By JEAN DRISKELL, Special to the Bulletin | Published May 2, 2019
ATLANTA—Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory recognized women and youth for outstanding support of their parishes and communities during the Atlanta Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women (AACCW) Recognition Day Saturday, April 13. A Mass and luncheon were held at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Atlanta.
“I welcome to the Basilica all the many wonderful women and young people that we will recognize and honor today for their devoted services to their parishes and communities,” Archbishop. Gregory said at the 42nd annual event. Fifty-three women, 49 high school seniors, representing 65 parishes were honored.
Recognition Day was initiated in 1977 by the late AACCW president Genevieve Jones-Geising. Each parish or mission is invited to select an outstanding woman and high school senior who have expressed their faith in their families, churches and communities. At the Mass, they are recognized as a group and individually.
“We are all familiar with the signs that Jesus worked in his day that brought people to believe in him,” Archbishop Gregory said in his homily. “There were people who saw those signs and still doubted.”
He continued, “Signs bring us to believe, but we must be persistent in providing such signs of mercy, compassion and generosity. Jesus needs us to continue providing the signs that draw people to believe in him.”
Archbishop Gregory said that though the honorees do not loosen the tongues of the mute, they feed the hungry; and even though they do not restore a dead son to a grieving mother, they comfort the grieving with a homemade meal, tender word or a kind note.
“They don’t consider themselves miracle workers, but they give life to our local parishes through their hard and generous work,” he said of the honorees. “They are not miracle workers but without them Jesus’ miraculous presence would be very difficult to discover.”
Honorees involved in numerous ministries
Following Communion, Father Tim Gadziala, spiritual advisor to AACCW and pastor of St. Peter Church, LaGrange, welcomed the honorees and blessed them.
The women and high school seniors were presented certificates by Archbishop Gregory, Gwendolyn Scott, president of AACCW; and Deanna Holmer, leadership commission chair and past president of AACCW.
“I was very, very excited,” said Juanita Alvarez, Woman of the Year for St. Ann Church, Marietta.
As a communications volunteer for the Knights of Columbus Ladies Auxiliary, Alvarez said that she sends out notices for their meetings and projects. She belongs to the Women’s Day and Spanish Guilds, and is the historian for both groups, handling photography and yearbook duties.
Alvarez also helps with projects such as the Three Kings Festival on Jan. 6, which is a bilingual Mass and program of the Spanish Guild.
“We get the children there and I help coordinate. I also do the wrapping of the little gifts for the children that we have at the reception after the Mass,” Alvarez said.
She is a community ambassador for the parish.
“We greet people every Sunday morning at Mass. That has been really rewarding to me. I have gotten to meet a lot of people at the church I didn’t know. I have been a member of St. Ann’s for 24 years,” she said.
Alvarez also volunteers with Launch, the St. Ann parish school of religion program.
“I love my Church. I just love doing all of this. It completes me,” Alvarez said.
Gabriel Pelayo was selected Youth of the Year for St. Pius X Church, Conyers.
“I am grateful to my parish for having chosen me,” he said.
A high school senior, Pelayo, 19, volunteers at Life Teen as an adult leader.
“As a leader I help with small group discussions, providing insight for the teens and for the adult leaders with a teen perspective,” he said.
As a member of the Hispanic Group, Pelayo is trying to get its members more involved in parish life. He is on the parish council as a teen representative and he is also an altar server.
At school, Pelayo belongs to the Quiz Bowl debate team and the Chess Club. Outside of school, he works as a waiter at a Mexican restaurant.
“I’m really glad the archbishop was able to do this because he’s going away,” Pelayo said.
“I was blown away,” Eleanor Torstrick, Woman of the Year for St. Monica Church, Duluth.
“I’m active with the Adoration Commitee,” she said. “I have a couple of hours of adoration a week that I cover.”
Torstrick said that she belongs to the Seekers, a women’s faith group.
“We study different areas of our faith. We get together weekly and we usually have a book that we read and discuss,” she said.
As a member of the Patriotic Rosary Group, she prays “for our country, each state, all our elected officials, and everyone,” she said.
“About five or six years ago, one of our ladies thought we needed to pray about the election,” Torstrick said. “So she started this group and we get together every Tuesday and say the rosary for our country.”
She said that she helps with religious education for first-grade students and with parish missions.
“I help with anything that I can do, what I’m called to do,” Torstrick said.
“It was such a remarkable experience,” said Lucia Y. Pimentel, Youth of the Year for Christ Our Hope Church, Lithonia. “When I came in I felt this absolute wonderful power and it was strong.”
As a member of her parish’s youth group, Pimentel helps to come up with ideas for trips, fundraisers and ways to participate in parish life.
“Lucia is really devoted to our Catholic faith,” said Tiffany Cadogan, Christ Our Hope’s youth minister. “She goes to additional retreats to learn more about the faith and that’s on her own. She’s also trying to bridge the Hispanic community with the rest of the church.”
