Youth urged to be fearless in building God’s kingdom

Bishop Stika celebrates annual diocesan Mass for young people, asks them to be bold in their faith

By Emily Booker

The strong and energetic leadership within the youth ministry of the Diocese of Knoxville was celebrated on Sept. 10 with the annual diocesan Youth Mass and awards ceremony.

Bishop Richard F. Stika celebrated the Mass at the Lighthouse Knoxville event center. He reminded the youth that their young age should not stop them from being bold in their faith.

“In your parishes, in your families, lead people to Jesus. Pope Francis talks about it all the time. … Never let an adult tell you that what you do is not important. Because Jesus chooses you like he chooses an adult, like he chooses a saint.”

Following Mass, the diocesan youth awards were given out to students and adult leaders who have served their parishes and deaneries.

“I get to travel all around the diocese, and I get to work with a lot of these young people who are really on fire for their faith and really contribute a lot to their communities,” said Deacon Al Forsythe, director of the Diocese of Knoxville’s Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.

The St. Timothy Award is the highest recognition the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry and the Diocese of Knoxville confers on high school youth. It is presented to students who generously serve their peers and youth ministry.

The St. Timothy Award honorees this year were Iris Anguiano from St. Mary Parish in Oak Ridge and the Cumberland Mountain Deanery; Hannah White from Holy Cross Parish in Pigeon Forge and the Smoky Mountain Deanery; Samuel Murillo from St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Erwin and the Five Rivers Deanery; and Brianna Wisti from St. Thérèse of Lisieux Parish in Cleveland and the Chattanooga Deanery.

The Companions on the Journey Award is the highest recognition the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry and the Diocese of Knoxville confers on an adult whose service to youth ministry is exceptional.

Recipients of the Companions on the Journey Award were Pauline O’Keeffe from St. Alphonsus Parish in Crossville and the Cumberland Mountain Deanery; Susan Collins from Notre Dame Parish in Greeneville and the Five Rivers Deanery; and Sue Granger from St. Mary Parish in Athens and the Chattanooga Deanery.

This year’s recipients of the youth recognition Discipleship Award were: Phoebe Campbell, Briana Cooter, Jackson Ducote, Sarah Fillers, Tabitha Fitzwater, Gabby Grove, Katherine Guandique, Julian Hernández, Kersten Hicks, Liz Labbe, Tristan Lucas, Robert Lyszczarczyk, Tess Massey, Samuel Murillo, Sloane Perry, Paley Perry, Eddie Ramirez, Emily Roach, Kenneth Saine, José Salazar, Evelyn Sandoval, Peyton Scoggins, Lissette Silva, Karla Soto, Kaylee Tolleson, Savannah Tucker, Courtney Wells, Hannah White, Brianna Wisti, and Kaitlyn Zander.

This year’s recipients of the adult recognition Light of the World Award were: Karen Burry, D.J. Dalton, Román Díaz, Deacon Jim Fage, Luis Garcia, Erika Garrido, Kristen Girton, Rebecca Harber, Amanda Henderson, Colleen Jacobs, Karina Jasso, Irma Morales, Joe Myers, Doug Perry, Heidi Poore, Jason Taylor, Luis Velasco, Joni White, and Zane Wilkinson.

Bishop Stika also commissioned this year’s Diocesan Youth Ministry Advisory Council (DYMAC). From the Five Rivers Deanery: Gabrielle Grove, Gabriel Isaac, Elena Orozco, Eddie Ramirez, Alexandra Reynoso, Kenneth Saine, José Salazar, Kaylee Tollefson, and Thomas Witkowski. From the Cumberland Mountain Deanery: Iris Anguiano, Tabitha Fitzwater, Clara Hay, Paley Perry, and Sloane Perry. From the Smoky Mountain Deanery: Jackson Ducote, Eduardo Hernandez, Bryce Tuggle, and Courtney Wells. From the Chattanooga Deanery: Isaac Bird, Jonah Bird, Luke Eckler, Kersten Hicks, Josh Martin, Thatcher Miles, Emily Roach, Evelyn Sandoval, Lissette Silva, and Savannah Tucker.

The bishop asked the youth for their help in spreading the Gospel and building the kingdom of God in East Tennessee.

“Let’s move together. Let’s build the kingdom. Let’s not be afraid to talk about Jesus. Let’s not be afraid to invite our brothers and sisters to come to Mass with us on a Sunday. Let’s not be afraid to open the Bible, to read about the Old Testament and the New Testament. Let’s not be afraid. That was one of the mantras of St. John Paul. …When he was first introduced to the whole world, his message was ‘Be not afraid,’” Bishop Stika said. ■

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