Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


AACCW Honors Women, Youth Of The Year

Published March 10, 2005

When she was serving as president of the Atlanta Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women in 1977, Genevieve Jones-Gesing initiated the first Recognition Day.

“I did not feel I knew the women of the archdiocese, but I knew they were out there, serving their church and their community,” she said. “We found that many Catholic women were judges, journalists, social workers, work with the legislatures, and all. This made us a little bit more aware of what Catholic women were doing.”

The first Recognition Day was held at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Carrollton in 1977, with Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan celebrating the Mass. Within a few years, the event grew so large that Archbishop Donnellan suggested having it at the Cathedral of Christ the King, said Jones-Gesing.

She explained that the purpose of this day is “to show recognition and appreciation, to show the visibility and credibility of these women.” She said she wanted a program to identify and recognize outstanding women and high school seniors. “We hope this small token of appreciation encourages them and motivates each of us to persevere in our service to Christ, his church and our community,” she said.

“We need to be able to identify and relate with each other and to network with each other as Catholic women,” Jones-Gesing said. “This is important, to know and identify with each other.”

Continuing in this spirit, the 28th annual Recognition Day Mass was held at the Cathedral in Atlanta on Saturday, Feb. 19, with 57 women and 39 high school seniors, along with their families and friends, in a gathering attended by an estimated 800 attendees.

“The AACCW Recognition Day is an outstanding way to show respect for the honorees who have been chosen as women and the youth of the year,” said Theresa Caldwell, president of the south deanery, which hosted this year’s event. “These women and high school seniors not only give witness to their faith by participating in the ministries of their church and activities in their community but also encourage others to support our church and our priests.”

The three deaneries of the AACCW rotate hosting responsibilities for Recognition Day. The host deanery provides the program for the Mass, caters the food for the reception that follows Mass and provides volunteers to work the event.

Caldwell welcomed the honorees and congregation before Mass began. “It is good that we are here today to honor the women of the year and the youth of the year of parishes and missions throughout the Archdiocese of Atlanta,” she said. “We are grateful for all the priests, parents, relatives and friends who have come here today to make this celebration complete.”

Father Paul W. Berny, spiritual moderator for the AACCW and pastor of St. Joseph Church in Marietta, celebrated Mass along with several other priests of the archdiocese. Father Berny offered those in attendance Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory’s regrets for not being able to attend. Archbishop Gregory had a previous commitment in Chicago.

During the Mass, Father Berny’s homily came from the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus calls his followers to become perfect as the Father in heaven is perfect (Mt 5:48). Quoting from the “Anchor Bible Dictionary,” Father Berny said the word “perfect” is translated into “true.” He said, “Trying to be true like God is true somehow involves a deep honesty about who we are, the gifts we have, our little place in this big world, and what we do about all of that. It’s knowing what we have, what we are made of, being deeply grateful for all of that, and somehow, generously using that for others.”

He continued by saying that Jesus asks us to go “beyond the expectations of politeness and niceness that are part of ordinary human relationships.”

“I would propose that you, outstanding women and outstanding seniors of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, are here not simply because you are nice, not because you only love those who love you; you have been given this honor because you not only know that it is the call of the follower of Christ to be like God, to strive to be perfect and true like God, but because you are actually doing it and doing it quite admirably.”

He said, “Your generous service, your desire to bring more and more people into the circle of your love, concern, mercy and forgiveness is an enduring example to many others, people in our parishes and communities that you are probably unaware of.”

Father Berny stated that “in stepping forward as leaders and servants you are challenging all of us to use our gifts as well, to broaden the circles of our mercy, concern and compassion.”

He continued by saying, “And so for all that we give thanks to the Father who is kind to the just and the unjust alike. And of course we give thanks to you. Don’t stop now; keep doing it. Keep loving those who are strange and odd and hard to love. Keep praying for those who might not like you too much or maybe are put off because you are different in ways of authenticity and generosity.”

He also challenged the honorees to use their gifts, “no matter how small or insignificant they might seem to you. Keep challenging all of us with your self-sacrifice and love, for in doing so you are being true as your heavenly Father is. You are being, in a word, perfect like the Father is perfect.”

After the recognition ceremony during which those being honored were presented with a certificate and plaque of appreciation, Father Berny told the group that they “decorate the church with their love and generosity.”

Celeste Ganey, president of the AACCW, said, “The Cathedral was full of families and friends, and it certainly was a pleasure for me to take part in this event. Many of the priests from the various parishes showed up to celebrate with their honorees. It certainly makes one feel even more appreciative when you look up on the altar and see your pastor there concelebrating the Mass,” Ganey said. “I can recall when I had the honor bestowed on me in the early ‘90s, and I was so excited to see my pastor. It was a very emotional experience for me. We hope to see more priests and pastors taking part in Recognition Day in the future. What better way to say thank you to the honorees?”

