Teens from across the Diocese of Knoxville who are emerging as youth leaders were recognized Saturday during the 2012 Diocesan Youth Mass at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Knoxville.
Bishop Richard F. Stika was celebrant at the Youth Mass, which also was attended by peers, parents, and volunteers from the diocese’s four deaneries. Concelebrating at the Mass were vicar general Monsignor Xavier Mankel, Father Randy Stice and Father Christian Mathis. Deacons Dan Hosford and Jim Fage assisted.
Bishop Stika told the students the Youth Mass is for the diocese to “say to our young sisters and brothers of faith, thank you for the desire to take a leadership role in the Church. Thank you for being Jesus Christ in your high school on in your parish.”
“Thank you for maybe teaching adults who can become so cynical that faith is something very much alive. Thank you for just being a person of faith,” Bishop Stika said during his homily.
Bishop Stika, relating the miracle that Jesus performed in healing a man brought to him who was virtually mute and deaf, challenged the teens to not be in the silent majority but instead speak out for those treated unjustly, who live in poverty, children yet to be born, immigrants, and others whose voices may not be heard.
“What I say to you is don’t forget that you have an obligation to sometimes teach the adults who have forgotten what it means to be a Catholic, or a Christian, or a person of faith, a person who has lost hope, a person who is just kind of going with the system. That’s what the power of teenagers can do … remind us about choices and about life and about risk sometimes, but also about the gift of hope,” Bishop Stika said.
In his homily, the bishop remarked that the youths being recognized are part of a diocese that celebrated its 24th anniversary Saturday and that has grown from 22,000 parishioners, a few priests and a few parishes to nearly 70,000 parishioners served by 70 priests in the Chattanooga, Five Rivers, Cumberland Mountain, and Smoky Mountain deaneries.
“But the Church is not just that; the Church is you. The prophetic mission of the Church is you proclaiming Jesus Christ…,” he said, pointing out that the days ahead for them are filled with hope, possibilities, potential, and the opportunity to teach others about Jesus Christ.
“I just want to thank you for your willingness and your desire to make a difference over the course of this next year. My brothers and sisters, I pray that you never forget that you are the voice of Jesus Christ. You are the face of Jesus Christ if you live out your faith. And you are the hands of Jesus when you help build up his kingdom and remind the rest of us of the beauty of life, the great gift of potential and possibility that is blessed by hope. Coming together this day, let us ever be thankful for what God has given to us. Let us always be thankful for the gift of faith,” Bishop Stika said.
Al Forsythe, who heads the diocese’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry, introduced the youths being recognized for their leadership and the adults who work with the teens on leadership development.
Mr. Forsythe said the Youth Mass has been an annual event since the diocese’s beginning, but it’s the third year for the recognition program. He said Deacon Dan Hosford is instrumental in coordinating the youth events as is Karen Byrne of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.
“We want to recognize the youth for their work but also recognize them for being role models,” Mr. Forsythe said. “The kids really take ownership of this event. It motivates them to get involved in the life of the diocese and parishes.”
He said more than 170 youths and adults participated in the Youth Mass and dinner/social program that followed. He credited leaders of the diocese for taking such an active role with the youth.
“It’s so great for our young people to see how our bishop, vicar general, and priests take part and welcome them. The bishop is so active with our young people. He is a catalyst for the youth getting involved and provides a personal connection that keeps them interested,” Mr. Forsythe said.
Those receiving the St. Timothy Award, the highest recognition the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry and the diocese confers on high school youth, were:
- Brandon Lawson of St. Patrick Church.
- Madeline Gibson of St. Thomas the Apostle Church.
The St. Timothy Award is given to an extraordinary youth “who selflessly serves their peers and youth ministry with unwavering commitment and dedication.”
Those recognized with Discipleship Awards for parish youth leadership were:
- Samantha Eisenberg and Cynthia Roberts, Blessed Sacrament Church.
