Following a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cardinal’s Awards Dinner celebrating “extraordinary Catholics” in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles resumes this year on Saturday, Feb. 26, with a dinner and presentation at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
Peter and Stephanie Nolan (parishioners at American Martyrs Church in Manhattan Beach), Tom Romano (St. Philip the Apostle Church in Pasadena), Kenny Lund (Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Pasadena), and Kathleen Duncan (St. Paul the Apostle Church in Brentwood), will be recognized by Archbishop José H. Gomez. It continues a tradition started in 1990 by then-archbishop Cardinal Roger Mahony, and then-Director of Special Services for the archdiocese, Sister Mary Jean Meier. More than 175 individuals have been recognized over the years, many of them lay leaders of the Church, but also men and women religious.
As a way to recognize the work organizations whose uninterrupted work during the pandemic provided meals to the vulnerable in their communities, organizers announced three beneficiaries of this year’s fundraiser: the St. Francis Center Los Angeles (1835 S. Hope Street), the St. Francis Center Long Beach (1041 E. 7th Street), and the Santa Barbara-Ventura County Food Bank.
Here is a look at the honorees who quietly and effectively applied their time, treasures, and talents, putting their faith into action.
KATHLEEN DUNCAN-LUTEN: Charity: It’s in the DNA
Kathleen Duncan-Luten recalls the essence of the mission statement for the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation, her grandparents’ nonprofit organization started in 1952. It focused on a deep commitment to the values and generosity of helping others in need.
“We would have those meetings around my grandmother’s dining room table, with my dad as the chair, with all these stacks of paperwork — all about wanting to do the right thing,” said Duncan-Luten. “I might not have understood that mission as much in my early 20s, but now it really has cemented how we gave back and how important it was to carry on their legacy.”
For her prolific work in the community, Duncan-Luten became the first and only Cardinal’s Award third-generation recipient. After her grandmother Dorothy Leavey was an honoree in the first group in 1990, her mother, Kathleen Leavey McCarthy Kostlan, was recognized in 2004.
A longtime parishioner at St. Paul the Apostle in Westwood, Duncan-Luten has responded to her community’s needs by joining the board of trustees for many organizations — most notably the Catholic Education Foundation of Los Angeles, which is chaired by Archbishop José H. Gomez.
“Kathleen comes from an incredible family — the most gracious, generous, kind people, very down to earth, with a love to help others,” said Doug Cooper, the executive director of the Catholic Education Foundation and a longtime friend of the family. “It’s in Kathleen’s DNA, making the world a better place.”
Duncan-Luten grew up in Westwood, the second of four children, and never far from either sets of grandparents — the Leaveys in Beverly Hills and the McCarthys in Santa Monica.
After she graduated from the University of Puget Sound with a psychology degree, she felt a calling to teach. Earning her credential at Mount St. Mary’s at age 28, she first taught at Marymount Junior School, then taught fifth-grade math and science at St. Paul the Apostle.
“I hear back from a student who says, Miss McCarthy, it was all about how you helped me at a certain time in my life, and you realize how you are shaping the kids in who they are, how the Catholic influence and the whole person is just as important as the classroom lessons,” said Duncan-Luten.
“It was more about life experience and giving them perspective and a way to navigate things.”
Her support continues in Catholic education, including at Loyola Marymount University, Mount St. Mary’s University, Santa Clara University (where her daughter Kara and son Alex graduated), Loyola High School in LA (her sons Alex and Patrick’s alma mater), and at the Caruso Catholic Center at USC (where her son Patrick graduated).
She is also connected to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the California Science Center, and the Doheny Eye Institute.
Kara Duncan, the oldest of Kathleen’s children, explained how her work in the nonprofit field as the senior manager of client relations for the Catholic Community Foundation of Los Angeles traces back to her mother, someone who “truly is so selfless with her time and energy, and for as long as I can remember she has taught my brothers and I the importance of always giving back and helping those who need it.”
“I’ve always felt very passionate about helping others and I think that stems from the values I was taught and how my parents modeled those values, especially my mom. I think her example really made an impact on how I moved through life and led me to where I am today.”
KENNY LUND: Investing in happy campers
Kenny Lund can only frame it as “divine intervention” that his entire family has come to embrace ownership of the Saint Edward Retreat Center and Camp Lolek in Wrightwood for the last two years.
