By JEAN DRISKELL, Special Contributor | Published March 16, 2006
The 29th annual Recognition Day Mass honoring outstanding women and high school seniors of the archdiocese was held at the Cathedral of Christ the King on Feb. 18.
An estimated 800 people, including the honorees, family and friends, attended the event, which was initiated by Genevieve Jones-Gesing, past president of the Atlanta Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women, to honor and appreciate women and high school seniors who are actively involved in their parishes and communities. Each parish and mission can select its woman and youth of the year.
“I believe that acknowledging people for what they do, especially the youth, encourages them and others to do more within their parishes and communities,” said Mayfern Barron, current president of the AACCW.
“The importance of gathering our parishioners together from across North Georgia,” she added, “is to help us develop a better knowledge of each other and of our diversity and activities within the archdiocese.”
The Northeast Deanery of AACCW was the host deanery this year, providing the program for the Mass and volunteers to work the event, and catering the reception.
Dana Willis, president of the Northeast Deanery, welcomed the honorees and congregation before Mass began.
“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 here to make this day a celebration of your service to the church and your communities as well. We are grateful to the priests, parents, relatives and friends who have come here today to make this celebration complete.”
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory celebrated the Mass along with many other priests of the archdiocese, including Father Paul Berny, spiritual moderator of the AACCW. St. Patrick’s parish, Norcross, contemporary choir/band directed by Brian Nannis provided the music for the Mass.
Archbishop Gregory welcomed the women and high school seniors being honored and acknowledged the work the women and youth do for the church.
In his homily on the Transfiguration of Jesus, he said it must have been difficult for Peter, James, and John to follow Jesus’ dictate to keep the Transfiguration a secret until Jesus’ Resurrection.
“There are a lot of people who have seen the glory of Christ in their lives and who manage to keep it a secret to themselves,” he said. “Far too many people keep their faith in a quiet, personal part of their lives and rarely, if ever, speak of it to others.”
“Such should not be the way of life in North Georgia. We are called to be witnesses of our faith,” Archbishop Gregory said.
“Jesus is very much alive in the works of service, charitable outreach, faith-sharing, and dedicated endeavors that Catholic women provide to this local church. The women are a graced sign of faith. I have come to appreciate and to value the blessings of your generous service throughout this local community.”
Archbishop Gregory said that within the three dioceses where he has served, he has witnessed the importance of women in their service and how much they do for their parishes where they live their faith every day. Because of this daily faith expression he said they “manage to make even more well known the wonderful experience of Christ’s glory in your lives.”
“May the honors that so many of you will receive at the Eucharist today,” Archbishop Gregory said, “confirm our profound gratitude for your commitment to the church and serve to inspire us all to tell the entire world the vision of the Christ that enlightens our lives and brings joy to our hearts. It is too wonderful a secret not to share with others.”
The honorees were recognized with a certificate and plaque of appreciation after the Eucharist and just before the final blessing.
“I was totally shocked,” said Sharon Austin, woman of the year from St. Joseph’s Church in Marietta. “Father Berny (her pastor) came up behind me and told me, ‘Congratulations—you are woman of the year.’ There has been a lot of turmoil in my life this year, and faith has helped me a lot.”
Austin is actively involved in the Caring and Sharing program by cooking and serving food at funeral receptions. She is also involved in a layette program and is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.
“I am very proud of her,” her husband, High, said. “She does all the work at the church. She’s cute too.”
Bryce Facemyer, youth of the year from St. Vincent de Paul Church in Dallas, said, “I feel very appreciated and excited by being chosen by my church.”
Facemyer is a core leader in a parish teen program where confirmed teens teach high school underclassmen and women and middle school students about life, especially through skits. He spends an hour before the Blessed Sacrament every morning and serves at the Life Teen Mass as an altar server or usher.
“This is such a humbling experience for me,” said Elizabeth Villanueva, woman of the year from Corpus Christi Church in Stone Mountain. “It dawned on me that it is from God. I felt so humble they thought of me so much they would vote for me. I have a lot of gratitude. I hope to use this to promote more activity in the parish.”
Villanueva leads the rosary and meditations for first Saturday devotions, which she promotes along with Divine Mercy Sunday. She is one of the leaders in Marriage Encounter and has, for the past four years, helped coordinate International Day at the parish. Other parish activities include singing soprano in the traditional and gospel choirs, and serving as a lector and extraordinary minister of the Eucharist.
“I was surprised. I am thankful they chose me. I am honored to be chosen,” Darius Robinson, youth of the year from Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Decatur, said. He is active in the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul Society where, on Saturdays, he helps to give out food to those in need. He is also a member of the Umoja (unity) Youth Group in his parish.
Ann Tinder, woman of the year from St. Monica’s Church in Duluth, said, “I am very excited, very surprised, and very honored. I consider myself as a background person in the church helping out wherever I can.”
Tinder, active in Monica’s Menuettes, said it is an organization where the women “exchange recipes, mostly cook and enjoy lunch once a month. We raise money for children who have lost a parent through divorce or death.” The group has a fashion show in the spring and bake sale in the fall as fundraisers for the children. They have also developed two cookbooks and sold them as fundraisers.
“I am really surprised. I feel very honored that someone would recognize my love for God in the things that I do,” Sylvia Osnowitz, youth of the year from St. Catherine of Siena Church in Kennesaw, said.
She is actively involved in Life Teen by doing community service and participating in the Living Stations. She is also involved in MUST Ministries where she makes sandwiches to feed the hungry and helps plan retreats.
“It is an absolute honor to be chosen by your peers. It is a blessing, especially for my family,” Lolita Calvin, woman of the year from Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Decatur, said. She is a past president and still actively involved with the parish’s Women’s Council, especially coordinating funeral receptions. She is involved in prison ministry and visits women inmates at Metro State Prison where the prison ministry group provides a Communion service for the women. Calvin also is in real estate where she is on the National Board of Real Estate Brokers and does community service through that organization by mentoring single women and youth.
Scott Samford, youth of the year at St. Ann’s Church in Marietta, said he “felt honored and shocked” at being chosen. He helps out in a soup kitchen to feed the hungry as a project in MUST Ministries. He also does fundraising for Habitat for Humanity in his church.
“I thought the day went beyond my expectations,” Barron said. “The attendance of both the congregation and the priests concelebrating were great. I really enjoyed the archbishop’s homily, and his interactions with the honorees were very pleasing.”
“The reception brings people together nicely. So many people were well pleased that the archbishop took time to have his picture taken with them and their families,” the AACCW president said.
“It is nice to be reassured there are women, and especially youth,” Northeast Deanery president Willis said, “who feel the need to extend themselves beyond what is normally expected for the parish and communities. It was our pleasure to provide an occasion and venue to recognize their accomplishments.”