Describing herself as generally shy, Claire Torregiano said involvement in her parish's activities has helped her break out of her comfort zone, grow as a person and in her faith, and realize she has the potential to change the world.
Claire shared details about her faith journey as well as encouragement with more than 100 fellow high-school seniors and their families during a Feb. 8 Hands of Christ ceremony at St. John of Rochester Church in Fairport. The ceremony was one of three that Bishop Salvatore R. Matano celebrated across the diocese to recognize high-school seniors like Claire who are actively involved in their parishes, schools and communities; demonstrate Christian attitudes; and are positive role models for others. This year, 470 seniors were honored with Hands of Christ awards.
During her witness talk at the Feb. 8 ceremony, Claire noted that her participation in mission trips, conferences and youth-group gatherings through her parish, St. Catherine of Siena in Mendon, provided her with opportunities to go outside of her comfort zone. In doing so, she noted, she also discovered that she has the confidence, leadership abilities and desire to change the world.
Youth Witness Claire Torregiano of St. Catherine of Siena Mendon talks about her volunteer work the Hands of Christ Award during the annual Hands of Christ Recognition Ceremony held at St. John of Rochester on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017 in Fairport.
"As a generally shy person, I never thought I could do something (to change the world), but I realized now I have done so much already through (my involvement) in youth group, NCYC (National Catholic Youth Conference) and YNIA (Young Neighbors in Action)," Claire remarked.
Claire noted that attending her first NCYC in 2013 as a high-school freshman was the first time she risked going outside of her comfort zone.
"At the time, I didn't feel comfortable in large crowds," she recalled, "but when I found myself among those thousands of teenagers all there for the same reason, I felt at home and at peace with God."
Another life-changing experience for her, she said, was volunteering at a farm in North Grafton, Mass., through the national mission trip YNIA. The farm provides produce for hunger-relief programs throughout Massachusetts.
"It was a great experience," Claire said, noting that it helped her grow as a person. "I even convinced my family to take a trip (to the farm) that same summer because I enjoyed it so much."
After her talk, Claire received her award from Bishop Matano. Prior to handing out the awards, Bishop Matano told the seniors that they come from a long tradition of young people serving the church and living out their faith. He noted such saints as Stanislaus Kostka, Elizabeth of Hungary and Therese of Lisieux accomplished much at a young age.
"They did not procrastinate. They did not put off tomorrow for what they knew had to be done today," he told the seniors. "You are not procrastinating. You are already accepting the challenge of leadership in our world."
Bishop Matano referred to the Hands of the Christ ceremony as "the Super Bowl."
"This is a gathering of extraordinary, spiritual, power and energy," he explained. "You have accomplished many touchdowns for the faith and the fans in the grandstands are your brothers and sisters whom you have helped."
Before concluding his remarks, Bishop Matano gave the teens some parting words of advice, telling them to pray every day and stay close to their parishes.
"You have my prayers, you have my support," he said. "I pray for you every single day."
EDITOR'S NOTE: A complete list of 2017 Hands of Christ recipients is available at youth.dor.org.