Some 7,000 feet up in the San Gabriel Mountains, the tranquil 215-acre spot may feel as close to heaven on earth as Lund could imagine. Now he and his family plan to share it with thousands of soul-searching Catholics for years to come.
“When I first set foot on the place, I saw something wonderful about it — the Holy Spirit runs strong here,” said Lund, noting its wood-paneled prayer chapel, rosary garden, and Stations of the Cross hiking trail.
The property established in the 1940s by the Sisters of Social Services known as Camp Mariastella came to the Lunds and a small group of Catholic investors in late January of 2020. Then the COVID pandemic hit.
That gave Lund, wife Mary, college-aged daughters Clare, Katherine, Megan, Elizabeth, and his son, Joseph, a bonding experience, learning how to make upgrades to the facilities and then jump in to become counselors and trained medical help.
“I now have two full-time jobs — one that pays me money and one that costs me money,” said Lund, laughing, who is executive vice president of Allen Lund Company, started by his late father, in La Canada-Flintridge. “We are all invested in this.”
That includes his mother, Kathie, plus all five brothers and sisters with their spouses, who have stepped up.
“The camp was a gift to all of us and we didn’t know how impactful it would be,” said Kathie Lund, a 2011 Cardinal Award recipient. “He took a real leap of faith to make this camp happen, but Kenny’s talent is leadership and prayer as well as having a funny bone and knowing how to make you laugh. That’s his gift.”
Kenny Lund grew up attending youth camps, coming to Southern California with his family from Utah in the 1970s. He attended Incarnation Parish Elementary School in Glendale, then St. Francis High School in La Cañada and Loyola Marymount University.
He put his LMU business administration degree to use when he joined his brothers in the late 1980s to run the truck brokerage firm started by his father, Allen.
A lifetime of volunteer work has led him to be a school board president for his home parish of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Pasadena. He has also been a guild member at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, helping the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, playing guitar at Mass at Central Juvenile Hall in LA, and as a board member of Catholic Charities in San Gabriel.
This St. Edward Retreat Center now reinforces to Lund how “we want to try to help the Church be one full of happy Catholics. Everyone working here sees the affirmation in improving their faith. And we’ve already seen some miracles.”
Such as when the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ Director of Vocations, Father Mike Perucho, brought 30 high school men for a four-day discernment retreat in the summer of 2021.
“A change happened in all of them,” said Father Perucho. “Six expressed a strong openness to the priesthood. We are actively working with three who we hope to apply sometime in the future as their discernment continues. We are grateful to Kenny. His work is amazing in all he does for our youth.”
PETER AND STEPHANIE NOLAN: Quiet benefactors of hope
From the perspective of more than 40 years in the investment business sector, Peter Nolan’s appraisal of Catholic education is to back it with as many resources as possible. In return, there is a payoff for everyone involved.
“My professional training as an investor is to look for undervalued areas,” said Nolan, who heads Nolan Capital Inc. in Hermosa Beach. “One of the greatest undervalued social assets in the country is Catholic education because it delivers an incredibly superior product at a better cost and a better outcome.
“What a lot of governments are trying to achieve, Catholic schools are practicing every day in terms of taking kids who wouldn’t be able to access quality education from diverse backgrounds and really teaching them that we’re all the same brothers and sisters.”
Stephanie Nolan agrees, from watching how the couples’ three children — Michael, Robert, and Elizabeth — were nurtured at American Martyrs School in Manhattan Beach plus Loyola High School and Marymount High School in Los Angeles.
“It provided such a fabulous foundation and allowed us all to grow in our faith,” she said. “It’s about keeping family values when things might feel they’re crumbling around us.”
For their unwavering and understated support of a variety of Catholic education programs in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Peter and Stephanie are being recognized by the Cardinal’s Award.
“The Nolans are faith-filled people who don’t just speak about their Catholicity but actually live it,” said Msg. John Barry, their pastor at American Martyrs. “They quietly reach out and support those in need and seem to lift them up without any expectation of being publicly affirmed for it.”
The Nolans are both graduates of Cornell University and went to school there at the same time in the 1980s, but did not connect until they both moved individually to the South Bay area of Southern California. At Cornell, where their three children also graduated, there now sits the Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration.
