December 9, 2023

Washington, D.C. – Father Matthew O’Donnell has been named as the winner of the 2018 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award, sponsored by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). CCHD is the anti-poverty program of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).  Fr. O’Donnell will be honored at a reception Wednesday, June 13, during the bishops’ annual Spring General Assembly in Ft. Lauderdale.

Fr. O’Donnell is the pastor of St. Columbanus Parish in the Park Manor neighborhood of Chicago’s South Side. In this role, he has helped the parish food pantry become the one of the city’s largest, implemented efforts to address the systemic causes of poverty, created a new parish Community Service Center that offers GED prep, employment readiness, and career counseling; and, with the help of a CCHD grant, is opening a café to provide job training and hospitality. Fr. O’Donnell also works to counter neighborhood violence through parish efforts to console loved ones and lead prayers for peace after local shootings, and by regularly hosting events at the parish that bring together community members and law enforcement officers.

“At St. Columbanus, Fr. Matt O’Donnell has built a living example of Pope Francis’ vision of a field hospital church that exists to serve humankind and spread the Gospel of a loving God. By his caring presence, his limitless energy for good works and his compassionate ministry, he has made St. Columbanus a beacon of hope in its community and an example of faith in action far beyond its borders,” said Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago.

Each year, the Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award honors a Catholic between the age of 18 and 40 who demonstrates leadership in fighting poverty and injustice in the United States through community-based solutions. It is named for the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, who served as archbishop of Chicago from 1982 till his death in 1996. He served as the first general secretary of the U.S. bishops from 1968-1972 and as third president of the U.S. bishops from 1974-1977.

More information about the award is available online:

Fr. O’Donnell’s remarks will be available at on June 13 following the award reception.