Lumen Gentium Award Winner Profile

Educator honored for ‘planting the seed of faith’ in generations of young people

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Over the next several weeks, Rhode Island Catholic will feature profiles of the 15 winners in the 10 categories of the diocese’s 2016 Lumen Gentium Awards, which formally recognize those who ‘toil in the vineyard’ in service to the Lord, and minister to those in greatest need in their parish or community. The honorees will be awarded during a dinner at Twin River Event Center in Lincoln on Wednesday, May 18. Guests wishing to purchase tickets to the dinner — whose proceeds will benefit St. Martin de Porres Multi-Purpose Center and Fruit Hill Day Care for Seniors — are asked to register online at www.dioceseofprovidence.org/lumen-gentium-awards. For any questions about the event, please call 401-277-2121.

PROVIDENCE — Being told that she had be named a winner for a Lumen Gentium Award was a humbling moment for Peggy Simms. Throughout her life, Simms has served in virtually every aspect of religious education and has planted the seed of faith in generations of young people, explained Msgr. Paul D. Theroux, pastor of Holy Apostles Church in Cranston, who nominated her for the diocesan award in Catholic education.

A woman of strong faith and dedication, Msgr. Theroux said that Simms truly believes and exemplifies the fact that religious education is not limited to the classroom, but extends to full participation in the life of the Church.

“While she is an exceptional professional educator, she teaches best by her example of a vibrant faith expressing itself in service to family, to parish community and to the diocese,” he said.

Never a clock watcher, he said, Peggy is always available to do whatever needs to be done, whether it be teaching, meeting with a family, supporting teen ministry, or assisting in any area of parish ministry.

“Her presence to the parishioners, her sympathetic ear and her reassuring words are often a source of great consolation and comfort to families with special needs,” said Msgr. Theroux. “Her extraordinary teaching and organizational ability have been matched by her dedication and her personal concern for quality and consistency of religious education offered to our parish families.”

Simms has shown devotion to two Rhode Island churches, her home parish of Our Lady of Mercy in East Greenwich and Holy Apostles in Cranston, where she serves as pastoral associate and director of religious education. For Simms, service to the church is not a job, but a ministry. From the earliest days of Holy Apostles Parish, Simms worked closely with Msgr. Richard Sheahan to build not only a church, but a parish center, resulting in a vibrant parish community with an outstanding religious education program.

“My faith is who I am,” Simms said in an interview with Rhode Island Catholic. “It helps me meet the challenges of life. I trust in God to help me with what I do.”

Simms said that she shares this award with her husband, who without his faith and great care with their children, her ministry to the church would not have been possible.

“My husband has been so supportive,” she said. “He shares this ministry with me; he should share this award.”

Also, very grateful for her fellow catechists, she said the ministry has always been a team effort.

“The catechists inspire me to do that work we do together, sharing the faith,” she said. “I’ve been blessed to work for such wonderful parishes for 24 years. We work together as a team. We share all the happy and sad times together.”

Simms said that the families she has met through her work in the church have been great models of the faith.

“To see how families gather together and lovingly face challenges, they are a wonderful examples to me,” she said. “I’d be doing this if it wasn’t a paid position. I hope I continue to do this as long as I can.”