Saint’s Day Offers Chance To Celebrate Women, Teens
Published: April 5, 2007
MARIETTA—The 30th annual Recognition Day Mass, honoring 55 women and 41 high school students, was held at St. Joseph Church in Marietta on the sunny Saturday morning of St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. A crowd of approximately 750 people, including the honorees, families and friends, attended the ceremony.
Recognition Day was initiated in 1977 by Atlanta Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women president Genevieve Jones-Gesing as a time to recognize and appreciate the activities and ministries of the women and youth in the archdiocese. Each parish selects their honorees to recognize for the year.
Alison Mimms, president of the Northwest Deanery of the AACCW, which hosted the event, welcomed Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, who presided over the Mass, Father Paul Berny, AACCW spiritual moderator and pastor of St. Joseph, Rosalie Sugrue, province director, and Jan Schrumm, province secretary/treasurer. The province encompasses the Georgia and South Carolina dioceses.
“Recognition Day is a time for honoring women and youth of our parishes,” Mimms said. “I invite parishes who do not have an active women’s council at this time to become more involved with AACCW.”
Archbishop Gregory, who celebrated the Mass assisted by a number of priests and deacons of the archdiocese, started his homily with humor by noting that “we do have a tendency to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day well beyond the usual 24-hour day.”
“We gather to rejoice, not only in the legacy of (St. Patrick’s) faith,” said the archbishop, “but also in the heritage of the Irish people whose Catholic faith can be traced to the apostolic zeal of St. Patrick. We have been deeply blessed through the faith of the Irish people, who have helped to plant the Church in our own nation and especially in the Archdiocese of Atlanta.”
“We praise God for raising up Patrick as an apostle of faith,” he continued. “His feast is a cause of joy for all of us who find joy in loving our neighbors from the many different communities in the human family from which we come.”
He said, “The women have long distinguished themselves as loving, generous and faithful disciples of the Lord. You are literally the backbone of our parishes. You provide the light and strength to guide the church in our every endeavor to be of service and to worship God himself. We thank you.”
Archbishop Gregory then noted that the women and youth are “so often the source of faith both in your households and throughout the parishes of North Georgia. Patrick brought the faith to Ireland, and you bring that same faith to homes and hearts throughout North Georgia.”
Toward the end of Mass, the recognition ceremony was held, with the honorees receiving a handshake, plaque and certificate from Archbishop Gregory, Mayfern Barron, president of AACCW, Joan Brown, vice-president of AACCW, and Father Berny.
Despite a request to withhold applause until the ceremony was over, many of the women and youth received applause and shouts of cheer from their parishes—including Father Joseph Liem Nguyen of St. Mary Church in Toccoa, who jumped up to accept the plaque and certificate for his parishioner. And at the end of the ceremony, the women and youth received an enthusiastic standing ovation.
“The people seem very joyful,” Barron said. “The archbishop has a good sense of humor, and I’m very thankful for his support and to Father Berny for his loyalty and support.”
Barron continued, “I feel it’s a wonderful way of bringing (the honorees’) family together. Many family members came from out of town to be with the person honored. What a great opportunity for many families to be together and celebrate this occasion together.”
She added that she hopes more parishes will participate in the future.
Brown said, “It’s just a great day to get all the people out and to recognize and appreciate those who do so much for all the parishes. We appreciate everyone who came: all the priests who show their support and the friends and families of the honorees. I’m thankful to the archbishop for taking the time to honor the women and youth.”
“As pastor of St. Joseph’s, I’m very pleased to be host of this event this year,” said Father Berny. “Congratulations to all the women and young people who bless the church with their gifts of charity and faith.”
Archbishop Gregory stated he was “very grateful to the people of St. Joseph’s for hosting this annual Mass and reception that honors a few of the generous women and young people in our archdiocese. Gratitude for their goodness and service brings us all a spirit of hope for the growth of our archdiocese. They represent the best that is within us all.”
Recognition Day was held at St. Joseph’s this year due to a scheduling conflict at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta, where the event is usually held.
“This is wonderful. I’m overwhelmed,” said Esme Judy Reyes, woman of the year from St. Patrick Church, Norcross. She is involved with Family Promise, a program that houses homeless families for one week at a time.
“It’s opened three times a year, and usually only single women families come,” she said. “This year we had some husbands. We have five families at present—they come on Saturday afternoon and leave the following Sunday morning. Three parish organizations provide dinners for them.”
