The following story appeared in the August 25 Idaho Catholic Register.
Bishop Peter Christensen presents Deacon Gene Fadness with the 2023 Guardian Award. (ICR photos/Vero Gutiérrez)
BOISE – Deacon Gene Fadness is this year’s recipient of the annual Guardian of the Faith Award presented by Bishop Peter Christensen. Fadness is the recently retired Communications Director for the Diocese of Boise and editor of the Idaho Catholic Register.
Deacon Fadness said he was surprised by the award. “I’m so grateful to the Lord and to Bishop Peter for the truly rewarding experience of serving God’s people in our Diocese.”
The true “guardians of the faith” are the many people he wrote about in his stories, said Fadness. “It is an honor to be counted in their company, and I will continue to try to live up to their examples.”
Bishop Peter chose Fadness for the award for his “exemplary commitment to Inform, Inspire and Teach the people of Idaho,” referring to the motto under the Idaho Catholic Register banner.
“These three words perfectly describe the gifts Gene has shared these past six-and-a-half years as editor of our award-winning diocesan paper,” the Bishop wrote in a tribute to Fadness.
“Gene also inspired us by his selfless giving to others. This is obviously rooted in the fact that he has chosen to lay down his life in the service of our Catholic Church as one of her ordained deacons. However, the witness of inspiring service has also been made visible by the very fact that he gave of himself so generously in the work he offered our paper.”
The Bishop described Fadness as “one heck of a great communicator” who has written so many “Spirit-filled and heartfelt articles,” including many stories of individual conversions.
Fadness began writing at his high school in a small town in Montana. After graduating with a bachelor’s in journalism, he wrote for the Omaha World-Herald and Idaho Statesman. He then worked as a public information officer and policy analyst for the State of Idaho for 16 years before becoming communications director for the Diocese.
Deacon Fadness is a convert to the Catholic Church. He spent eight years in the Church of Latter-Day Saints before converting to evangelical and Lutheran branches of Protestantism. He entered the Catholic Church in 1999.
In 2015, he appeared on the “Journey Home,” a show on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) that features stories of conversion to the Catholic Church. On the show, Fadness mentioned the importance for him of participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (now called, “Order of Christian Initiation of Adults”). Reading the Church Fathers also helped, but examining chapter six of the John’s Gospel was his turning point.
Because the teaching in that passage makes so plain that the Eucharist is literally the Body and Blood of Christ, and is not just a representation, Fadness said he “really began to crave the Eucharist.” After months of continued study in OCIA, he was received into the Church.
Fadness was ordained a deacon and assigned to his parish at St. Mary’s in 2015. Two years later, Fadness answered the call to be the communications di-rector for the Diocese of Boise, whose duties included being editor of the Idaho Catholic Register.
“Gene transformed the Register,” said Emily Woodham, staff writer for the ICR. “He made the paper more professional. His expertise in journalism, his writing and eye for layout, combined with his knowledge of the Church and theology created a strong paper that was uplifting and informational. He’s also not afraid to challenge readers on tough topics.”
Woodham was staff writer for Fadness for more than six years. “He was indefatigable in his quest to serve the Church. He spent long hours perfecting the paper, including mentoring me in journalism. I had no experience in journalism prior to writing for the Idaho Catholic Register. He did his best to teach me the writing styles and protocols of journalism.”
Through his leadership, the Idaho Catholic Register won numerous national awards from the Catholic Media Association. “Although many of the awards were given for his writing, he always insisted that the communications department won the awards as a team. He didn’t see any part of the paper as insignificant, whether it was a feature article, news briefs, layout or proofing,” Woodham said. “He also refused to rest on his laurels, always striving to make the paper better to serve our readers.”
Back row from left, Emily Woodham, Deacon Gene Fadness and Bishop Peter Christensen. Front row, from left, Memo and Vero Gutierrez, Ann Bixby and Joe Egbert. The retirement party for Deacon Gene Fadness and Ann Bixby in June. (Courtesy photo/Ann Bixby)
Fadness continues to serve at St. Mary’s Catholic Church and is teaching a theology class for seniors at Bishop Kelly High School. He also serves on a part-time basis at Risen Christ Catholic Community in southwest Boise. Most recently he has contributed a chapter on Mormonism for an upcoming book edited by theologian and author Scott Hahn. Fadness will present his conversion story next during the weekend of Sept. 22-24 at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Weiser.
Bishop Peter created the Guardian of the Faith Award in 2016 to honor those who are “watching over and caring for our Catholic community.”
Past recipients have included Dave Wilper, caretaker of the historic Our Lady of Tears Church in Silver City; Cecil and Maria Jayo of Boise, longtime parishioners and greeters at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist; Debbie Chicane, a retired youth minister for the Tri-Parish Community in Cottonwood; CeCe Curtis Cook of Sacred Heart Mission in DeSmet; and last year’s recipient, Doug Austin, an Idaho State Correctional Institute inmate who converted to the Faith while in prison and has taught RCIA to prisoners for years, bringing many into the Church.
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