Diocesan students recognized at Youth Mass

Bishop Richard F. Stika recognizes Diocese of Knoxville students during the annual Youth Mass Sept. 27 at Immaculate Conception Church. Photo by Dan McWilliams

Bishop Richard F. Stika recognizes Diocese of Knoxville students during the annual Youth Mass Sept. 27 at Immaculate Conception Church.
Photo by Dan McWilliams

It isn’t often that a bishop asks students for advice on what to tell the pope.

But that is what happened Sept. 27 during the Diocese of Knoxville’s annual Youth Mass.

Bishop Richard F. Stika told the students that he would be going to the Vatican and needed advice on what he should tell Pope Francis about the diocese’s young people.

“So I’m looking to you for assistance and help, but what should I say to the pope?” the bishop asked.

“Maybe could I say, with your permission, that you love Jesus. When I say the young folks in the Diocese of Knoxville love Jesus, would anybody disagree with that?”

Bishop Stika celebrated the Mass at Immaculate Conception Church in downtown Knoxville with host pastor Father Ron Franco, CSP, and Father Tom Charters, GHM, assisted by Deacon Dan Hosford and IC’s Deacon Hieu Vinh.

At the end of Mass, the bishop commissioned new members of the Diocesan Youth Ministry Advisory Council (DYMAC) and helped present awards to youth and adults.

After Mass the youth rode down the Tennessee River aboard the Volunteer Princess.

Bishop Stika said there was more that he could tell the Holy Father about diocesan youth.

“How about this: the young people and all of those who support them want to build his Church,” he said. “That’s good. The young people of the Diocese of Knoxville love their bishop. Do you disagree with that? The young people of the Diocese of Knoxville are willing to do what it takes to carry Jesus with them into their schools, into their families, into their lives. That’s a little bit more difficult.”

The bishop told the young people that “sometimes we take Jesus for granted.”

“We know he’s there. We believe in him. You know, when we go in a church and see a red candle that the Blessed Sacrament, the body and blood, the soul and divinity of Christ, is present in a different form, but it’s Jesus. We also know that Jesus is around us when the Scriptures are proclaimed in church. We know that Jesus wants a relationship with us.

“Sometimes it’s kind of easy to push him off to the side a little bit as the apostles probably did.”

When the youth begin to take Jesus for granted, they should “remember that Jesus wants to be in that relationship with you in an ordinary way. Not to be awestruck like thunder, but to be one with you,” the bishop said.

In his closing remarks, Bishop Stika encouraged the youth to consider a vocation to the priesthood or religious life.

“I pray that one of you will join Mother Angelica’s convent or the Dominicans or the Sisters of Mercy of Alma or whatever,” he said. “The big thing, you know, this is the lesson: open your hearts to God, and have a conversation and don’t put off God. Listen because he’s an extraordinary conversationalist, and he’ll give you all kinds of opportunities and options, but so does the devil.

“You know the devil takes what you like to do sometimes, and then he uses that as a weakness. God takes what we like to do that’s good for us, and he uplifts it and he blesses it and he allows it to blossom. So my prayer for all of you is to keep that conversation going with the Lord. If you do, I guarantee you, your life is not going to be perfect, but if you do what the Lord is wanting you to do, if you have that ongoing conversation, you might be happy. And happy is much better than perfect.”

Al Forsythe, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the diocese, introduced the awards.

“Serving as the director . . . over the last several years I have traveled extensively throughout the diocese and met outstanding youth and adults dedicated to youth ministry,” Mr. Forsythe said. “I think it is important that exceptional people are recognized for their efforts. This not only affirms the recipient of the award but offers us a model to imitate.”

Receiving the youth Discipleship Award were Samuel Murillo and Luis Reynoso of St. Michael the Archangel Mission in Erwin, Maria Gonzalez and Maggie Cooney of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Lenoir City, Sarah Ward and Anthony Richardson of Our Lady of Fatima Church in Alcoa, and Victor Barbosa and Ana Rocha of St. Thérèse of Lisieux Church in Cleveland.

Adults receiving the Light of the World award were Joe McGuiness and Crissy Stamey of St. Michael the Archangel, Judy Buscetta of St. Thomas the Apostle, and Amy Davis of Our Lady of Fatima.

Connor Fenter of Notre Dame Parish in Greeneville received the St. Timothy Award, “the highest recognition the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry and the Diocese of Knoxville confer on high school youth.

The Companions on the Journey Award is the highest recognition the national federation and the diocese confer on an adult. Receiving that honor were Paul Vachon of St. Dominic Parish in Kingsport and John Seymour of St. Joseph Parish in Norris.

DYMAC members pledged before the bishop to “share my faith everywhere I go, serve as an adviser to our diocesan director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, aid in planning and leading diocesan youth events, and faithfully work to the best of my ability for the betterment of youth ministry throughout our diocese.”

Commissioned from the Five Rivers Deanery for DYMAC were Gabrielle Coggins, Luis Reynoso, Samuel Murillo, and Gabriel Isaac. Smoky Mountain Deanery DYMAC members are Rachel Davis, Noah Goodson, Logan Parsons, Rebecca LeBouef, Hannah White, Natalia Lyszczarczyk, and Christopher Lucas.

DYMAC members from the Chattanooga Deanery are Victor Barbosa, Cory Markus, Liz Labbe, Mackenzie and Michaela Guice, Juan Sandoval, Erin McCormick, and Zane Wilkinson. Cumberland Mountain Deanery members of the council are Lily and Jack Deinhart, Meghan Rearden, and Sloane and Paley Perry.