The Christophers, a Catholic organization dedicated to bringing examples of transcendent light borne against darkness, has bestowed their prestigious awards for 2023 on 21 media releases whose work "affirms the highest values of the human spirit."
This year's 74th annual celebration features books, films and television programs that showcase themes of hope, generosity and the quiet, often unseen heroism born of selfless acts.
"The stories we're honoring acknowledge that the struggles we endure in life coexist with beauty and hope when we work together, despite our differences, to add love and healing to our world," said Tony Rossi, the Christophers' director of communications.
First presented in 1949, the Christopher Awards seek to encourage the production of excellence "in creative arenas that have the potential to influence a mass audience positively," while reflecting the Christopher motto, "It's better to light one candle than to curse the darkness."
In all, 21 writers, producers, directors, authors and illustrators whose work was released in 2022 were honored March 22.
In the film category, awards went to two documentaries, "The Best We've Got: The Carl Erskine Story" (Ted Green Films) and "Mother Teresa: No Greater Love" (Castletown Media).
Carl Erskine (1926-present), a standout baseball player for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, and whose son was born with Down syndrome, has lived a life deeply committed to promoting racial equality and advocating for those with intellectual and developmental challenges.
"Mother Teresa: No Greater Love" profiles St. Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997), her legacy of service to the poor, and her Missionaries of Charity's work bringing comfort to the dying, the hungry and the incarcerated.
The comedy-drama "A Man Called Otto" (Columbia Pictures/A Sony Company) tells the story of a grieving and cantankerous widower who finds new reasons to live as he reluctantly opens up his life to others.
In television, awards went to "Amber Brown" (Apple TV+), a comedy series written, directed and executive produced by Bonnie Hunt and featuring an 11-year-old title character who in two episodes befriends an elderly resident of a nursing home. Also honored was the Depression-era family story "A Walton's Thanksgiving" (The CW) and "The Gift of Peace" (Hallmark Movies & Mysteries) in which an artist, widowed and angry at God, finds healing while making the journey of grief with others.
The PBS series "American Masters" received a Christopher for "Marian Anderson: The Whole World in Her Hands" for its biographical look at Marian Anderson (1897-1993), the groundbreaking African American contralto whose artistic renown helped to feed her own civil rights work and paved the way for other Black Americans to enter the classical music profession.
Likewise, "11 Minutes," the Paramount Plus docu-series focused on the 2017 massacre of a Las Vegas concert, tells the story of heroic first responders and audience members who risked their lives and helped each other to heal in its aftermath.
Adult and children's books also were recognized by the Christophers, among them, "Father Ed" (Orbis Books), in which Dawn Eden Goldstein chronicles the life of Jesuit Father Ed Dowling, who fostered Alcoholics Anonymous groups among Catholics and ministered to those in troubled circumstances while championing civil and human rights issues.
"Sisters of Mokoma" (Viking/Penguin Random House) tells the stories of six Kentucky nuns who traveled to the poorest state in India to build a hospital that served everyone, regardless of caste or religion, offering new opportunities there for women seeking careers in medicine.
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham was honored for his Abraham Lincoln-themed book "And There Was Light" (Random House/Penguin Random House) as was Kevin Hazzard's "American Sirens" (Hachette Books), which shares the story of African American men in 1960s and 1970s Pittsburgh, who became the nation's first paramedics.
Also honored were two memoirs, "The Other Side of Yet" (Atria Books/Simon & Schuster) and "Wild Ride" (Convergent Books/Penguin Random House) in which authors Michelle D. Hord and Hayley Arceneaux, respectively, share stories of immense personal heartbreak and challenges that drove them to helping others find light in the midst of darkness.
Finally, six children's books were awarded for their storytelling and artwork touching on themes such as God's love, "Feathers from Above" (Kathleen Davis Books); kindness and inclusion, "Wolves Aren't Welcome" (Wild Iris Publishing); the relationships between children and the adults around them, "Remember Us with Smiles" (Loyola Press); the fulfillment of one's potential, "Growing an Artist" (A Paula Wiseman Book/Simon & Schuster); and the survival and triumph of human creativity and outreach during times of war, "Alias Anna" (Harper Collins Publishers) and "Devotion" (Delacorte Press/Penguin Random House).