A family foundation was established for projects dear to them. That includes the Catholic Education Foundation, their children’s high school alma maters, Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, St. Sebastian Sports Project and the St. Lawrence of Brindisi Literacy Center. They recently established a Reading Intervention Program at Francis X. Cabrini School in a high-risk area of Los Angeles.
“They are one of our best advocates in educating our children,” said St. Frances X. Cabrini School principal Carmen A.O. Hart.
One more example of the Nolans’ response to an immediate need was presented in the recent life-changing events for the family of longtime American Martyrs friends David and Marty Radanovich.
In November of 2020, their son, Joe, became paralyzed from the chest down as the result of a car accident while he was a freshman at Texas Christian University. The Nolans helped mobilize a group to pack up, redesign, and upgrade ADA wheelchair accessibility at the Radanovich’s Westchester home. Joe, who had been a volleyball standout at L.A. Loyola High, is back digging in on his studies at TCU.
Marty Radanovich noted that in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Paul prays and asks God to open their minds, hearts, eyes, and ears to know the hope that Jesus Christ has called them.
“Stephanie and Peter have victoriously heard the call,” Marty said. “There isn’t a moment too big or too small that Steph and Peter do not respond to the Lord.”
TOM ROMANO: A long legacy of service
Stay in Tom Romano’s circle long enough and the chances are pretty decent you’ll see a church being built around him.
First, he’ll tell you the story of his baptism in 1950 at Annunciation Catholic Church in Arcadia. With the church under construction, the Mountain View Dairy Farm was adjacent to the building site. The owners would clear the barn and set up chairs every Sunday for Mass. So there’s a photograph of Tom receiving the sacrament of baptism with cows in the background.
Years later, Tom was recruited to chair a committee raising funds to build the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, which opened in 2002.
“Two churches in a lifetime? I never thought of that,” Romano said with a laugh when the subject was brought up. “That’s pretty interesting when you think about having that opportunity in the span of 50 years, to have the core values that would allow me to do that.”
It is more than fitting to find him honored with the Cardinal’s Award after his wife, Margie, was recognized in 2012. The two, who recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, share many outreach opportunities as they attend St. Philip the Apostle Church in Pasadena.
“We look at our lives and realize the blessings we have,” said Margie, who with Tom are the parents of three daughters, Renee, Gina, and Nicole. With their husbands, Mark, Tim, and Sam, they have blessed them with seven grandchildren. “It has been through Tom’s leadership we have a wonderful family and legacy, and that to me is what life is all about.”
About 20 years ago, Tom and Margie became part of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, whose ministry is to support the Christians in the Holy Land.
Not long after that, the two were part of a group with Allen and Kathleen Lund and Bill and Helen Close that urged Cardinal Roger Mahony to start the Los Angeles Catholic Prayer Breakfast. They have seen it grow over the last 17 years from 800 participants in 2005 to more than 2,000 each year.
Tom calls the Prayer Breakfast’s impact as “an opportunity to gather as Catholics in Los Angeles, not only to celebrate the Mass and pray the rosary but to hear the messages from faith-based speakers.”
One of those speakers was former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz in 2015. Holtz explained how just months earlier, a fire destroyed his Florida home and much of his belongings. It left his wife, Beth, distraught.
“He told her, ‘Honey, there’s nothing in that house that we could take to heaven,’ and that hit me like a rock,” said Romano, who has built a successful career as a State Farm Insurance agent. “When a client suffers a loss, I often remind them how fortunate they are.”
Also on the board of the Catholic Education Foundation, Romano has served on the campaigns for St. Rita Church in Sierra Madre and the Queen of Angels Center for Priestly Formation. He was president of the board of directors for Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, where his daughters attended high school.
“He’s rock solid in how he cares for his customers and his friends,” said Mike Smith, whose family’s legacy of car dealerships helped them in philanthropic endeavors themselves. “Service is at the top of Tom’s list and he doesn’t do it showingly. I might use the words of St. Francis: ‘Preach the gospel, use words if necessary.’ His actions speak more volumes.”
For more information on the Cardinal’s Awards, call (213) 637-7520 or visit Cardinalsawardsdinner.org.