Brandon Vogt, author of “The Church and New Media,” addresses the Catholic Media Conference on “The Seven Deadly Sins” of new media June 21 in Indianapolis. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

INDIANAPOLIS — The Catholic Sun earned first place in the general excellence category at the annual Catholic Media Conference June 20-22.

The Catholic Sun “is a writer’s paper with an emphasis on information and explanation,” the judges noted in their comments.

“While we do not strive for awards or public recognition, this is a terrific opportunity to reflect upon the good work being carried out in support of the Catholic Church,” said Rob DeFrancesco, associate publisher of The Catholic Sun.

Sun reporter Ambria Hammel took home third place honors for her story titled “‘In Jesus name we play’: Catholic sports league promotes character.”

J.D. Long-García, the editor of The Catholic Sun, took home second place honors for a series of stories on the Church confronting Mexican violence.

Hammel and Long-García also won the Eileen Egan Award for Journalistic Excellence for a story they co-wrote about the Franciscan sisters at St. Peter Mission School. The award is sponsored by Catholic Relief Services. As a result, Hammel and Long-García will be traveling to west Africa this fall to learn more about the work of Catholic Relief Services.

The Sahel region has suffered from a food crisis bought on by drought, poor harvests and rising food prices. An influx of refugees has further strained resources. CRS is helping through food distributions and by offering water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. to In another area, CRS works with the Church and local partners to improve rural access to food, supports more than 100 schools, offers microfinance loans and supports nutrition programs.

The journalism awards were presented at the closing banquet of the Catholic Media Conference, an annual educational event produced by the Catholic Press Association. This year’s conference was attended by more than 300 journalists, bloggers and other media professionals.

Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, addressed all of them, encouraging them to consider anew their responsibility, mission and commitments as members of the Catholic press.

A special “Blogger Panel” brought high-profile web writers such as Rocco Palmo from Whispers in the Loggia and Elizabeth Scalia from The Anchoress together to discuss trends and tips. Auxiliary Bishop Christopher Coyne from Indianapolis, Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the pontifical council for social communications and Deacon Greg Kandra, who blogs “The Deacon’s Bench,” joined in.

Philadephia Archbishop Charles Chaput delivered the keynote address. He said that the clergy sexual abuse scandal “has caused terrible suffering for victims, demoralized many of our clergy, crippled the witness of the Church and humiliated the whole Catholic community” in that region.

It also left the archdiocese with an expected $17 million shortfall. The following day, the archbishop announced a reorganization of administration which will eliminate 40 jobs and close the 117-year-old archdiocesan newspaper.

Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, gave closing remarks. He discussed how Catholics could help end political gridlock and aimed to clarify the sort of candidates Catholics can’t vote for.

“As Catholics, we wish we could debate and vote on the full range of Catholic social teaching — including prudential issues that raise serious moral questions. But to be able to effectively do this, we must first refuse to support candidates who advocate policies that are intrinsically evil,” he said.

Anderson also said that today’s political environment “drives away from national leadership many persons of intelligence and integrity.” He offered four steps, rooted in social teaching, to transform politics.

The Catholic Press Association is a network of 275 Catholic publications from throughout the United States and Canada.