Bishop Emeritus Victor H. Balke was honored with a Lumen Christi award from Sacred Heart School, East Grand Forks on Oct. 26. It is the highest honor bestowed by the school. Recipients have contributed outstanding, distinguished service to their chosen professions or to Sacred Heart School and their efforts reflect honorably both on the school and Catholic education.

Michelle Senger, Margaret Horken, Jean Dempsey and Jack Gaddie also received the Lumen Christi award this year.

“On behalf of the school, I would like to congratulate all of our recipients tonight,” Carl Adolphson, President of Sacred Heart School, said during the banquet. “It takes special people to make a place like Sacred Heart.”

“The Lumen Christi Award is Sacred Heart’s response … recognizing those whose efforts positively add to our history,” Adolphson said.

He said school enrollment has increased by 125 students in the last six years and there was great excitement at the start of the school year with the opening of a new addition to help accommodate that growth.

Mark Brickson shared a brief biography of each recipient and a photo slide show of each before they were called forward to receive the award and share a few comments.

Bishop Balke was born Sept. 29, 1931 in Illinois. Inspired by the example of his parish priest, he entered seminary following high school. He was ordained a priest in 1958. In 1976, he was ordained and installed as sixth bishop of the Diocese of Crookston.

“Optimism and the greater participation by the laity were hallmarks of Bishop Balke’s tenure,” Brickson said. “The new bishop recognized the need for new leadership on every level, focusing his first Our Northland Diocese Column on an increased role of the laity.”

“As a champion of peace and justice, Bishop Balke admired Pope John Paul II’s efforts on behalf of poor and oppressed people,” Brickson said. “He also had a special brotherly affinity with priests, and he encouraged them in their daily private prayer lives.”

Bishop Balke retired in 2007 and lived in Moorhead until macular degeneration made him unable to drive to St. Joseph, Moorhead. He moved to East Grand Forks in 2014.

“Since our rectory is adjacent to the church building, he is available to participate in parish life,” Brickson said. “He stays busy hearing confessions and presiding at Mass.”

During his acceptance speech, Bishop Balke made a few jokes about aging before sharing memories of Sacred Heart School and the impact of Catholic education.

“I have always thought, as no doubt Bishop Hoeppner does too, that Catholic schools are one of the Church’s greatest assets. They prepare our young people to be Lumina Christi – Lights of Christ – in their own right, and to be people of faith influencing our society by bold witness to Christ and his Gospel,” Bishop Balke said.

Before offering the evening’s closing prayer, Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner congratulated the honorees and shared his gratitude for the people of Sacred Heart.

“My thanks to all who make this school so wonderful – good people doing good things, people of faith putting faith into practice, faith into action. As we conclude this night, we remember who gives us that gift of faith that ability, that strength, that energy to do good.”