By Julie Asher
Catholic News Service
ST. LOUIS (CNS) — Maria de Lourdes Ruiz Scaperlanda, a writer and author in the Catholic press since 1982, received the 2016 St. Francis de Sales Award from the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada.
The award, which is the highest honor given by CPA, was presented at a luncheon at the Catholic Media Conference June 3 in St. Louis.
With emotion in her voice, Scaperlanda said the honor “was most unexpected.”
“I have known so many of you for so many years. So many of you have made it possible for me to be a writer in the Catholic press,” she said, adding with a laugh, “You continue to support people like me who write at home in our pajamas.”
“I’ve been thinking this week about how God is a God of details and how coming to this country as a teenager at the age 13 not even speaking English,” she said. Born in Cuba, she later immigrated to the U.S.
Scaperlanda described meeting some refugee families during her visit to Jordan last year.
“I have looked in their eyes and said, ‘I’m a refugee too,” said Scaperlanda. While she and the Middle Eastern refugees come from such different places, “we have a bond. We are united in our heart.”
“Only God can make those things come together,” She said. “I thank you all for this great surprise and thank you for supporting all those stories over the years.
“You are the proclaimers of the Gospel,” she told the luncheon crowd.
Scaperlanda also expressed her admiration for the two other nominees for this year’s St. Francis de Sales Award:
— Penny Wiegert, editor of The Observer, newspaper of the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois.
— Joe Sinasac, publishing director for Novalis Publishing in Canada, which produces books, resources and periodicals to help readers develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Christian faith, especially Catholicism.
Scaperlanda is a freelance writer known for her work in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City for more than 30 years. She wrote a well-received biography of Father Stanley Rother, a candidate for sainthood. Her award nomination, quoted in The Catholic Journalist, said the book “will be the quintessential reference for his life and service.” She was nominated for the honor by the staff of the Sooner Catholic, Oklahoma City’s archdiocesan newspaper.
Besides the Rother book, she has written five others including, “The Seeker’s Guide to Mary.” She also is a contributor to CatholicMom.com.
Scaperlanda’s work has appeared in various regional and national publications, such as the Sooner Catholic; St. Anthony Messenger and Our Sunday Visitor, both Catholic publications; and The New York Times. She blogs at “Day by Day with Maria.” She took the name for the blog from the song “Day by Day” from the musical “Godspell,” one of the first songs she learned at St. Aloysius Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, after immigrating.
She has covered international assignments throughout Europe and in Israel, Turkey, Europe, Central America and the Caribbean, including St. John Paul II’s visit to Cuba.
Scaperlanda is married to Michael A. Scaperlanda, the new president of St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee, Oklahoma. They have four grown children.
Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City was pleased by the announcement of the award. He said he met Scaperlanda after he became archbishop in 2011 and soon they began working on a book about the life of Father Rother, a native of Oklahoma.
The priest was brutally murdered in 1981 in Guatemala, where he was a missionary in rural villages. His cause for sainthood was officially opened in October 2007; he has been given the title of “servant of God.”
“I think we’re all very proud of the work that she produced. And very hopeful it will accomplish what both of us hoped it might and make this great servant of God known to a wider number Catholics,” the archbishop told Catholic News Service June 3.
He said the award recognizes Scaperlanda’s long career as a Catholic writer and editor.
“I’m very proud of this recognition not only for Maria, but it’s a tribute to her work in producing this very fine book and also in my estimation for her body of work,” Archbishop Coakley said.
“She’s a bright star for us here.”
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Contributing to this story were Colleen Dulle and Dennis Sadowski in Washington.