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Blazing a path forward

On Saturday, Sept. 9, Al Manzella, director of diocesan Catholic Social Services, received the Ohtli Award, which is the highest honor bestowed by the Government of Mexico to individuals or organizations for their work to empower the Mexican diaspora and to promote Mexican American and Hispanic generations. Ohtli, which means "path," implies the opening of ways forward for others. Recipients receive a medallion, silver rosette, and a diploma.

The presentation was held at Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Hoover and attended by Father Kevin Bazzel, Vicar General for the diocese, and the Guadalupana Sisters serving in the diocese.

As Manzella accepted the award, he remarked, “Our job is always to clear the pathway for our brothers and sisters. With this award, comes even greater responsibility! We cannot let the ancestors of Mexico down. We must continue their path building to an even greater future.”

Manzella’s work with Mexican families began 50 years ago as a graduate school student. In 1998, after a career in social work, Manzella was hired by Bishop David E. Foley, the Third Bishop of Birmingham, to work as the director of social services. During his tenure, he was instrumental in solidifying the diocesan presence of the Guadalupana Sisters of the Holy Spirit, who minister to the Hispanic community.

To learn more about Catholic Social Services, please visit