U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops president Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles preached the homily for the Diocese of Phoenix 50th Anniversary Mass Dec. 2, 2019 at Comerica Theatre. The archbishop was named by Our Sunday Visitor as one of eight Catholics of the Year.

WASHINGTON (CNS) — With the close of 2019, Our Sunday Visitor, a national Catholic newsweekly based in Huntington, Indiana, joined the trend in naming people of the year by identifying Catholics who made a particular impact over the past 12 months.

Asia Bibi, seen in this Nov. 20, 2010, file photo, was sentenced to death in 2010 for insulting the Prophet Muhammad, a charge she denies. (CNS photo/Punjab Governor House handout via EPA)

The newsweekly listed eight people as 2019 Catholics of the Year in its Dec. 29 issue, including:

  • Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops;
  • St. John Henry Newman, English theologian canonized in 2019;
  • Kendrick Castillo, a Colorado student who was killed in May after rushing toward a school shooter;
  • Bob Lockwood, former president of Our Sunday Visitor;
  • Asia Bibi, a Catholic woman from Pakistan whose blasphemy charge was overturned in 2019;
  • Janice Benton, a founder of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability;
  • Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas; and
  • Franciscan Sister Stephanie Baliga, an athlete who uses her talent to raise funds for charity.
Melissa Villalobos of Chicago lights a candle during a vigil in advance of the canonization of St. John Henry Newman, at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome in this Oct. 12, 2019 file photo. Villalobos’ healing through the intercession of St. John Henry Newman was accepted as the miracle needed for the British cardinal’s canonization. (Paul Haring/CNS)

Our Sunday Visitor’s honorees were described as “clergy, religious and lay Catholics who have inspired others through the faithful witness of their lives.” The publication thanked them for their “service to the Church and for being shining examples of how to follow the will of God.”

Kendrick Castillo, a Catholic, is pictured in an undated photo. The 18-year-old senior at the STEM School Highlands Ranch in Colorado lost his life May 7, 2019, trying to protect fellow students from a shooter. (CNS, courtesy of the Knights of Columbus)

Archbishop Gomez was described by the publication as someone who “embodies the type of leadership” that Hispanic Catholics have said for decades that they can offer the “institutional Church in many corners of Catholic life.”

St. John Henry Newman, died in 1890, but was canonized in October.

The eight chosen by the newsweekly also included two who died this year: Castillo, the high school student who was posthumously named a Knight of Columbus at the organization’s Supreme Convention in Minneapolis, and Lockwood, who died in March after a longtime career as a Catholic communicator. Another honoree,

The “Washington Free Beacon,” a conservative political news website named Castillo as its Man of the Year for bravery in facing the school shooter at his Colorado school and helping disarm him before losing his own life.

Bibi, who was acquitted of blasphemy charges in May, was praised for her “untiring courage and faith over the years” that inspired human rights activists, politicians and the media.

Benton, who retired this year as executive director of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability, was praised for her efforts to integrate her work into other Church ministries such as catechesis, Catholic education, cultural diversity, divine worship, marriage and family life, pro-life, social concerns, vocations and youth.

Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas share a light moment as they leave the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington after the annual Red Mass in this Oct. 2, 2016 file photo. Also pictured is Thomas’s wife Virginia. (Jaclyn Lippelmann/CNS, via Catholic Standard)

Justice Thomas was honored for his “unwavering defense of the unborn” in his 28 years on the Supreme Court and the publication highlighted a “scathing concurring opinion” he wrote in May “tracing the link between abortion and eugenics.”

Our Sunday Visitor also noted that many have been touched by Sr. Stephanie’s “infectious joy and her glowing faith” describing the sister who is a Franciscan of the Eucharist of Chicago. The 31-year-old woman religious who has long been a cross-country runner has created a running group for the Chicago Marathon which has raised more than $800,000 for the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels since 2011. The funds in turn, bring “Christ to the poorest of the poor,” the publication said.

— By Carol Zimmermann, Catholic News Service.