PROVIDENCE – The Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul bustled with activity Sunday Oct. 28, as Catholics from all over the state, young and old, joined the rest of the nation in celebration of World Youth Day.
The event included Mass, celebrated by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, and an awards ceremony honoring leaders in Youth Ministry from throughout the diocese. This is the first year the annual ceremony was held on National World Youth Day Sunday.
The Mass was infused with a youthful energy. Along with guitar and piano, a special youth choir provided music for the Mass. Members of the Diocesan Youth Leadership team served as lectors and participated in the offertory procession.
During his homily, Bishop Tobin thanked award recipients for their important contribution to the church’s ministry in Rhode Island. He spoke to their commitment to Christ and their communities. “It is very, very important that we honor you today,” he said.
Bishop Tobin’s message to the congregation was inspired by words from Pope Benedict XVI’s first homily as pope. While in Rome a few weeks ago, Bishop Tobin received a prayer card which included part of the homily. It read, “There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him.”
In these words, said the Bishop, lies the key to ministry.
Bishop Tobin encouraged worshipers to try to know Christ more and more every day of their lives through prayer, sacraments, active participation in the church, keeping the commandments, and sharing with others. By living the faith consistently every day, he told them, they will be able to show Christ to others.
“Every encounter (with others) will either draw people closer to Christ or drive people away from Christ.... We should live our lives in such a way that if people see us they will see Jesus,” said the bishop. “May the Eucharist we receive today help us achieve that very lofty and noble goal.”
The awards ceremony began immediately following the final blessing. Families and friends gathered to the front of the Cathedral to catch a glimpse of their loved ones receiving the special honor from Bishop Tobin and Louise Dussault, diocesan Director of Youth Ministry. Four different awards were presented during the ceremony.
Graduates of the Youth Ministry Institute were the first to be honored. The institute, established in 1978, is a two-year certificate program that equips adults to work intensively with youth and those who minister to them. Sunday’s ceremony awarded members of both the 2006 and 2007 classes. Eleven people received certificates, totaling 285 graduates in the history of the 19 year-old program.
The Human Life Guild Recognition Award for Youth was the next to be presented. This award recognizes an outstanding high school student who has lived up to the bishop’s challenge to be “People of Life.” The recipient has demonstrated an unconditional commitment to human life through thought, word, deed, and prayer.
This year’s award went to Michael McDevitt, a junior at Bishop Hendricken High School and a member of Our Lady of Mercy Parish, East Greenwich. “Michael is a shining example to others his age, as he courageously stands up for human life as a Catholic,” said Carol Owens, coordinator of the diocesan Respect Life Office.
From participating in the March for Life in Washington, D.C. to standing out in the cold in front of abortion clinics, McDevitt has set an example to be followed and has been selling roses for life for the past 16 years.
McDevitt is one of 80 members the pro-life club at Bishop Hendricken. “It’s an honor to be picked out of everyone. It means a lot,” he said, smiling.
The next section of the program recognized two groups of individuals who have shown great leadership in diocesan youth ministry. Two awards from the National Catholic Federation were bestowed, the Companions on a Journey award to adult leaders and the St. Timothy award to youth leaders. The awards were presented by the individual who nominated the recipient. Each presenter spoke to the recipient’s inspiring faith lives and good work they have done in their communities.
The first award, Companions on a Journey, is the highest adult recognition from the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry. Recipients of this award embody a dedication to teaching youth and an on-going commitment to young people.
Ten individuals received this honor. Among the recipients was Mary Best from Holy Name of Jesus Parish, Providence, where she leads the youth group. Best also helps plan the Kujenga weekend, a Black Catholic Youth Conference which has taken place at Salve Regina University for the past few years. “Kujenga” is the Swahili word for leadership.
Best was gratified to receive the recognition. “I was so surprised I was nominated,” she said. Working with youth has been her passion over the years. “It’s addictive. I learn a lot from them them, they teach me just as much as I teach them,” she said. “I hope to be doing it for years to come.”
The St. Timothy Award is presented to individuals on the other side of the spectrum. It recognizes high school and college students who embody the Scripture passage 1 Timothy 4:12, “Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.” The award is the highest honor given to youth by the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry.
The diocese awarded 17 young adults this honor. Among the group was Ashley Ricard of St. Theresa in Pawtucket. Ricard is a member of the Diocesan Youth Ministry Leadership Team, Regional Leadership Team, and participates in activities at the Emmaus Youth Center in Pawtucket.
“I’m very honored,” said Ricard. “This is my life. I’d give everything in the world to work for youth and I’d do anything to spread the message of Christ.”
Dussault could not have been more proud of the award recipients and the work they have done for the diocese. “It’s always really moving,” she said. “It’s so hard to capture in four sentences the amount of service and dedication they have given.”
2007 World Youth Day Award Winners
Companions on the Journey Award
Anne T. Gauthier
Sandra Jeanne Lefebvre
Nancy and Warren Riccitelli
Rev. James Ruggieri
St. Timothy Award
Jenna Marie Broccolo
Timothy L. Chapman
Jameson T. Clem
Victoria Lo Bello
Youth Ministry Institute