The Evangelist has won 11 national prizes for excellence in journalism in a competition against Catholic newspapers across the U.S.

The awards were handed out at the annual convention of the Catholic Press Association, which represents the country's Catholic newspapers and magazines. The conference was held in June in Quebec, Canada. The Evangelist is mailed to nearly 34,000 homes in the Albany Diocese each week. The CPA awards were given for 2016 articles, columns and photos.

The Evangelist won 11 prizes:

* Second place for "best regular column by a bishop or archbishop" went to Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger for his weekly column. The judges called his columns on topics like racism, World Youth Day and the Pulse nightclub shootings in Florida "interesting and inspiring writing on relevant and sometimes weighty topics" and "excellent work."

* Second place in the category of "best coverage of religious liberty issues" went to Bishop Scharfenberger and The Evangelist staff for their examination of religious freedom, including the Diocese's lawsuit over mandated coverage of abortion in employee health plans, arguments against assisted suicide and more.

"This package clearly states the issue and pulls in helpful additional materials to crystallize the Church's position for readers. The wide range of quotes provided excellent context" and "the writing style of the news pieces [is] nicely accessible," the judges stated.

* First place for "best seasonal issue" was awarded to The Evangelist for its Christmas 2016 issue, highlighting the efforts of staff and freelancers.

"The baby Jesus sucks a pacifier. Charlie Brown laments the lack of a Christmas card. And the story behind selection of the Rockefeller Center tree sprouts phrases like 'barking up the wrong tree,' and someone going 'out on a limb,'" the judges noted. "But all of this combined with thoughtful messages surrounding the birth of Jesus, lots of kid-centered pictures, a reminder to use Advent for spiritual housecleaning, the pope noting that Jesus once was a refugee and even encouraging us to remember kittens at Christmas combine to make this issue remarkable."

* Second place in the category of "best in-depth news/special reporting" went to then-staff writer Kathleen Lamanna for an article headlined, "For Hoosick Falls Catholics with contaminated water, glass is still half-full."

Judges called it "a well-reported, compelling piece on a critical issue facing this community and many others" that "does a nice job of explaining the science and the causes of the water issues and weaving that with the Church's effort to help."

* Ms. Lamanna also received a third-place award in the category of "best news writing on a local or regional event" for "St. Agnes Cemetery to provide resting place for slaves' remains."

That story outlined the diocesan Cemeteries Office's reburial of the bones of 14 slaves of the Schuyler family uncovered in 2005 during construction of a municipal sewer line. After DNA testing and facial reconstruction of the remains, Catholic students made burial boxes and a ceremony was held to rebury them with honor at St. Agnes Cemetery in Menands.

"[We] learned a lot from this piece, including the respect these parishioners have for the past and the role that slaves played in their church. Nicely told," said the CPA judges.

* An article by editor Kate Blain and accompanying photos by freelance photographer Nate Whitchurch received two separate Catholic press awards. "Four new priests all surprised by vocations," a profile of Revs. Brian Kelly, Steve Matthews, Patrick Rice and Francis Vivacqua, all ordained in 2016, was chosen for third place as "best personality profile," and for third place along with photos of the ordination ceremony by Mr. Whitchurch for "best reporting on vocations."

"Great pictures and wonderful quotes make this presentation a fun and enlightening look at the preparation and lack of preparation of four new priests who were as surprised about their vocational choice as some of their friends," the judges enthused, adding that the article had "very interesting and informative profiles" of the quartet and a "great use of details and language."

* Second place for "best photo story on the Year of Mercy" also went to Nate Whitchurch for his coverage of the Albany Diocese's conclusion of the Church's Year of Mercy, a Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany. "The images convey the importance of the event throughout the series. From the on-high, wide angled view of the church to the highlighted view of gathering clergy in white gowns, the overall grouping of image builds to the crescendo of the end of the Year of Mercy," the judges said.

* Under "best feature photo story," Mr. Whitchurch received an honorable mention for his coverage of two Nativity pageants in The Evangelist's Christmas issue: one for St. Ann's parish in Fort Ann and Our Lady of Hope in Whitehall, and another held at St. Peter's parish in Saratoga Springs.

* Third place for "best regular Scripture column" went to editor Kate Blain for the "Good News for Kids" column, which explains the Sunday Gospel for children.

"I think these columns are important, and difficult to write in a simple, digestible way for young people," the judges stated. "Kate pulls it off and makes her points without overdoing it."

* Ms. Blain was also awarded third place for individual excellence as "editor of the year." Judges said she "sets an inspiring example of dedication to The Evangelist in the scope, depth and quality of work. She should be commended for her 25 years at the publication, including expanding roles by managing social media."

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