By JEAN DRISKELL, Special to the Bulletin | Published May 12, 2016
JOHNS CREEK— In the works of mercy, charity and vitality that outstanding women and young people are accomplishing in their parishes, “we can still behold the activity of God’s Holy Spirit in our own time,” Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said April 16.
Fifty-eight women and 59 high school seniors, representing a total of 71 parishes, were honored for their ministries and service to the church and their communities at the 39th annual Recognition Day.
Mass was celebrated by the archbishop at St. Brigid Church, Johns Creek, with many priests concelebrating in support of their parish honorees.
Recognition Day is a work of the Atlanta Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women. It was initiated in 1977 by the late AACCW past president Genevieve Jones-Geising. Each parish or mission is invited to select an outstanding woman and high school senior who have made notable contributions where they live and worship. At the Mass, they are acknowledged as a group and individually.
The Mass recognizes “a number of the wonderful women and young people who give life, faith, and hope to the Church in north Georgia,” Archbishop Gregory said.
In his homily, the archbishop spoke of the Acts of the Apostles, which portrays a “number of generous women disciples whose goodness and fidelity provided powerful witness for the early Church.” He spoke of Tabitha who was devoted to the faith community in Joppa in the time of the apostles.
Acts also “provides many examples of the faith and dedication of those first Christians and the building up of the small communities that were the very seedbeds of faith that eventually blossomed into the worldwide Church of Christ.”
“These men and women of generous heart,” Archbishop Gregory said, “reflected the presence and the power of God’s Holy Spirit active in those first years of apostolic zeal. That same Holy Spirit continues to work in the Church today, through the good example of the collaborate service of countless men and women in this local Church and indeed thoughout the world.”
Thanking God, Archbishop Gregory said that the women and young people witness Christ in countless ways throughout the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
“We are privileged today to honor some of them, to recognize the great joy and encouragement that they provide for our parishes and our communities,” he said.
Of the honorees, Archbishop Gregory said, “the witness of kindness that they demonstrate in their parish communities is a reflection of the ways that they love and that they care for their families and their neighbors.”
“These women and young people continue the works of the Holy Spirit in our own time,” he said, “and for that, we praise God, for bringing them into the lives of this local Church and in many blessed communities of faith and charity.”
Archbishop Gregory said the “young people who are being recognized also offer hope for the future of our Church.”
Their generosity and goodness will help “the Church to grow in confidence that our faith will be as strong and as vibrant tomorrow as it is today.”
“This local Church loves each woman and young person,” Archbishop Gregory said, “and we praise God and thank him for raising them up in our communities and in our lives. God’s goodness is not confined to Joppa. It’s found throughout north and central Georgia.”
Human trafficking ministry
After Communion, Julie Pardo, president of the AACCW, welcomed the honorees and thanked them. “We are full of grace and we feel the love that’s here,” she said.
Father William Williams, spiritual advisor to the AACCW and pastor of St. Gerard Majella Church, Fort Oglethorpe, blessed the honorees.
The women and high school seniors were presented certificates by Archbishop Gregory, Father Williams, Pardo and Gwendolyn Scott, AACCW president-elect.
Those who were honored have many types of ministries.
Tramell Alexander, woman of the year from St. Anthony of Padua Church, Atlanta, is the coordinator of the human trafficking ministry at the parish.
“We have a number of parishioners who are involved in working with at-risk youth,” she said, “and also serving victims of child sex trafficking.”
Alexander said that they do advocacy work within the community to make businesses aware of human trafficking laws and to provide the hotline number for girls who might be victims of human trafficking.
“I do some personal volunteer work myself,” she said. “I have a student that I mentor.”
Alexander is also a speaker for Georgia Cares, the statewide coordinating agency for serving victims of child sex trafficking in Georgia.
“They do community awareness workshops and they also have caseworkers who coordinate services to restore child victims back to wholeness,” she said.
“This was a beautiful, beautiful Mass,” Alexander said. “I’m just overwhelmed by all the women and youth who are doing great things in the parishes; it’s very inspirational.”
The Recognition Day Mass “was awesome,” said Francesco Mion, youth of the year from St. Luke Church, Dahlonega.
Mion said he is active in his youth group and as an altar server. He is particularly involved in the youth program outreach, hosting events, helping out with fundraisers and around the holidays singing with the elderly in nursing homes.
If accepted by the Archdiocese of Atlanta, he plans to enter college seminary in August.
What has inspired Mion about the priesthood is “just the joy I find, I see, in every priest,” he said. “They are all filled with the Holy Spirit.”
“Administering the sacraments to the faithful, that is the most attractive thing to me,” he said.
Little Flowers group, shelter ministries
Although the mother of 11 children, from 6 months to 15 years old, Aimee Miranda, of St. Augustine Church, Covington, still finds time to “do a whole lot of little things.”
She said, “Last year I chaired our evangelization committee. I arrange and lead the caroling at the nursing homes around Christmastime, and I help out where I can with religious education.”
Miranda said that she ran a Little Flowers group in the church for several years, a Catholic activity for girls 6 to 11 years old involving crafts and also learning about the virtues and the lives of the saints. Her children are home schooled and that has led to her organize field trips and other activities for them, including Little Flowers which she did with another home school mother.
“I’ve got a great husband. He and I try to make it work,” Miranda said about her husband, Jim, and juggling volunteering, home schooling, and raising 11 children.
“I find things I’m good at and then I just figure out where we can fit it into the schedule,” she said. “If we can’t, we take the children with us.”
The children come along when they bring meals to the homeless shelter in Covington.
“Jim and I and some of the people from church will get together and meet at the homeless shelter and make a meal for the homeless and some of the children help with that,” she said.
Kathy Kelly-Huey, woman of the year for St. Mary Magdalene Church, Newnan, was very touched by the Recognition Mass.
“It was overwhelming. It was amazing,” she said. “I didn’t quite know what to expect. What a beautiful show of respect for all the women and the youth. They are in the vineyard.”
Kelly-Huey said that she is the director of religious education and her “special ministries are RCIA, extraordinary minister to the homebound, and adult faith.”
“In the community I do a lot of things that are helping people who are in need of shelter or financial aid,” she said. “Homeless shelters and food kitchens are my special love.”
Youth of the year from three different parishes were encouraged in their faith.
“It was very honoring and special to me to be chosen youth of the year,” said Elizabeth Menjivar, of St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Smyrna.
She is a teen leader with Life Teen, a member of the choir, an altar server and a missionary.
“I’m going to Orlando, Florida, to help the homeless and build shelters,” Menjivar said.
Sofia Padilla, youth of the year from Our Lady of the Americas Church, Lilburn, said, “I thought it was really exciting to see a lot of teens and women in the church helping out, being leaders.”
She is a leader in her youth group and is in the chorus at her church.
“I think it is special that the youth from across the state are being celebrated for contributing to their church,” said Adam Vu, of Sacred Heart Church, Milledgeville.
“When I started at Life Teen,” he said, “the youth leaders helped me to enjoy it. I really enjoyed the experiences and coming closer to my faith.”
Vu said that at Life Teen “we like to discuss the teachings (in Scripture) and real life applications to the teachings. We ask what we can do.”