Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Youth ministers earn ‘Companions on the Journey’ awards

Published February 7, 2019

SMYRNA—Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory honored leaders in youth ministry and graduates of a University of Dayton faith formation certificate program during a Monday, Jan. 14 parish catechetical leader awards luncheon at the Chancery of the archdiocese.

The archbishop celebrated Mass prior to the ceremony. He presented three Companions on the Journey Awards of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry.

The Companions on the Journey Award is the highest recognition from the NFCYM for a diocese to confer. The award recognizes excellence in youth ministry, commitment to ongoing education and formation, longevity in ministry, commitment to young people and outstanding local leadership.

The Companions on the Journey recipients are Chris Berens, St. Michael the Archangel Church, Woodstock; Heather Garger, Holy Trinity Church, Peachtree City; and Jen Tarnowski, St. Luke the Evangelist Church, Dahlonega. Garger was also recognized also for 15 years of service as a catechetical leader, and for completion of the certificate of youth ministry program through the University of Dayton.

The program also recognized seven parish ministry leaders for earning certificates in catechesis and three others for certificates in youth ministry, both from the University of Dayton’s Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation.

Service Year awards were also part of the program, with more than 41 parish catechetical leaders honored for service ranging from five to 40 years. Terry Zobel of St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Alpharetta, received a 40-year award for her service.

Archbishop Gregory congratulated all honorees and thanked them for their role in the faith education of children.

“Thank you for your devotion to that important task,” he said.

The archbishop also expressed his gratitude to his brother priests for their support of catechetical ministry at the parish level.

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory presented a Companion on the Journey Award to Heather Garger, a youth ministry leader at Holy Trinity Church, Peachtree City Jan. 14. The lifetime achievement is the highest honor of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry. Also receiving the award were Jen Tarnowski of St. Luke the Evangelist and Chris Berens of St. Michael the Archangel. The archbishop honored catechetical leaders at a Chancery luncheon. Photo by Benedict Esposito

Before the meal, Archbishop Gregory prayed for God’s blessing, “We stand at the dawn of a new moment of grace. We ask you to bless our efforts to proclaim the faith of the church and form a new generation of Catholics enthused by the work of the Gospel and guided by the work of the Holy Spirit.”

Andy Lichtenwalner, director of the archdiocesan office of Formation and Discipleship also spoke about the amount of prayer, work and effort that’s undertaken by youth and adult faith formation leaders.

“About 50 or so years ago much of this work was done by clergy, by religious,” he noted. “Today it is much different when 80 to 90 percent of our leaders in the field are laity. Your work, your collaboration with the bishops, with the clergy, with religious is so vital and important and marks an important moment for the church. Today is a day to salute you,”

Bill Clarke, coordinator of professional development for the Office of Formation and Discipleship, recognized graduates of the two certificate programs of the University of Dayton.

Parish ministers graduating in the certificate of catechesis program are Jeanne Rodriguez, St. Matthew Church, Winder; Amy Vaughn, St Peter the Rock Church, Thomaston; Kelly Henkel, St. Brendan the Navigator Church, Cumming; Robyn Morgan, Christ our King and Savior Church, Greensboro; Lori Bell, Our Lady of Lourdes, Atlanta; Linda Koerner, St. John Neumann Church, Lilburn; Loral Leach, St. Andrew Church, Roswell.

Earning a certificate in youth ministry were Brittany Fagan, Corpus Christi Church, Stone Mountain; Heather Garger, Holy Trinity Church, Peachtree City; and Lynn Langston, St. Joseph, Athens.

The University of Dayton, through its Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation, is considered a pioneer in online Catholic religious education, according to Clarke.

The program offers certificates in catechesis and youth ministry with hundreds of online courses and students in many dioceses in the U.S. and abroad. The Archdiocese of Atlanta is a partner with the University of Dayton, which provides catechists from the archdiocese the chance to receive a tuition incentive.