March 5, 2018  |  By:   |  Press Releases  |  

Five members of the Los Angeles Catholic community who have extensive and distinguished records of service received the 2018 Cardinal’s Awards on Saturday, March 3, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills.

“Our honorees tonight embody everything that is good and true and beautiful about the Church in Los Angeles,” said Archbishop José H. Gomez during the ceremony. “I am proud to be on the stage with them and celebrate their lives and example. Our churches and schools and ministries are changing lives and making the power and love of God real in our communities. My friends, what you have helped to build here is a beautiful testimony and a beautiful legacy.
“We are raising money tonight for several important programs that serve young people here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Our young people are the future. The young people who are in our schools and in our religious education programs; those who are in our youth groups and college campuses. They will be sitting in your position someday, God willing. They will be the leaders in our communities, the leaders in our Church.”
Archbishop Gomez recognized Jack Blumenthal, Heidi McNiff Johnson, James P. Sarni, Anderson Shaw, and Cynthia Lee Smet for their efforts and contributions to communities within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
• Jack Blumenthal
After Jack Blumenthal retired from a successful 35-year career as an engineer, he decided to pay it forward by teaching mathematics at Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena. Two decades later, he is still enjoying the vocation that allows him to share his skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics with the students who attend the all-girl’s campus. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Mr. Blumenthal attended Beverly Hills High School and later graduated from UCLA, where he earned a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. After graduating from UCLA in 1963, he started working for TRW, which is now known as Northrop Grumman, an American global aerospace and defense technology company. Prior to going to Mayfield, he was a member of the Board of Trustees of Marymount College for 10 years and was the Board Chair for three years.

• Heidi McNiff Johnson.
After her mother’s death in an accident, she established the Children’s Hospital Spiritual Care Guild with a group of friends, a nonprofit that provides chaplains 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to the 150,000 families that come to Children’s Hospital each year. After starting Spiritual Care Guild, she created the blog Charity Matters, to give a voice to leaders of the non-profit world. Married to her high school sweetheart, Ron, and the mother of three sons, in 2013 Heidi became the Executive Director of The Association of Catholic Student Councils (TACSC), a Catholic leadership organization whose mission is to develop moral leaders who positively impact our world. TACSC, which will serve about 3,000 students this year, currently works with 122 Catholic elementary schools, and 31 Catholic high schools in the Dioceses of Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Phoenix. Heidi believes her passion for philanthropy initially sparked when she started kindergarten at Mayfield Junior School. She graduated from Mayfield Senior School in 1984 and has served on the school’s board of directors as a trustee and been honored with the Cornelian Award for service. In other endeavors, she is currently on the board of Christ Child Society of Pasadena, Project Giving Kids, a nonprofit that teaches children philanthropy, TCU’s Chancellors board, The Spiritual Care Advisory Board at CHLA, and has served as Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for Verbum Dei High School for the past five years.

• James P. Sarni
Born in Los Angeles, Jim was a third grader at St. Thomas More Catholic School, and then was transferred to a public school. While attending public school, his parents enrolled him in the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD), a program that taught Catechism for students that were Catholic and not attending Catholic schools. Jim graduated from Alhambra High School and went on to earn a B.S. in Business and an M.B.A. with an emphasis in Finance from the University of Southern California. He currently sits on the board of directors of the Center for Investment Studies and the board of leaders at USC’s Marshall School of Business. He is a managing principal at Payden & Rygel. As such, he is a member of the board of directors, member of the firm’s Investment Policy Committee, and as a senior portfolio manager, he advises pension funds, insurance companies, corporations, health care providers, universities and endowments. Jim is also a director of the Payden and Rygel Investment Group. He is also a member of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, known as the Order of Malta. In other spiritual endeavors, he is actively involved with the Order of Saint Gregory the Great as its Chairman. Currently, he is the president of the Pasadena Chapter of Legatus, a national group of business leaders whose mission is to promote Catholic values in their business, professional and personal lives. He also serves as President of the Board of the Pasadena City College Foundation.

• Anderson Shaw. The oldest of six children raised in Jackson Mississippi by a single mom. He attended parochial school St. Mark’s in Jackson Mississippi, thanks to his mom, who was a strong believer in the Baptist Church, interested in her children’s better education. After graduating from high school in Mississippi, Anderson decided to move west when he turned 18 together with a friend and just $75 in his pocket. With the goal to be an accountant, he ended up working at TRW’s Space Technology Labs where he became a supervisor, manager and assistant controller. He retired from TRW as director of public relations. Meanwhile, his longtime decision to convert to Catholicism occurred when he was attending Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church, where he was baptized and became a lecturer and co-leader of the youth ministry program. Today, Anderson and his wife, Audrey, are members of St. Bernadette Parish in Los Angeles. He is the director of the African American Catholic Center for Evangelization (AACCFE) for the Archdiocese and served from 1989 to 2003 on the California State African American Museum Board. He received the Papal Honor “Pro Ecclesia Et Pontifice” from Pope Benedict XVI. He is a Knight of Peter Claver, and member of the board of the Peter Claver Foundation, a Knight of Columbus and a Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. Additionally, Anderson is a member of the LMU Center for Religion & Spirituality Advisory Board. In other efforts, Anderson and his wife are liturgists for the annual MLK, Jr. Mass and annual Black History Mass at the Cathedral. The couple also developed the Sr. Thea Bowman Youth Music Academy. He is the father of four children, and grandfather of five.

• Cynthia Lee Smet.
In the early 1990’s Cynthia Lee Smet, a Lutheran, and her husband John established The John H. and Cynthia Lee Smet Foundation, which started modestly one college scholarship named after John’s parents, Quinn and Verna Smet, at John’s high school in Wisconsin. The Smets partner with Catholic Schools, which reinforce the value of the family. The Smet Foundation has developed the Onward Scholars Program, which offers tuition assistance through the Catholic Education Foundation and has grown to developing and operating its own initiatives in cooperation with the Department of Catholic Schools. The Onward Scholars gave birth to the idea of Onward Readers, which focuses on improving preK-8 students’ reading skills. The Smets’ exposure to over a dozen elementary schools via Onward Readers led to Onward Leaders. Smet is founding trustee of the Vistamar School in El Segundo and a long serving board member of Camino Nuevo Charter Academy in MacArthur Park. Additionally, she sits on the California Science Center Foundation Board, and she and her husband are members of American Martyr’s Church community.

This year, the Cardinal’s Awards Dinner will benefit Lifesocal, an annual teen conference held at USC; City of Saints, an annual teen conference held at UCLA; the Association of Catholic Student Councils, TACSC; the USC Caruso Catholic Center Sunday Mass and SCuppers ministry; NET Ministries, a provider of Catholic youth retreats, and FOCUS, a college outreach program.

At its inception, in the late 1980s, the dinner’s sole focus was to pay tribute to those who had given so graciously to the community. The Cardinal’s Awards Dinner committee felt strongly that if there were residual funds, those funds needed to be directed to the poor of the five pastoral regions. Over the past 20 years, the Cardinal’s Awards Dinner has raised more than $18 million to support parishes, schools, institutions and social services throughout the Southern California community. More than 140 people have been honored with the award.

PHOTO CAPTION: 2018 Cardinal’s Awards Dinner Honorees with Archbishop José H. Gomez (left to right): Jack Blumenthal, Heidi McNiff Johnson, Cynthia Smet, James P. Sarni and Anderson Shaw.