- Rebecca Neighbor, St. Albert the Great Church.
- Megan McCormick, Our Lady of Fatima Church.
- Madeline Gibson and Audrey Gibson, St. Thomas the Apostle Church.
- Allyssa Raspa and Jesús Felix, St. Thérèse of Lisieux Church.
- Anikka Michaud and Connor Fenter, Notre Dame Church.
- Jay Nguyen and Katie McDowell, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church.
- Michael Ptacek and Isabelle Stearns, St. John Neumann Church.
- Brooklynn Runyan and Jonathon Schalk, St. Bridget Church.
- Maria D’Azevedo and Sarah Miller, St. Mary Church in Oak Ridge.
- Kathleen Staller and Leah Lyons, Holy Family Church.
Some 22 students from across the diocese were named to the Diocesan Youth Ministry Advisory Council for the 2012-13 school year.
Students from the Smoky Mountain Deanery were:
- Bernadette Hunt of Immaculate Conception Church, who attends Bearden High School.
- Noah Goodson of Holy Cross Church, who attends Pigeon Forge High School.
Students from the Chattanooga Deanery were:
- Jay Nguyen of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, who attends Notre Dame High School.
- Abbey Markus of Holy Spirit Church, who attends Soddy-Daisy High School.
- Katie McDowell of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, who attends Notre Dame High School.
- Courtney Schwab of Holy Spirit Church, who attends Soddy-Daisy High School.
- Cooper Manley, of St. Augustine Church, who attends Notre Dame High School.
- Eilish Flannery of the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, who attends Notre Dame High School.
- Andy Granger of St. Mary Church, who is a home school student.
Students from the Five Rivers Deanery were:
- Connor Fenter of Notre Dame Church, who attends University High School.
- Shaeleigh Jacobs of St. Patrick Church, who attends Morristown West High School.
- Robyn Manhard of St. Mary Church, who attends Science Hill High School.
- Susan Jones of St. Mary Church, who attends Science Hill High School.
- Liam Groves of St. Dominic Church, who attends Daniel Boone High School.
Students from the Cumberland Mountain Deanery were:
- Maria D’Azevedo of St. Mary Church, who attends Oak Ridge High School.
- Dani Waldrop of All Saints Church, who attends Farragut High School.
- Adrian Luis Garcia of All Saints Church, who attends Farragut High School.
- Rachael Arnold of St. Joseph Church, who attends Anderson County High School.
- Michael Ptacek of St. John Neumann Church, who is a home school student.
- Isabelle Stearns of St. Thomas the Apostle Byzantine Church, who is a home school student.
- Jason Drouhard of St. Thomas the Apostle Byzantine Church, who is a home school student.
- Thomas Crillo of St. Alphonsus Church, who attends Cumberland County High School.
Those receiving Light of the World awards that recognize adult contributions to diocesan youth leadership were:
- Jack Place and Rick Longworth, Notre Dame Church.
- Mary Kay Eisenberg and Ann Pio, Blessed Sacrament Church.
- Kim Neighbor, St. Albert the Great Church.
- Luis Ramos, Our Lady of Fatima Church.
- Ines Gibson, St. Thomas the Apostle Church.
- Jamie Miles, St. Thérèse of Lisieux Church.
- Manuela Ptacek, St. John Neumann Church.
- Debbie Hawk and Rhonda Schalk, St. Bridget Church.
- Chris Waggoner and Kathleen Cooksey, St. Mary Church in Oak Ridge.
- Louise DeLucia and Paul Fintak, Holy Family Church.
Those receiving the Companions on the Journey Award, the highest recognition the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry and the diocese confers on an adult that is given to “extraordinary adults whose service to youth and youth ministry is truly exceptional,” were:
- Scott Mulligan, Holy Trinity Church in Jefferson City.
- Nikki Klein, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Chattanooga.
- Kathleen Cooksey of St. Mary Church in Oak Ridge.