By JEAN DRISKELL, Special to the Bulletin | Published March 19, 2015
MARIETTA—The 38th annual Atlanta Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women Recognition Day was held Saturday, Feb. 28, as 57 women and 60 high school seniors, representing 68 parishes, were honored for their service to the church and their communities.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory celebrated the Mass at St. Ann Church, Marietta, assisted by priests and deacons of the archdiocese.
Recognition Day, initiated in 1977 by the late AACCW past president Genevieve Jones-Geising, is a time to appreciate women and youth who give generously to serve other people.
Deanna Holmer, AACCW president, welcomed the honorees, their families and friends, and thanked La Salette Father Thomas Reilly, pastor of St. Ann, and Ed Bolduc, parish music director.
“We are here to pay tribute to the outstanding women and youth of our archdiocese who have been shown to be a model example of what we all aspire to be,” she said. “In today’s busy schedule and with the many responsibilities that compete for our time, they have endeavored to say yes.”
To the honorees, she added, “You should rejoice knowing that you are serving the Lord.”
In his homily, based on Jesus’ exhortation to love enemies and pray for persecutors, Archbishop Gregory said, “Loving those who live beyond our own comfort zone has always been the ultimate challenge that we all face as the Lord’s disciples.”
“It also somehow describes the women and the young people that we’ll honor today,” he said. “In so many ways it is because they do love beyond their comfort zones.”
He continued, “Jesus, who constantly manages to raise the spiritual bar, tells us that God’s way of loving is always beyond our human expectations.”
“Jesus reminds us no one exists outside of God’s law of love,” he said. “It is no doubt the most demanding requirement of the Gospel. It is a very worthy Lenten project for all of us to accept.”
Archbishop Gregory said that Christians are to love not only those who love or like them, but those who are unlike them and even those considered an enemy. Christians are called to love those who are irritating, crabby, those opposite to one’s political opinions, who do not look, sound, or think like oneself.
Archbishop Gregory also said to love the “brutal individuals who are engaging in terrorism and war in the Middle East and who have viciously slaughtered innocent people.”
Like the first disciples, we ask how many times we must forgive and who is our neighbor.
“But Pope Francis has repeatedly reminded us,” Archbishop Gregory said, “in calling us to love generously and humbly, there are no people who are beyond God’s love, or should be beyond our love.”
He continued, “Now our parishes are very fortunate to have a great many people who manage to love well beyond their comfort zones. They are the very backbones of our communities. We would be so much less than we are without them.”
Archbishop Gregory also called the youth the next generation of Catholic leaders, “bright promise for our tomorrow because even today they are demonstrating the types of leadership qualities that will anchor the church of tomorrow on very, very solid ground.”
After Communion, Father William Williams, spiritual advisor for the AACCW and pastor of St. Gerard Majella Church, Fort Oglethorpe, blessed the honorees. Each received a certificate of recognition, a prayer journal and a pen inscribed “I thank God for all you do.”
The most senior of the honorees was joyful.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Millie Sutton, who is 99 years old, and the Woman of the Year for St. Joseph Church, Marietta. She said, “I feel happy. It’s great.”
She has helped in the parish office with mailings and bulletins and assisted at luncheons. She was born in New Rochelle, New York, after her family emigrated to the U.S. from Italy. She was active in the church there and said she helped her sister, a Sister of Charity, to serve the poor.
“She’s a good practicing Catholic,” Carol Donofrio, her daughter, said. “She’s a real people person. She enjoys talking to people and about their families. She enjoys teasing the priests, and today, the archbishop.”
New Catholics chosen by St. Elizabeth Seton Church
From a small mission, a mother and son were chosen for the honors.
“It was amazing, a big surprise,” said Judy McGinnis, Woman of the Year from St. Elizabeth Seton Mission, Warm Springs. Her son, Bradly, was Youth of the Year.
“It was awesome, very surprising,” Bradly said. “Especially that we got to be together. Mom and I, we’re kind of a package deal.”
Both McGinnises came into the Catholic Church last Easter.
“We wandered around for a long time and went to different churches,” said Judy McGinnis. “Nothing felt right. Bradly had an interest in the Catholic Church.”
They researched the church online and finally decided to go to St. Elizabeth Seton Mission.
“We’ve been there from the time the doors opened ever since,” she said. “It was like God saying ‘I love you, and I have something better for you, and here it is.’”
“We are a very small church, a mission church of St. Peter’s in LaGrange,” Judy McGinnis said. “I do anything I can, anything that needs to be done.”
She visits the sick and transports them to the hospital. She also chaired the yard sale.
A full-time teacher of severe, profound special education students at the high school, she also home-schools Bradly, a high school senior taking college courses at Columbus State University. He plans to go into the medical profession.
“I’m the manual laborer of the church,” Bradly said. “I’m also the tech guy of the church.”
He said he does anything from setting up the Christmas tree to fixing the speakers. He also helps out at Roosevelt Place, an assisted living home for seniors.
“I do Bible study with them. I will play games like bingo, sometimes do small exercises with them, or I’ll just talk to them,” he said.
St. Paul of the Cross youth minister, daughter honored
A mother and daughter were honored by St. Paul of the Cross Church, Atlanta.
“Honestly, it kind of took me by surprise,” said Kristi Crawford, St. Paul’s Woman of the Year, who has been parish youth minister for the past four years. “I don’t like acknowledgements. I like to quietly go about my business. But it is an honor. The fact they thought to honor me with it means more to me than anything else.”
“I was excited,” said Nadia, her daughter, a senior at Our Lady of Mercy High School, Fayetteville, who is president of the teen group at St. Paul of the Cross.
In her first year as youth minister, Kristi Crawford said the group helped Habitat for Humanity. Their other activities include feeding the hungry, bringing valentines to two senior facilities, and a Lenten retreat.
“Lent is my favorite time of the year,” she said. “I’m trying to get them to grasp and take hold of the true meaning of Lent.”
“We have a wonderful youth ministry with about 30 to 45 kids,” she said. “It’s a great group, a diverse group, an active group.”
She said that the whole gist of the group is that whatever happens outside the walls of the parish doesn’t divide them as a parish family. “Together we are one big happy family,” she said.
“And I basically think it’s because of our teens, but especially of our seniors. They made it more of a family,” Kristi Crawford said.
“I absolutely believe that,” added Nadia Crawford. “I have my school family, and I have my family. But church family is something different.”
She said that even though things do happen outside the walls, and teens are from different places and areas and have their own problems, “when we work together it’s fine. We all have this same feeling together. That’s what I like about it.”
The teens feed the hungry every third Saturday of the month.
“We make sandwiches and pass them out at four different areas near our church,” Nadia Crawford said.
“It’s an honor,” said Mario Camarillo, Youth of the Year from St. Matthew Church, in Tyrone.
Camarillo made a video of the Ten Commandments. “This video shows slide examples of what you can do with the Ten Commandments accompanied with background music,” he said.
He is the leader of the altar servers for the Spanish Mass, lead teen core member with Life Teen, a lector and Eucharistic minister.
As a teen core member he has organized a clean-up day in a neighborhood and helps set up music for Life Teen. He has also taught using St. Thomas Aquinas’ view of theology.
“I’m interested in theology and philosophy,” Camarillo said. “I’m discerning priesthood. Every thing that I do is for the joy that I receive to help nourish the infants of Christ around me.”