For the second consecutive year, reporter Julio César Ortiz, (Univision Los Angeles-KMEX Channel 34) was awarded the prestigious Gabriel Award — sponsored half a century ago by the Catholic Academy of Communication Professionals — for his sports and human interest story, “A Saint on the Field.”
The story, reported with a true vision of humanity and life, was broadcast as a series in July 2014, during the World Cup in Brazil. It was based on the life and success of the three-time soccer champions of St. Turibius of Mogrovejo. The school is located in a poor neighborhood in South L.A.
“The series came to my mind when I was thinking of the children who have all the resources, money and a good social position for success in their lives,” Ortiz said. “They have no problem to succeed in life.”
But meditating on children living in disadvantaged areas, plagued by violence and experiencing the scourge of gangs led him to reflect on his “neighbor.”
“There’s nobody who wants to invest money for the triumph of children who are living in streets painted by graffiti,” Ortiz said. “No one would bet their money for them.”
But Ortiz, 39 — an immigrant from Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico — said that not only as reporter but as a person he “felt the call” to talk about the lives of these children while others focused on the World Cup.
“We all have a mission to which we are called,” he said. “Something extraordinary was motivating these kids. They had the energy to be inexplicable champions in the field.”
That was the spirit that inspired the 16 members of the St. Turibius soccer team, whom Julio César Ortiz met and interviewed for three days for the series.
“All three-time champions of the Catholic Soccer League are children of immigrant descent,” Ortiz said. “They have beaten big teams as Palos Verdes or Westwood, where money is not an obstacle.”
Children of St. Turibius of Mogrovejo don’t have a soccer field or uniforms. They always practice Monday, Wednesday and Friday on the basketball court, wearing tennis shoes so they don’t slip.
Ortiz also said that behind the self-image of children was their desire to beat their opponents based on the virtue of great humility — the same virtue preached by Santo Toribio de Mogrovejo — a Spanish missionary born in 1538, in Leon, Spain, and proclaimed a saint by Pope Benedict XIII on Dec. 10, 1726.
“This Santo Toribio is not the same [Santo Toribio Romo, of Mexico], but he helped the poor in South America, particularly in Peru, where he was installed as the second archbishop of Lima,” said the reporter. “He was the son of a wealthy landowner [Luis de Mogrovejo and Ana Robledo y Moran, who belonged to the Spanish nobility].”
When Ortiz did the story, he emphasized that the people should not feel sorry for the children of St. Turibius, because they are happy where they live, even amid marginalization and poverty.
In the souls of the St. Turibius children, Ortiz discovered there was a connection of faith as when the poor overcome the rich. It was something similar to the story of David and Goliath.
For Ortiz, who will receive the Gabriel Award in a special ceremony on June 25 at the Hyatt Regency Buffalo Hotel in New York, “A Saint on the Field” was a story about the call of God.
“I looked at the story again and again, and honestly I felt it was not my inspiration but also something divine,” he said. “I like to write and report to aim at the hearts of the people.”
Ortiz said he was “called and chosen” as a Catholic reporter to tell the story of “A Saint on the Field,” to talk and meet the challenges of the children of St. Turibius, and, for him, the Gabriel Award explains everything.
“This award certifies that I must be there [at St. Turibius Catholic School] and it was the work of our faith,” he said. “So if you close your eyes and your soul smiles, it is because you’ve changed someone’s life, but the faith of these people will change your life.”
Marco Flores, News Director of Univision Los Angeles, KMEX Channel 34, knows Ortiz’ style well.
“One of the essential characteristics of Julio is that he presents the stories with the less obvious angles,” Flores said. “Above Julio’s stories, he always includes the need to leave some kind of education, responsibility and service for the community.”
“This Gabriel Award has the same importance as an Emmy or a Golden Mike award,” said Flores. “That’s because it rewards and recognizes the human side of the story.”
nThe Gabriel Awards
The Catholic Academy of Communication Professionals founded the Gabriel Awards in 1965 to honor works of excellence in film, network, cable television, television and radio as well as the newly created categories in social media.
These national awards recognize outstanding artistic achievement in media that entertains and enriches with a true vision of humanity and a true vision of life.
The Gabriel Award figurine is a silver angel, symbolizing the communication of God’s word to humanity. It’s a salute to those in the national media who strive for values-centered programming.
Participants of the Gabriel Awards go through a highly selective process of preliminary screening and blue-ribbon judging, which includes: judging in values, content, creativity, artistic quality, technical quality and impact.
The 2015 Gabriel Award presented to César Ortiz will be the third in four years for TV station Univision Los Angeles — KMEX Channel 34.