Like many of the women and teenagers honored, Reyes wears many hats at her parish, which she has attended for 12 years after moving to Atlanta from the Philippines. Active in the Filipino community, she is also a member of the parish women’s guild and the reception committee that provides food for families when someone dies, and she helps feed the homeless at St. Francis Table at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Atlanta. She is involved with the Alliance of the Two Hearts, which has a prayer vigil on first Friday and first Saturday each month. She is also working on a fundraiser to help with parish improvements.
Katie Kasulaitis, a senior at Spalding High School, Griffin, was chosen youth of the year from Sacred Heart Church, Griffin.
“It’s a great honor and privilege to be here,” she said. “It was a total shock to me when I received my letter telling me I was chosen.”
Kasulaitis is a lector, extraordinary minister of holy Communion, teacher in the second-grade first Communion class, assistant with the confirmation program for the teens and sponsor for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. She is an active participant in the church’s teen group, which teaches youth about church and society, while providing an opportunity to socialize and get involved with parish activities.
“I was just thrilled to have this honor,” said Dorothy Grant, woman of the year from Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Decatur. “It’s one of the high honors a woman can have. It’s an honor I will always treasure.”
Grant is actively involved in the Knights of Peter Claver Ladies Auxiliary and the evangelization committee through which she helps newcomers to the church feel welcome. She also assists with the receptions for funerals, socializes with the Young at Heart group, and is an extraordinary minister of holy Communion and lector. Grant co-leads the St. Elizabeth’s Circle, which is a part of the parish women’s council, and is chair of the Church Commission for the South Deanery (part of AACCW). She previously served as chairperson of Legislative Concerns for that deanery. A member of the American Business Women’s Association, she is active with the Terry Mill Community Association, which keeps up with legislative concerns. Grant also currently volunteers in the elementary and middle schools in DeKalb County.
John DiPietro, one of the teen leaders in the LifeTeen program at St. Brigid Church, Alpharetta, appreciated being named the youth of the year from his parish.
“It’s an honor to be here. I’m glad to be here,” he said. “I can’t wait to go back to my parish and thank them.”
As one of the LifeTeen leaders, he helps other teens get to know their faith. He also serves as a lector for Mass.
“We went on a mission trip to the Gulf Coast to paint houses last summer for one week, in the Mississippi area,” he added.
DiPietro traveled this year to New York City as part of the High School Model United Nations team, for the national awards. He is involved in drama and president of the chorus at Centennial High School, Roswell.
Mizette Coakley was named woman of the year from our Lady of Lourdes Church, Atlanta. She said, “I’m honored to be chosen as woman of the year. My wisdom comes from my older sisters in the ministry: Ms. Ernestine, Ms. Mattie, Ms. Darlene, and the list goes on.”
Coakley is active with the Knights of Peter Claver Ladies Auxiliary; the church choir, which is traveling to Italy at the end of May to perform for Pope Benedict XVI; the Healthy Ministry program, where she helps with health fairs and walk-a-thons; and with Simon’s Call, an AIDS program. Past president of her parish women’s club, she is also a former vice-president of the South Deanery.
Coakley noted, “I learned that if you trust in the Lord and lean not on your own understanding, He will direct your path, which He’s done for me.”
St. Lawrence Church’s youth of the year was Kenny Moon, who found the event to be “great to honor those who work hard in the parish and community.” He helps with the parish picnics and fish fry nights by cooking, setting up and running the events. Active in the LifeTeen program, he also works at the homeless shelter at Central Presbyterian Church in downtown Atlanta.
Bob Moon, Kenny’s father, said, “I’m very proud of him. It takes a community to raise a kid, and St. Lawrence and Scouting are great and proud communities.”
Named woman of the year by Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Carrollton, Geraldine Bovona was “thrilled” to have friends and family in attendance at the Mass. She is an usher, lector, active in the Altar Society, and assists with preparing meals for confirmation and funeral receptions. She also volunteers in the parish office and is in charge of the food pantry for the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
“It’s a very joyous occasion for me,” she said.
Samantha Smith, youth of the year from Our Lady of Lourdes Church, said, “I’m excited. It feels good to be recognized for your contributions to your church.”
She is involved with Teen Ministry, Junior Daughters of the Knights of Peter Claver Ladies Auxiliary, and is an extraordinary minister of holy Communion at Mass. Last August Smith was a representative at the African-American Catholic Conference. At Benjamin E. Mays High School, Atlanta, she is captain of her debate team, co-editor of the school’s newspaper, and a member of the band’s flag corps.
“I feel that my faith has brought me this far,” she said. “I’m proud in the fact that just believing in God and through the support of my church, I’ve made it this far.”