Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Outstanding Catechetical Ministries, Educators Honored

By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published April 27, 2006

On the Deck ministries, Our Lady of Mercy High School, St. Philip Benizi’s religious education program, the archdiocesan children and youth ministry director, and a Roswell Catholic family were honored at the National Catholic Educational Association convention April 19.

At a breakfast sponsored by the Catholic publishing firm William H. Sadlier, Inc., during the 103rd NCEA convention, five local ministries and individuals were recognized with “Catholic Identity Awards.”

The awards honor an individual, family, school or parish that demonstrates effectively and clearly “our identity as a Catholic people.”

The host diocese of the NCEA convention identifies the recipients. This year, as the host bishop, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory selected five diverse organizations, families and individuals.

Barb Garvin, senior director of children and youth ministry for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, was the first to receive the award at the breakfast, held at the Omni Hotel.

Garvin has devoted over 20 years to parish and youth ministry and over five years to youth ministry at the archdiocesan and national level. Her leadership has been a driving force behind a number of successful archdiocesan programs, as well as the National Catholic Youth Conference held at the World Congress Center last October, which brought over 20,000 Catholic teenagers to Atlanta.

“This is very humbling for me because I do what I do for the kids, not for the recognition,” Garvin said. “But it’s nice to know that all our hard work we’ve done has been recognized and appreciated, especially by our own diocese.”

Also recognized with a Catholic Identity Award was Our Lady of Mercy High School in Fairburn. Deacon Lloyd Sutter, senior administrator of the Department of Religious Education and Faith Formation, who assisted in selecting the award recipients, said that Our Lady of Mercy’s award was given mainly because of the leadership of acting principal JoAnn McPherson, who has been the school’s administrative leader during the search for a new principal, which just concluded.

“This is the second time she has been the acting principal. She did it at (St. Pius X High School in Atlanta) and she has really held that school (OLM) together,” Deacon Sutter said. “This award was for her.”

St. Philip Benizi Church in Jonesboro was honored for its exemplary religious education program, led by pastor Father Gregory Hartmayer, OFM Conv., and Mary Mauldin, director of faith formation.

St. Philip Benizi’s religious education program has “been a significant contributor to the full range of age-appropriate catechesis, not only to its parishioners, but on a diocesan-wide basis,” the nomination form said.

Mauldin is involved at the archdiocesan level as a leader in the Atlanta Forum on the Catechumenate and with the recent archdiocesan effort to familiarize catechetical leaders with the new U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ National Directory for Catechesis.

Deacon Sutter said that St. Philip Benizi is a unique parish.

“It’s totally diverse. Every single culture is represented there,” he said, adding that he often refers new religious education directors to Mauldin. “When they call me with questions, I send them to Mary for advice.”

The Cassandra family of St. Andrew Church in Roswell was honored for shaping Catholic identity as a model of the “domestic church.” Mark and Cindy Cassandra have 11 children, all of whom attended the breakfast and crowded around the archbishop with their award.

The Cassandra family has been a witness in the archdiocese, with several of their children serving as altar servers for archdiocesan Masses when seminarians have not been available. This includes four Masses in three different locations involving an archbishop from the Holy See, Archbishop Gregory, and bishops from the Atlanta Province and beyond who were Mass celebrants during the conventions of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada and Family Honor held in Atlanta.

Deacon Sutter said that Archbishop John P. Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, praised the family when he celebrated a Mass for the Catholic press convention in 2003.

“Those kids were complimented by Archbishop Foley when they served at his Mass,” Deacon Sutter said. “He was very impressed with them.”

The final Catholic Identity Award was given to On the Deck ministry and its founders, Mike Judge, Lisa Epperson and Adam Hunt.

On the Deck complements the work of the archdiocesan Department of Religious Education and seeks to fill a gap in ministry to college students. While there are campus Catholic Centers in six locations in the archdiocese, serving approximately 10 colleges and universities, there are more than 20 other post-secondary institutions at which the archdiocese has no formal Catholic presence beyond the nearest parish.

The originators of OTD organized a highly effective summer and holiday ministry located literally on the deck of the homes of its three sponsors. A 10-week Thursday evening program occurs from May through early August and during Christmas and Easter breaks. The ministry has also taken its OTD trailer on the road to provide on-campus catechesis, music, food and fellowship at a number of colleges and universities.

“On the Deck was the creation of these three kids, and they did it all themselves, from scratch,” Deacon Sutter said.

OTD now has an archdiocesan budget and Deacon Sutter said he is happy to provide funding to a ministry that reaches out so thoroughly.

“This has been a catalyst to execute college-age ministry,” he said.

Epperson said that they are grateful for the award.

“We are all honored and humbled by this award. Our desire is the same now as when we started ‘On the Deck’ three years ago—to provide an opportunity for Christian fellowship and growth to the college-age students of Atlanta. This conviction has allowed us to be a part of an incredible ministry, and we are most humbled by what God is choosing to do through our efforts,” she said. “We know none of this would be possible if it were not for the support of this archdiocese, specifically Deacon Sutter. This award just confirms that we are on the right track in serving this amazing age group. We are all looking forward to this summer—to kick off our ministry once again and reach out to as many college-age students as possible.”

National awards were also given at the breakfast. Sister Mary Michaeline Green, OP, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Baton Rouge, La., received the F. Sadlier Dinger Award, which was established in 1980 to honor a person who has made significant contributions to Catholic education. Sister Michaeline was honored for her assistance to over 4,000 Catholic school students who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. She gave them a daily stable environment within the walls of her schools in Baton Rouge.

Also honored was Miami math teacher Madeline Bustillo. Bustillo, who has been a math teacher for 27 years, teaches at Sts. Peter and Paul School in Miami. She was awarded the Sister Rose Anita McDonnell, IHM Award, which was initiated in 1994 and named for a renowned math educator and the “guiding light” behind Sadlier’s “Progress in Mathematics” series. The award recognizes an outstanding educator who possesses a true love of mathematics and challenges students to excel in math.