During its first annual congress in Pennsylvania, the Theology of the Body Institute presented five awards to organizations and individuals for their work in promoting the late John Paul II's teachings on human sexuality.

The 2010 Theology of the Body Institute Awards for Distinguished Achievement were presented at the banquet dinner on Thursday evening during the July 28 – 30 event in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania.

“As we prepared for this first National Theology of the Body Congress, the planning committee and the Theology of the Body Institute Board felt it was important to recognize organizations and men and women who have been pioneers in the advancement of the teaching of the Theology of the Body,” said David Savage, Institute Chairman of the Board.

Speaking on the five who were honored, Savage said that the “decisions were not easy for this first year.”

“But each of the recipients have been true trailblazers - in ways unique to their individual and organizational missions - in promoting and helping others understand the Theology of the Body,” he added. “We are thrilled to recognize them for their miraculous work in advancing the Theology of the Body throughout the world.”

Those included as distinguished awards recipients were educators Valentine and Ann Coelho, of Goa, India; Fr. Richard M. Hogan, pastor of the Church of St. Raphael, in Crystal, Minn; the Daughters of St. Paul, of Boston, Mass.; the Theology of the Body International Alliance, of San Antonio, Texas; and Ruah Woods, an education center in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Absent from this week's congress was popular speaker and founder of the Theology of the Body Institute Christopher West, who though he was originally scheduled to participate, recently took a six month sabbatical starting in April. The presenter cited family obligations and the need to reflect on advice he has received about his teaching methods as reasons for his sabbatical. 

West was the subject of a recent paper by Dr. Alice Von Hildebrand, who contrasted the speaker's approach to the teachings of John Paul II with how she believed her husband – the late and noted philosopher Dietrich Von Hildebrand – would have approached them.

Other Catholic commentators have been critical of West's teachings, with Catholic Exchange recently posting observations from author Dawn Eden, and commentators Christi Derr and Marie Pitt-Payne. In their essays, Derr and Pitt-Payne voiced their support for Dr. Von Hildebrand's concerns.

More in US