By JEAN DRISKELL, Special to the Bulletin | Published March 20, 2014
DUNWOODY—For the 37th time, the Atlanta Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women celebrated its Recognition Day, this year honoring 59 women and 53 high school seniors for their ministries and service within the Church and their communities. The event took place at All Saints Church on March 1.
Mass was concelebrated by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, Msgr. Hugh M. Marren, pastor of All Saints, and Father Bill Williams, spiritual advisor to the AACCW and pastor of St. Gerard Majella Church, Fort Oglethorpe, assisted by 21 priests and deacons of the archdiocese. The All Saints choir, directed by Bernie Sotola, provided the music. Some 300 people attended.
Deanna Holmer, president of the AACCW, praised the honorees as “model examples of what we all aspire to be.”
“In today’s busy schedules and with the many responsibilities that infringe on our lives, you have endeavored to say yes and you should rejoice knowing that you are serving the Lord Jesus Christ,” she said.
Archbishop Gregory spoke of the “littleness” that characterizes those whom Jesus served.
“The heart of Jesus’ ministry is always directed toward those whom the world and society often considered unimportant,” Archbishop Gregory said in his homily. “Littleness … belongs to all those whose importance and human dignity are often overlooked and ignored. Littleness begins within the womb at the very dawn of human life and it continues throughout each stage of our living.”
He said “littleness” belongs to those who go through harsh times, such as poverty, and “littleness” is found in the lives of those seeking new beginnings, such as immigrants or prisoners, and those who have physical and mental disabilities.
“Once again, today, this local Church pauses to honor and recognize a number of our people who have great hearts for the little ones in their midst,” Archbishop Gregory said. “Like Christ, they are willing to reach out to those who might not appear to be all that important. The AACCW and all of its associates undertake many projects that are intended to find and care for the little ones, whether they involve raising funds for maternity items for expectant mothers or helping to educate those whose backgrounds are checkered at best.”
He said that the honorees remind the community of Christ’s ministry.
“These wonderful folks are bright lights in our midst, and they make us proud just to know them and to see the many good things that they do for our communities each and every day,” he said.
Following Communion, Father Williams blessed the certificates and gifts to be presented to each of the award recipients.
“As a pastor, as well as the spiritual moderator of the Council of Catholic Women, I know how hard they work for their parishes, how hard they want to work with their pastors, as well as with the communities the archbishop has mentioned,” he said. “Understand this day is one which the women have created in order to honor all of you.”
Jeanne McDade was honored as woman of the year from St. Clement Church, in Calhoun.
“It’s just a joyous day. I felt blessed. I really enjoyed talking to the other women of the year I met here today,” she said.
McDade is director of music at St. Clement, where she directs both English and bilingual choirs.
She is also a member of the St. Andrew School of Evangelization.
“It’s part of an international program of retreats that started in Guadalajara, Mexico,” she said. “It is now in over 60 countries. The program teaches us about our faith and brings us together as a community.”
Ryan Sammon was named youth of the year at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, in Carrollton. A youth leader at the parish, he is an Eagle Scout, active in the 4H Club, a member of the Future Business Leaders of America, and is on the tennis team at Bremen High School.
The youth group does several service projects to raise money to go on mission trips, Sammon said, including one called “Shake, Rattle and Roll.”
“We give people canisters of M&Ms and they bring back the canisters filled with donations,” he said.
On a mission trip to Catholic Heart Work Camp in Tampa, Fla., he and other teens helped build houses, painted rooms at a nursing home and visited with the residents. On another trip to Cincinnati, they worked for a food bank, collecting food and donations.
At Our Lady of Perpetual Help, he and other teens participated in a Cardboard Campout where they stayed outside on church property from Saturday night to Sunday morning, in cardboard boxes, fasting and praying, to have some sense of being homeless.
“Two weeks before the campout we collected canned goods for St. Vincent de Paul (Society),” he said, with the help of Norma Rothschadl, parish youth minister and director of religious education.
In 2011, he and several other students went to Notre Dame University in Indiana with Father Rafael Carballo, their pastor, to a leadership conference called Notre Dame Vision.
“It helped us to come deeper into our Catholic faith,” Sammon said, adding, “Without the support of Ms. Norma, Father Rafael, and my parents, I would not be where I am in my faith today.”
Ryan is the most recent family member to be chosen an honoree from OLPH, a tradition that began in 1979 when Ryan’s grandmother, Deanne Sammon, was named woman of the year.
“We created a cookbook and sold it to raise funds, we sewed cancer pads for Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home, and on Wednesdays we would do several projects at the rectory and church office,” Deanne Sammon said. “We were a small parish back then. We would clean the church, address offertory envelopes, do the receptions after the Masses, and we even created the directory for the parish.”
All four of Deanne’s children were honorees from OLPH church. John Sammon, Ryan’s father, was youth of the year in 1984; Ryan’s uncle, Tom, was youth of the year in 1989. Brian Sammon, Ryan’s other uncle, tied with another teen, Bill Couch, for youth of the year in 1982. And Ryan’s aunt, Sheila Sammon Thacker, was youth of the year in 1980 and then woman of the year in 2000 from St. John Vianney Church, Lithia Springs. His cousin, Steven Sammon, was OLPH youth of the year in 2010.
“It was 30 years ago, but I remember being very proud since my sister and brother and mother received the honors,” Ryan’s father, John, said. “I thought it was neat to be included. I was always there at the church, being involved. We are very proud of Ryan for his work with the less fortunate.”
“This is an honor that stays with you forever,” Sheila Thacker said. “The feeling the youth have today will stay with them forever.”