By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — The Advent season is a gift to us, Bishop Martin Amos said during his homily Dec. 4 at St. Ambrose University. The Advent Mass also celebrated the feast day of the university’s patron saint, St. Ambrose, and three people were honored with the annual McMullen Awards.
It is a time “to look at the bud that blossomed and the kingdom to come,” the bishop said. To look to Christ yesterday, Christ who is to come and Christ who is with us today. “But there is also a communal preparation for the coming of the Lord — working toward the fulfillment of the promise.
“One of the characteristics of St. Ambrose University and Ambrosians is peace and justice — service to others, developing a place where the leopard and lamb can lie down together, where the child can play at the cobra’s den. Like Isaiah, we may never see it come to fulfillment in our own lives, but it will never come to fulfillment without our lives — our lives lived in the hope of the promise.”
The three McMullen Award recipients set an example for others on how to use their gifts and talents to offer opportunities to better the world, Bishop Amos added. He noted that the challenges in our world today would make Isaiah feel much at home. But there is hope. The bishop noted that St. Ambrose of Milan observed: “When we find ourselves in some grave danger, we must not lose courage, but firmly trust in God, for where there is the greatest danger, there is also the greatest help from the one who wants to be called our help in times of peace and in times of tribulation.”
After Mass, St. Ambrose University President Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, recognized McMullen Award recipients Bernard Hardiek and Thomas and Mary Ann Stoffel. The award was established in 2006, the 125th anniversary of the university and named after its founder, Bishop John McMullen. The award features a cross that hung in the sanctuary of Christ the King Chapel prior to its 2006 renovation. The presidential seal on the cross recognizes the heritage of St. Ambrose.
Hardiek “is an advocate for the St. Ambrose of tomorrow. For 20 years he has encouraged us to dream a little bigger and imagine new possibilities. But Bernie did more than just dream, he worked hard to make those dreams a reality,” Sr. Lescinski said. She noted that he has been a dedicated member of the university’s board of trustees, chaired initiatives and sought out partnerships. “But his dedication to improving St. Ambrose pales in comparison to his faithfulness to Mary Jane, his late wife. His love and compassion for her was simply amazing.”
The Stoffels’ legacy “reaches far beyond St. Ambrose. Throughout the nation there are health care providers, engineers and scientists who learned their love of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) because of the Stoffels’ generosity, Sr. Lescinski said. “Their philanthropy has made the STEM field fun and exciting for children. The camps and activities they support provide hands-on experiences, illustrating that science and math are not just concepts in the classroom, but skills that can change the world.”
In 2015 the couple established the Stoffel Fund for Excellence in Scientific Inquiry, which allows undergraduates and faculty members to conduct research in a collaborative environment.
At the conclusion of the award ceremony, Hardiek went to the microphone to thank the St. Ambrose musicians and singers at the Mass on behalf of the Hardiek and Stoffel families.
Stoffel said she and her husband were honored and pleased to receive the award. She said the St. Ambrose faculty and Sr. Joan have been wonderful in allowing them to fulfill their passion for science. Tom appreciated the university’s openness to various ideas.
Hardiek said as a 20-year board member he has seen much growth at St. Ambrose. When the need arose in the community for additional health science studies, nursing, physical therapy and physician’s assistants, St. Ambrose addressed those needs and started new programs. “St. Ambrose prepares students well for our community. I even saw it at John Deere.”