By STEPHEN O’KANE, Staff Writer | Published March 9, 2009
The gray, cloudy skies outside contrasted with the golden glow of altar candles filling Atlanta’s mother church Feb. 28, just as the good works of those being honored has brightened their church communities with the light of Christ.
Under the grand arches of the Cathedral of Christ the King, a congregation of all ages came, despite the weather, to honor over 100 outstanding women and youth who represent countless others constantly working behind the scenes in parishes.
The annual Recognition Day Mass hosted by the Atlanta Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women gave friends, family and parishioners the chance to publicly thank those who work hard to keep their parishes running, a tradition that has been celebrated for more than 40 years, said Joan Brown, president of the AACCW.
“It is a great honor … to be chosen,” she said of the 61 women and 41 high school students selected by their individual parishes.
Brown said the honorees are a “prime example” of the way many talents come together to create the one body of Christ.
Archbishop-emeritus John F. Donoghue, who celebrated the Mass with nearly 20 priest concelebrants, said the work of the AACCW stands out in the archdiocese.
“The church has many good works, many institutions and associations devoted to charity, and to inspiring the faithful to do their part in the unfolding plan of God for creation, and for salvation,” he said. “But the Council of Catholic Women stands out as one of the finest and most enduring of the many apostolates which thrive in the Archdiocese of Atlanta.”
The AACCW, in addition to its frequent deanery meetings, has several commissions through which Catholic women come together and serve the larger community. These include the church commission, the family life commission, which works closely with Catholic families, and the international concerns commission, which supports programs in partnership with Catholic Relief Services to raise awareness of and respond to the needs of women and children throughout the world.
Because of this focus on women and youth, they developed the annual Mass to honor women and high school seniors who stand out in their parish communities.
“These people work very hard but often do not get the recognition they deserve,” said Brown.
“These women and youth need to be honored for all the work they do,” she said.
At the end of the Mass, the name of each honored person was read and they each approached the archbishop to receive a certificate, amid applause and camera flashes.
Rosa Marroquin, honoree from St. John Vianney Church in Lithia Springs, said the Mass was “awesome.”
“I didn’t think it would be so overwhelming,” she said, calling it a very humbling experience.
“We all do this without thinking anybody is watching. We do it all for the Lord,” she said.
Marroquin pointed out that even at an event like this, which honors behind-the-scenes contributors, hundreds of people are working without recognition to make sure the day flows smoothly.
Teresa DiCarlo, a senior at Eastside High School in Covington and member of St. Augustine Church, said she was surprised when she received a letter in the mail informing her that she would be honored.
“I was really excited and I called our youth minister to make sure,” she said.
Active in Life Teen, she said it felt good to be placed among all the other teens who are so involved with their parishes.
Quitterie Gounot, a 17-year-old French senior at Atlanta International High School, represented the Cathedral of Christ the King’s teens at the Mass. She was very flattered to be recognized and felt she did not deserve to be ranked among the others chosen.
“It is inspiring to be with all these other people,” she said.
Her mother, Françoise, said she was honored as well by having her child recognized at the Mass. She felt grateful for the AACCW event honoring her daughter.
“It was a very uplifting and encouraging experience,” Quitterie said.
Archbishop Donoghue applauded the AACCW for recognizing this group of Catholics.
“Like a shining light, you offer your own work, and the work of these honorees, that God may be glorified, and that men and women throughout the community will be impressed and moved,” he said.