Women of the Year
Juanita Alverez, Church of St. Ann; Joy Baljet, Our Lady of the Assumption; Lucia Barrios, St. Peter the Rock; Ruth Bohac, St. Luke the Evangelist; Loretta Boyd, Mary Our Queen; Flor Castro, St. Andrew; Kathy Christianson, St. Joseph; Betty Cohron, St. Matthew; Phyllis Craig, St. Mary Magdalene; Donna Eldred, St. George; Jean Flynn, St. Peter; Brenda French, St. Gabriel; Hilda Judith Fuentes, St. Vincent de Paul; Beverly Galanek, St. Michael the Archangel; Phyllis Garrison, St. Augustine; Barbara Giordano, St. Brendan the Navigator; Cari Goslow, St. John Vianney; Iris Grant, St. Pius X; Theresa Ivory, Sts. Peter and Paul; Janet Johnson, St. Bernadette; Mary Ruth Jones, St. Paul the Apostle; Anna Mae Karnes, St. Gerard Majella; Nancy Koughan, Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Jeanette Lewis, St. Anthony of Padua; Joanne Love, Cathedral of Christ the King; Lillian Mandyck, St. Jude the Apostle; Annette Martinengo, Our Lady of the Mountains; Pat McCoy, Sacred Heart; Marie McEntegart, Our Lady of LaSalette; Lynda Mesko, St. James the Apostle; Carolyn Milton, St. James; Tam Muto, St. Patrick; Jan Nerone, St. Oliver Plunkett; Theresa O’Donnell, Holy Cross; Donna Ortiz, St. Brigid; Heather Palmer, Sacred Heart of Jesus; Jacinta A. Paris, St. Catherine Labouré; Magdalena Perez, St. Thomas Aquinas; Eileen Pin, Queen of Angels; Veronica Rangel, St. Francis of Assisi; Sandra Rivera, Our Lady of the Americas; Gail Ronan, Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus; Linda Ryan, St. Paul of the Cross; Eva Selman McReynolds, Church of the Good Shepherd; Betty Smith, St. Mary; Tolanda Thomas, Most Blessed Sacrament; Pamela Tolliver, Our Lady of Lourdes; Eleanor Torstrick, St. Monica; Trudy Turner, St. Lawrence; Anna C. Umphress, St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, Elizabeth Walsh, Corpus Christi; Shirley Warrior, St. John the Evangelist; Judy Isabel Watson, Christ Our Hope.
Youth of the Year
Kasi Antoine, Most Blessed Sacrament; Jesus Barbis, St. Augustine; Jake Borah, St. Brigid; Kelsey Brew, St. John the Evangelist; Cassandra Cruz, St. Bernadette; Andre da Silva, Holy Family; Anna Grace Dessez, St. James the Apostle; Diana C. Diaz, St. Jude the Apostle; Valeria Esquivel, St. Lawrence; Charlie Ferrante, Church of St. Ann; Gabino Flores, St. Michael; Kaitlin Franks, St. Oliver Plunkett; Daisy Fuentes, St. Marguerite d’youville; Erika Garcia, St. Joseph; Akio Guzman, St. Vincent de Paul; Jack Heatherman, St. Mary Magdalene; Juan Pablo Hernandez, Our Lady of Perpetual Help; Nelly Alejandra Hernandez, Our Lady of the Americas; Bryce Honore, Our Lady of Lourdes; Victoria Kimbarl, Church of the Good Shepherd; Anna Laarhoven, St. Monica; Morgan Lanzo, St. Thomas Aquinas; Benjamin Lathrop, Our Lady of the Assumption; Gracie Lehman, St. Peter; Alice Carrera Lopez, Corpus Christi; Martinez Lopez, St. Peter the Rock; Rafael Marin, St. Matthew; Kathleen Marsh, St. Catherine Labouré; Cindy Emily Martinez-Heredia, St. Patrick; Daniela Martinez-Hurtado, Holy Cross; Tyler Maxwell, All Saints; Mathew Meyer, St. Michael the Archangel; Brenda Moncada, St. Andrew; Cristian Muniz, St. Matthew; Anthony Muñoz, St. Theresa of the Child Jesus; Ashley Nguyen, Our Lady of Vietnam; Koluchi Odiegwu, St. Anthony of Padua; Mary Okeke, St. Philip Benizi; Dinachi Okonkwo, St. John Vianney; Navidad Paniagua, St. Clement; Gabriel Pelayo, St. Pius X; Lucia Y. Pimentel, Christ Our Hope; Elizabeth Rodriguez, St. Thomas the Apostle; Elizabeth Sacca, Mary Our Queen; Phillip Shook, Church of the Transfiguration; Eric Daniel Swain Jr., Sts. Peter and Paul; Huan Tran, St. Mary; Sarah Tyler, St. Gabriel; Jasmine Williams, St. Paul of the Cross.