in the following description provided by the diocese.

“In 1954 at the age of 20, Marion Elliott was received into the Roman Catholic Church and has been living out his Catholic faith ever since. As an educator by vocation, he taught eighth grade catechism classes for 10 years, helping youth to receive their final sacrament of initiation – Confirmation. In addition to guiding them through this important life step, Marion also chaperoned many of their trips. For this, Marion was awarded the Pious X medal in 1969.”

The statement went on to add that Elliott “has also been an instructor with the Catholics Returning Home program, as well as an instructor with the St. Anthony’s RCIA program. He is very active in the Knights of Columbus, Manteca Pregnancy Help Center and St. Anthony School. (He) has been a lector at St. Anthony of Padua in Manteca for over 35 years and recruits and trains new lectors for the parish.”

Elliott was inducted in 2009 into the Babe Ruth Baseball Hall of Fame for nearly 50 years of volunteer service with that youth group.

Of the 11 “Bright Lights” awardees, four are couples, which is another reason the awards ceremony this year is special, Glissman said.

“We’ve had other couples in the past but I don’t think we’ve ever had this many at one time,” she said.

The other “Bright Lights” honorees besides Elliott are:

• John and Ann Van Ruiten, Life of Community Service, St. Anne, Lodi.

• Deacon Bill and Helen Warren, Life of  Religious Service, St. Joachim, Lockeford.

• Dr. Henry and Carol Zeiter, Life of Service to the Poor, St. Anne, Lodi.

• Msgr. Aloys Conrad Gruber, Life of Courage, St. Mary of the Annunciation, Oakdale.

• Carrie Horman, Life of Service to the Church, St. Stanislaus, Modesto.

• Dr. Richard Heck and Dr. Robert Forrester, Special 10th Anniversary Award, Our Lady of Fatima, Modesto.

Each of the 11 “Bright Lights” awardees will receive a medallion and a plaque from Bishop Stephen Blaire. Glissman described the plaque as a “beautiful bronze mounted on wood; it’s gorgeous and really heavy.”

Other parishioners of St. Anthony of Padua in Manteca who have been recognized at the annual Bishop’s Awards Dinners are Mary McCleary who was honored in 2007, and Roberto Sepulveda in 2008.

Bishop’s Awards Dinner proceeds to benefit Catholic Charities, students

Tickets to the Bishop’s Awards Dinner are $150 per person. The evening will begin with cocktails at 6:30 p.m. with dinner to be served at 7:30 p.m. followed by the recognition program. The event is chaired by Don and Linda Wiley.

All proceeds from the awards dinner will go to Catholic Charities and to SEEDS, Glissman said.

Catholic Charities is considered the largest private network of social service organizations in the United States whose mission is “to support families, reduce poverty, and build communities.”

“SEEDS provides tuition assistance to students who otherwise could not afford a Catholic education,” Glissman said.

The tuition assistance is open to any family that wants to send a child to one of the 11 Catholic elementary schools in the diocese. There are two Catholic high schools serving the diocese – St. Mary’s in Stockton and Central Catholic in Modesto.

SEEDS, according to the diocese’s web site, “is an independent, nonprofit organization made up of concerned community leaders.”

The Diocese of Stockton which covers 10,023 square miles with a total population of 1,120,741 encompasses six counties —San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Alpine, and Mono. Catholics in these counties comprise 19 percent – or 216,919 – of the overall population.