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Youth ministry volunteers honored at dinner in Herndon

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It takes many volunteers to keep countless youth programs running smoothly. Sometimes, the volunteers are unsung. But once a year, the diocesan Youth, Campus and Young Adult Ministries recognizes them at an appreciation dinner, held this year Dec. 5 at St. Joseph Church in Herndon.

The evening began with Mass celebrated by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, who began his homily by recalling the event last year was his first major event in the diocese after his installation.

"Even after 14 years of hosting this event, every year I discover some event, program or volunteer that has been quietly and faithfully pointing young people to Christ for countless years." Kevin Bohli

Bishop Burbidge said when the Holy Father was in Poland last year, Pope Francis spoke about salvation and that God saves us by making Himself little, near and real.

“He sent His Son into our world as a little infant. Jesus, whose birth we are preparing to celebrate, is for us the perfect model of humility and service,” said Bishop Burbidge. “It is that precious gift of humility that allows us to do everything in our littleness, in that childlike spirit to which God calls us to in tonight’s Gospel. It’s that humility allows us to recognize that all that we do and all we accomplish is only through the goodness and love of God without whom we can do nothing.”

Dinner and awards were distributed in the St. Joseph School dining hall.

Kevin Bohli, director of the office of Youth, Campus and Young Adult Ministries, said the event calls attention to the breadth and depth of the ministry that is happening on a daily basis across the diocese. “Even after 14 years of hosting this event, every year I discover some event, program or volunteer that has been quietly and faithfully pointing young people to Christ for countless years,” Bohli said.

Twenty-nine volunteer of the year awards were presented by Bishop Burbidge, along with four certificates in youth ministry, as well as several top awards.

The Excellence in Youth Ministry Award went to Patrick and Christina Jacobeen from St. Timothy Church in Chantilly, and Tina Lovingood, with the Catholic Committee on Scouting. The award is given to those who have shown a strong dedication to accompanying young people in their pilgrimage of Christian discipleship.

To describe the Jacobeens, both Christine Najarian, assistant director of the diocesan office, and Bohli read the same thing for each, volleying back and forth. “Through a discipleship-based model, she has led countless teens into a deeper relationship with Christ,” said Najarian. Bohli echoed the same for Patrick. “She is particularly skilled at doing relational ministry,” said Najarian. Back and forth the descriptions went.

“Although both Christina and Patrick would merit an award as individuals we felt that it made perfect sense to honor them as a pair,” they both said.

“They served beautifully together as directors of youth ministry at St. Timothy even before they began dating, and their work now as a married couple is a great witness to the love of Christ and the vocation of marriage,” said Najarian.

In addition to the volunteer of the year award, Lovingood was awarded the National Catholic Committee on Scouting’s St. George Emblem for her outstanding contributions to the spiritual development of Catholic youths in Scouting. “Thank you for your dedication and quiet humility to making it possible for literally thousands of young people in parishes across the diocese (to) pursue and be recognized for their pilgrimage of Christian discipleship,” said Jim Rourke, diocesan sports and Scouting coordinator.  

The role of the Office of Youth Ministries expanded earlier this year to include Campus and Young Adult Ministries. With that addition came a new award — the Excellence in Young Adult Ministry Award — given to Sara Prince from Church of the Nativity in Burke. Prince was recognized for her music skills, enthusiasm for young adult ministry and her leadership of two choirs. She was described as a master multitasker, a director of the parish choir for the past eight years and music teacher at Whitman Middle School in Alexandria.

Father Robert C. Cilinski, Nativity pastor, described Prince as joyful, prayerful, gifted and generous in service to the church. “Sara brings new life and energy to the community, that joy of the Gospel that Pope Francis speaks of,” he said.

The More Award, given for a lifetime of commitment to young people, was given to Father John C. Cregan, a retired diocesan priest and former pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria. Father Cregan received a standing ovation as he approached the stage to accept his award from Bishop Burbidge.

“When you get to know the recipient of this year’s More award, there is absolutely no surprise when you learn that he is a retired Marine,” said Bohli. “His demeanor just screams U.S. Marine, but more importantly, his life fully embodies the Marine Corps motto Semper Fidelis of always faithful.”

Michael Jacobeen, director of youth ministry at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, said the night gives him and other volunteers a social opportunity and the chance to realize they are part of something really impressive in the diocese.

He’s drawn to ministry because of a calling. “I feel like God has put that call in my heart and I’m just responding to that call,” Jacobeen said.  

Award Winners

Volunteer of the Year

Steven Arsena, All Saints Catholic Church, Manassas

Kurt Meinsen, Bishop O'Connell High School, Arlington

Tom Canning, Blessed Sacrament Church, Alexandria

Benjamin Paczak, Cathedral of St. Thomas More, Arlington

Manny Macalalad, Christ the Redeemer Church, Sterling

Andi Smith, Church of the Nativity, Burke

Monti Mercer, Corpus Christi Church, South Riding

Carol Fuentes, Good Shepherd Church, Alexandria

Freddy Andrade, Holy Family Church, Dale City

Steve Petullo, Holy Trinity Catholic Church, McLean

Nicole Ferree, Marymount University Catholic Campus Ministry, Arlington

Sam Althoff, Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, Vienna

Kathleen Leffas, Paul VI Catholic High School, Fairfax

Chrissy Rabayda, St. Ambrose Church, Annandale

Mark Reeves, St. Ann Church, Arlington

Emily Timmerman, St. Charles Borromeo Church, Arlington

Mark Darnell, St. Francis de Sales Church, Purcellville

Thomas Welch, St. Francis of Assisi Church, Triangle

Michael Dimaiuta, St. John Neumann Church, Reston

Carey Aquilina, St. John the Apostle Church, Leesburg

Joe and Jennifer West, St. Jude Church, Fredericksburg

Mizuho Akiba, St. Leo the Great Church, Fairfax

John Bednarek, St. Louis Church, Alexandria

Bobby Welsh, St. Mark Church, Vienna

Tyler Fabian, St. Mary Church, Alexandria

Marie Auclair, St. Patrick Church, Fredericksburg

Yong Kwon, St. Paul Chung Church, Fairfax

Sam & Angela Kanazeh, St. Timothy Church, Chantilly

Brad Giaccio, St. Veronica Church, Chantilly

Certificate in Youth Ministry

Noelle Harmon, St. Jude Church, Fredericksburg

Francesca Gross, St. Charles Borromeo, Arlington

Fr. Jeremy Lambert, Legionaries of Christ

Truc-Anh Nguyen, Mission Church of Our Lady of LaVang, Chantilly

Excellence in Youth Ministry Award                         

Patrick Jacobeen, St. Timothy Catholic Church, Chantilly

Christina Jacobeen, St. Timothy Catholic Church, Chantilly

Tina Lovingood, Catholic Committee on Scouting

Bl. Chiara Badano Award                              

Joanne Gemperline, Good Shepherd Church, Alexandria

St. Jose Sanchez del Rio Award                   

Pedro Lopez, All Saints Church, Manassas

Ex Corde Award                               

Cindy Martin, Christendom College, Front Royal

Excellence in Young Adult Ministry Award                            

Sara Prince, Church of the Nativity, Burke

Bishop Loverde Award                  

John Allen, Volunteer for the Office of Youth, Campus and Young Adult Ministries

The More Award                              

Fr. John C. Cregan, retired diocesan priest

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017