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Like a good neighbor, the OSV Challenge is here to help

Courtesy OSV Innovation/Facebook


As I was about to begin writing this column (on a fairly tight deadline), my cellphone rang, and I knew immediately who it was. Mary, our neighbor down the street, had called me a day earlier to ask if I might be home to help her usher her husband from his chair into their van. John had fallen recently, she reminded me, and had a doctor’s appointment that afternoon, and it was impossible for her to move him by herself. If I was available, she asked, could I come and give her (and him) a hand?

By the time I put my boots and coat on and trudged through the couple inches of snow that had gathered over the past couple of days, my neighbor and her adult daughters had finagled him safely into the front seat. She thanked me for coming over anyway, and wanted to make sure I passed along her appreciation to my sons for shoveling her driveway the previous morning.

Mary and John have been our neighbors for almost 20 years. Good neighbors, too. Before she retired, Mary was a labor and delivery nurse at the Catholic hospital downtown. She helped deliver our first three kids. Whenever we had an emergency — to check to see if somebody needed stitches, or had a concussion, or we were in need of a last-minute babysitter — Mary was the first person we’d call. In return, we would mow their lawn or shovel their driveway, or get their mail. If she needed us or we needed her, all one of us had to do was reach out and ask.

Before I got pulled away to tend to a neighbor in need, I had planned to write this column about one of my favorite apostolates under the OSV umbrella: the OSV Institute for Catholic Innovation — and more specifically, its annual OSV Innovation Challenge. I’ve written about the challenge a few times over the past couple of years, but if you haven’t heard about it, let me fill you in quickly. Better yet, here’s how the OSV Challenge website explains it:

“It’s not simply a prize competition, but rather a journey requiring prayer, grit and perseverance that ultimately leads towards saving souls. The OSV Challenge is a multi-round entrepreneurial competition designed to accelerate unique project ideas in any stage from Catholics whose faith has motivated them to make a difference. … If your napkin idea needs a boot camp to discover its potential, the OSV Challenge has got that covered. If your innovative idea is already in motion, the OSV Challenge will provide the tools to help you accelerate. Every OSV Challenger will have the opportunity for personal development, professional guidance, spiritual accompaniment, and idea acceleration — and a shot at one of five $100,000 prizes!”

While the amount of money being given to fund innovative ideas and organizations within the Church is eye-popping, I’ve been even more impressed with the process of the challenge — how its leaders mentor these innovative and creative Catholics to maximize the impact they can have on the Church.

In a new article at, Stephanie Mahoney, project lead for the OSV Challenge, said: “The OSV Challenge is more than just supporting ideas, it’s about helping to facilitate the growth and development of the Catholic innovators who bring their ideas to the challenge. By empowering and investing in these trailblazers, we support how each one of them has uniquely answered God’s call in their life to make a difference in the world.”

As I trudged through the snow coming back from offering to help our Mary and John, I was thinking about the column I wanted to write on the OSV Challenge, and it hit me: The two things aren’t all that different. While there is a little glitz and glamor to the challenge (like half a million dollars in prize month), the OSV Institute is simply offering to give a boost to those within the Church who could use some help with the heavy lifting. All you have to do is ask for help. From Jan. 31 until Feb. 18, the OSV Institute for Catholic Innovation will be accepting applications for its third annual OSV Challenge. To learn more, visit

At its core, the challenge is simply a case of neighbor helping neighbor.

Scott Warden is managing editor of Our Sunday Visitor.

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