The LifeTeen band from St. James Church in McDonough provided the music for the Mass. “We were very honored to be asked to play. Great opportunity for the south side to serve the community,” said Diane Scarbrough, the music director.

Connie Abar, the youth of the year from Good Shepherd Church, Cumming, said, “This is wonderful. It’s good. It motivates other teens to get involved in the church.”

Abar has initiated and teaches Bible study and apologetics classes for teens. She also helped start the OTUS (Outstanding Teens Unworthy Servants) Youth Band. She is a youth minister apprentice in her parish and serves on the RCIA team and as a eucharistic minister.

“I’m indeed honored and humbled,” said Emma Jackson, the honoree from Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Decatur. “I give all praise and thanks to God.”

Jackson is actively involved with Stephen Ministry at her parish, bringing Communion to the sick and shut-ins. As a member of Sts. Peter and Paul’s Women’s Council, she participates on the Mary Day committee to plan the day of prayer and to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary. She has helped to support a refugee family, assisting them with purchasing food and finding jobs and housing. She is an active member of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Knights of Peter Claver.

Sarah Cronin, a senior from Transfiguration Church in Marietta, shared, “I’m really honored to be chosen. A lot of kids would have been awesome candidates.” Cronin is the chairperson of peer ministry at her church and helps plan the events for the youth there.

She participates in a Food Fast event every March. For 24 hours, the teens are together, and each one brings $10 to go to Kroger and see how far the money will go. The food they buy is given to the parish food pantry.

For her community service, Cronin goes on mission trips with Catholic Heart Work Camp. “We go to cities and are divided into teams of six or seven,” she said. “We then go to different sites like a house with an elderly person living there and help fix their house. We paint, clean yards, and I helped build a porch.” She said they stay at their site for one week.

“It’s really awesome that someone else saw what I did, realized that I have done a lot and that it’s neat to know that I have done something someone appreciated,” Cronin said.

Mary Hill, woman of the year from St. Gabriel Church in Fayetteville, is active with her parish social committee and helps with the annual rummage sale. “It’s a fund-raiser for the church,” she said. “We raised $8,000 last year. It’s usually held either in April or June.”

About her award, she said, “It’s quite an honor because I feel there are a lot of women in the parish who are a lot more deserving.”

Hill is co-president of Golden Threads, a group for those 50 and over. They have potluck dinners, take trips, and go to the theatre. “We’re mainly a social group,” she said. “Once a year we supply a meal for the homeless in downtown Atlanta.” She is also kitchen coordinator in her parish and eucharistic minister to patients in nursing homes.

Hill’s husband, John, said, “She deserves the recognition. She works hard at it. She’s very devoted. She’ll see things through, no matter how difficult.”

Ariel Leslie, a senior at Sts. Peter and Paul, Decatur, is a member of the Umoja (unity) youth group in her parish. She is helping with the youth group’s annual dinner for the elderly at their church. Leslie is also actively involved with the Junior Daughters of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Knights of Peter Claver.

“I’m excited. I think it’s a great honor,” said Leslie. “I’m sure there’s more deserving people, and the people who nominated me were more deserving.”

Leslie is also active with the Key Club at her high school. This year, with that club, she took some underprivileged children shopping. She also helps collect for UNICEF.

“I’m very proud of her and very honored that someone else is noticing and sensing virtues in my daughter, and that honors me,” said Walter Ray Leslie, her father. “It is how I learn how we honor our Father in heaven by honoring those He honors like Mary and the saints. We glorify God by honoring them.”

Barbara Culps, woman of the year from St. James the Apostle Church in McDonough, is an active member of the women’s council, head of the altar society, and a volunteer in the parish office. She helps prepare meals for the priests, and occasionally the archbishop, when clergy come to a church function or penance service.

“I feel it is a tremendous honor and really a privilege to be voted woman of the year,” she said. “My fellow members of my council thought so much of me that I’m overwhelmed with it. I thank them for their love and support.”

