Six members of the Los Angeles Catholic community who have extensive and distinguished records of service received the 2015 Cardinal’s Awards March 21.

Archbishop José H. Gomez recognized Cheryl Baker, Sam Navarro, Jim O’Connor, Viktor Rzeteljski, Emma Stewart and Gretchen Wayne for their efforts at the J.W. Marriot Downtown.  

“I thank all of you for your generosity and love, especially for the poor and vulnerable,” the archbishop told those gathered.

“Our Holy Father Pope Francis tells us very simply and very beautifully that, ‘To be human means to care for one another,’” he said. “All of you give a beautiful witness to our common humanity, through everything you do to reach out to care for our neighbors in need.”

The Cardinal’s Awards Dinner began in the late 1980s when Cardinal Roger Mahony, then-archbishop of Los Angeles, expressed his interest in celebrating the selfless and talented people of the archdiocese. The Cardinal’s Awards Committee, honorees and beneficiaries represent the five pastoral regions of the archdiocese.

The Cardinal’s Awards Dinner has raised more than $10 million to support parishes, schools, institutions and social services throughout the Southern California community. The proceeds from the 2015 event will go to non-profits in each of the five regions. Additional information can be found online at

Cheryl BakerCheryl Baker is a wonderful example of “a woman for others.” She is a longtime supporter of Loyola High School, the Sisters of Social Service, the Los Angeles Public Library and Las Madrinas, which provides financial support to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and its medical research programs. Cheryl is mother to three sons. She and her family are members of St. Brendan Parish in Hancock Park.

Sam NavarroSam Navarro is an active alumnus of Cathedral High School and owner of Graphic Electric, based in the City of Commerce. Personally, and on behalf of their clients, the Navarro family actively supports Santa Teresita School (Boyle Heights), and Venice and Crenshaw high school and California Polytechnic State University students with training, labor and materials related to graphic arts. Sam’s wife, Yvonne, is especially involved in Santa Teresita School. Sam and Yvonne are members of St. Andrew Parish in Pasadena.

James O’ConnorJim O’Connor is a Vietnam veteran and no-nonsense algebra and calculus teacher at all-male St. Francis High School (Flintridge-La Ca√±ada) whose students understand he means business. However, this “tough guy” has a soft side. Three days a week, Jim volunteers at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, holding, feeding and caring for infants.

Jim attends both Holy Redeemer and Our Lady of Lourdes churches, but claims St. Francis as his primary parish.

Viktor RzeteljskiThe non-profits of Los Angeles are deeply grateful to Viktor Rzeteljski. This incredibly involved Catholic gentleman gives his time and expertise to Catholic Charities, South Bay Legatus, Homeboy Industries and the Salvation Army, in addition to his parish St. John Fisher in Palos Verdes. Viktor’s wife, Mary Beth, is equally involved in works of charity.

Emma StewartEmma Stewart, along with her husband, Alhambra internist Dr. Jim Stewart, are members of Sts. Felicitas and Perpetua Church in San Marino. Emma works tirelessly for a number of organizations, including the Christ Child Society, Legatus, Holy Sepulchre and the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles. Coincidentally, she and her husband have a daughter who is a Carmelite.

Gretchen WayneFor Gretchen Wayne, family comes first. Daughter-in-law of actor John Wayne, Gretchen is owner and president of Batjac Productions, Inc. — the film company Wayne founded in 1951 — and supporter of the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica. She has been involved with supporting Immaculate Heart High School and College, the Juniors of Social Service Auxiliary, Paulist Productions, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Gretchen attended St. Charles Borromeo Parish School and is a lifelong member of the parish.