St. Joseph the Worker Shrine in the 60th anniversary year (2016) of its formal dedication as an inner-city spiritual oasis (the established Oblate foundation here dates back to 1868) launched what would become an annual Christian Worker Recognition Award.
Awardees are folks in the greater-Lowell area who have demonstrated the Christian values of faith, humility and outreach to the marginalized in their personal lives as well as integrity, respect and service in the workplace.
The awardees are men/women who in various ways embody the values of St. Joseph: a just, honest and self-sacrificing person but also a courageous man. Through his resolute action, he demonstrated his faith, love and acceptance of God’s will – under challenging and even dangerous circumstances. Joseph took on immense responsibility humbly and without hesitation.
Awardees: Dr. Rebecca Duda, Thomas Santosuosso
Dr. Rebecca Duda’s many positions of responsibility has included her current one as Enrollment Coordinator for the Lowell Public Schools, serving as the School Department’s liaison with Federal agencies to implement the Federal Homeless Act with the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Rebecca has a keen ability to understand families in need – to wit: A family arrives at the office on Friday at 3:00 pm. It’s snowing heavily. They have 3 children, no car and were put out of their apartment – they have no-where to go. All agencies are closing due to the bad weather. Rebecca solicits staff ideas to get this family sheltered, even ideas that involve paying out of staff pockets. Her leadership strategizes ways to keep this family safe. Her compassion leads the way.
Dr. Duda exemplifies compassion and concern for those who come for assistance and her staff take their cues from her. Educational endeavors have marked her professional life – from teaching at the primary and secondary levels to her current adjunct professorship at UMass Lowell, lecturing in her field of American History. She is on the Dracut School Committee, involved in devising and implementing programs to enhance teaching and learning. She presents professional development workshops and hosts community learning sessions to better discern issues of concern to parents. Rebecca has won countless awards for her outstanding work as an educator.
Finally, volunteerism is part of Rebecca’s Social DNA. She supports local businesses though the “Monday Night Dinner Club”; she encouraged and sponsored youths to rediscover their religious roots; she offers technical expertise maintaining the Shrine’s Digital Bulletin Board; she produces history pieces for The Lowell Sun and hosts a local history program on Dracut cable TV. A compilation of her core attributes would include award winning educator, attentive listener, creative problem solver, effective collaborator, visionary thinker, program manager and a goal-driven empathetic leader. Most importantly, as one nominator put it, “By virtue of her faith, she adds so much purpose to her life and all the lives she touches.”
Thomas Santosuosso, Jr. is an aircraft mechanic for Delta Airlines working out of Logan Airport in Boston. How he became interested in the field of aircraft mechanics is illustrative of his character and dutiful dedication. He wanted to better himself and his potential future family. He didn’t feel he could do that as an automobile mechanic.
He moved to Vermont, lived in his car and pursued his A&P license. He lived humbly for years denying himself the comforts many of us take for granted. He didn’t listen to the naysayers and followed the stick-to-itiveness of his Catholic faith to better himself. Now, as an aircraft mechanic, he is attentive to his coworkers on a nightly basis.
He followed the promptings of the Holy Spirit one night to check on one of his coworkers, whom he found to be completely overwhelmed by the amount of tasks he had been assigned. With Tom’s help, they were able to render the aircraft ready to depart on time in the morning. He also regularly volunteers to mentor new mechanics as they are hired. They trust Tom and know that they can rely on him for help.
He also volunteers for the A220 Aircraft Team, flying to different locations around the country to contribute to Team input sessions. The A220 is an aircraft new to Delta Airlines. Tom helps explain the maintenance manuals and puts forward suggestions to improve the overall operation of the Teams. Many of the older mechanics avoid the A220 since it is a newer aircraft and the find mastery of its particulars almost overwhelming. Tom is known for volunteering to troubleshoot the problem issues and help resolve them – many other mechanics shy away from such problematic issues.
Tom works the overnight shift, but still makes time for his wife; he works weekends as well. His wife, Darcy, often has to stop herself from nagging him at the Sunday morning Mass at St. Joseph’s for being tired or dozing off at times. The context sets everything in proper perspective – St. Joseph the Worker Shrine. St. Joseph worked for his family, was tired as well and heard the promptings of the Holy Spirit through dreams. Tom is exactly where he needs to be.
Tom volunteers to serve at many ACTS Retreats and has served as Retreat Team Leader. When he happens upon fellow retreatants, there is always a good deal of joyful comradery in the encounters. Tom makes it a habit of alternating among area parishes for Sunday Mass – as per his work schedules and deliberately to avoid getting into too comfortable routines. In all sincerity, Tom regularly declares that he does not work for the paycheck; the paycheck is just a small benefit for a job well done!