Outstanding Women of the Year

All of the Religious sisters of the parish, St. Joseph Church, Athens; Joann Barnard, St. Benedict Church, Duluth; Ann Collins, St. James Church, Madison; Mary Ann Cox, Holy Trinity Church, Peachtree City; Michelle Crull, St. Catherine of Siena Church, Kennesaw; Barbara Culps, St. James the Apostle Church, McDonough; Carolyn Davis, St. Helena Church, Clayton; Patricia Francis, All Saints Church, Dunwoody; Maria Galvan, St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Smyrna; Millie Garza, St. George Church, Newnan; Sue Gilpin, St. Ann Church, Marietta; Polly Herrin, St. Monica Church, Duluth; Aaronetta Herriott, Christ Our Hope Church, Lithonia; Mary Hill, St. Gabriel Church, Fayetteville; Genny Hoene, Holy Family Church, Marietta; Kathy Hoffman, Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Atlanta; Luz Hooper, St. Bernadette Church, Cedartown; Jenny Hye Kyung, Korean Martyrs Church, Doraville; Emma Jackson, Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Decatur; Addie Johnson, Sacred Heart Church, Milledgeville; Josie Johnson, St. Paul of the Cross Church, Atlanta; Ruth Jones, Prince of Peace Church, Buford; Nina Kane, St. Pius X Church, Conyers; Pat Kearsley, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, Warm Springs; Mary Kelly, St. Patrick Church, Norcross; Melissa Kinard, St. Lawrence Church, Lawrenceville; Jacqueline Kinzer, St Mary Church, Rome; Eva Koscher, St. Catherine Labouré Church, Commerce; Jackie Kujawa, St. Oliver Plunkett Church, Snellville; Lynn Mallet, Christ Our King and Savior Church, Greensboro; Prudy Martino, St. Philip Benizi Church, Jonesboro; Libby McDowell, Good Shepherd Church, Cumming; Lisa Minick, St. John the Baptist Church, Thomaston; Winnie Moore, St. Paul the Apostle Church, Cleveland; Wanda O’Donnell, Corpus Christi Church, Stone Mountain; Ann O’Hearn, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Carrollton; Teresa Olivarez, St. John the Evangelist Church, Hapeville; Sarah Parker, St. Mary Church, Rome; Helen Passantino, St. Mary Magdalene Church, Sharpsburg; Mary Virginia Pavey, St. John Vianney Church, Lithia Springs; Carmencita Paz, St. Stephen the Martyr Church, Lilburn; Silvia Pelton, Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta; Connie Perez, Holy Cross Church, Atlanta; Nancy Pluth, St. John Neumann Church, Lilburn; Sara Schlomer, St. Peter Church, LaGrange; Barbara “BJ” Schuyler, St. Joseph Church, Marietta; Alix Shartuck, St. Jude the Apostle Church, Sandy Springs; Joanne Simpson, St. Ann Church, Marietta; Patricia Smith, St. Theresa Church, Douglasville; Audrey Speer, Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, Hartwell; Mary Tipton, St. Clement Church, Calhoun; Phyllis Wagener, St. Vincent de Paul Church, Dallas; Margaret Ward, St. Andrew Church, Roswell; Lynda White, Queen of Angels Church, Thomson; Valencia White, Most Blessed Sacrament Church, Atlanta; Sherry Williams, St. Anthony of Padua Church, Atlanta; Klaudia Williamson, St. Matthew Church, Winder.

Youth of the Year

Connie Abar, Good Shepherd Church, Cumming; Anthony Almeter, Queen of Angels Church, Thomson; Luis A. Araya, St. Theresa Church, Douglasville; Michael Benjamin, St. Andrew Church, Roswell; Carlos “Andy” Chang, Holy Family Church, Marietta; Sara Cronin, Transfiguration Church, Marietta; Bethany Delligatti, St. Ann Church, Barnesville; Maria Duarte, St. Joseph Church, Athens; William Glidewell, St. Mary Church, Jackson; Sara Gorday, Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Atlanta; Emily Jester, St. Brigid Church, Alpharetta; Ryan Krivanek, St. Clement Church, Calhoun; Nicholas Kruskamp, St. Oliver Plunkett Church, Snellville; Bobby Lakten, St. Monica Church, Duluth; Frank Lavelle, All Saints Church, Dunwoody; Ariel Leslie, Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Decatur; Rodman Lopez, St. Peter Church, LaGrange; Kathy Maguire, St. Lawrence Church, Lawrenceville; Kelly McNavish, St. Michael the Archangel Church, Woodstock; Erin Micacchione, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Carrollton; Kelly Mokris, Prince of Peace Church, Buford; Alycia Murtha, St. Philip Benizi Church, Jonesboro; Juan Naranjo, St. Jude the Apostle Church, Sandy Springs; James Oh, Korean Martyrs Church, Doraville; Andrew Pfeiffer, St. Paul the Apostle Church, Cleveland; Lewis Pizzolato, St. Vincent de Paul Church, Dallas; Caitlin Pusch, St. Pius X Church, Conyers; Allen Revak, St. James the Apostle Church, McDonough; Patrick Rohling, St. John the Baptist Church, Thomaston; Camila Santiago, St. Patrick Church, Norcross; Ashley Sawtelle, St. Joseph Church, Marietta; Nick Silvestri, Holy Cross Church, Atlanta; Alexander Skatze, Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta; Midion Smith, St. Paul of the Cross Church, Atlanta; Aja Southerland, St. James Church, Madison; Cassandra Tavarez, St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Smyrna; Felicia Tidimane, Christ Our Hope Church, Lithonia; Mary (Meg) Vinnacombe, St. John Vianney Church, Lithia Springs; Kelly Watson, St. Ann Church, Marietta.