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Msgr. Jack Harris nominated as ‘light of Christ’

Arkansas’ death row priest among 10 finalists for prestigious award

Published: October 6, 2018   
Aprille Hanson / Arkansas Catholic file
Msgr. Jack Harris, pastor at Sacred Heart Church in Morrilton, speaks to Pax Christi Little Rock members in 2017 about his work as a chaplain for inmates in Arkansas prisons.

CHICAGO (CNS) — Msgr. Jack Harris, a minister on Arkansas’ death row and a trained crisis counselor, is among the 10 finalists for Catholic Extension’s Lumen Christi Award.

The winner is expected to be announced later this month. He or she will earn a $50,000 grant for their ministry.

The finalists for its Lumen Christi Award show “what can happen when we build up and strengthen Catholic faith communities in the poorest parts of the United States,’” said Father Jack Wall, president of Catholic Extension.

“If we all follow their examples, we can change our world,” the priest said.

The Lumen Christi Award, which is Latin for “Light of Christ,” honors an individual or group who demonstrates how the power of faith can transform lives and communities.

Since his ordination in 1974, Msgr. Harris has been a teacher, coach and pastor, but his biggest outreach is prison ministry.

“This seed was planted early,” said Catholic Extension, when his father, a Little Rock police officer, was killed in the line of duty before he was born. His appreciation for the victim’s viewpoint has helped him to forge bridges between the incarcerated, their victims and their families. He has spent the last 14 years as chaplain to death-row inmates at a supermax prison. Twice a week, Msgr. Harris drives 250 miles to visit nearly 500 men who are locked down for 23 hours a day in their cells. He talks and prays with them and offers Mass and confession.

Msgr. Harris is the pastor of Sacred Heart Church and School in Morrilton.

The Lumen Christi Award is the highest honor bestowed by the Chicago-based national organization, which raises and distributes funds to support U.S. mission dioceses, many of which are rural, cover a large geographic area, and have limited personnel and pastoral resources.

The dioceses served by Catholic Extension nominate individuals and programs for the award.

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