Bishop recognizes 800 high-school seniors - Catholic Courier

Bishop recognizes 800 high-school seniors

PENFIELD — Anna Interlichia is a 17-year-old with plenty on her plate. Among her activities are belonging to the National Honor Society at North Rose-Wolcott High School, and attending an internship program several days per week at Newark-Wayne Community Hospital as she eyes a career as a physician’s assistant.

However, Anna still makes time for being a cantor and choir member at Catholic Community of the Blessed Trinity in Wolcott. She especially thrives on teaching children’s liturgy during the school year and vacation Bible school in the summer.

“I like being involved with the kids and having them look up to me,” she said.

Lots of high-school seniors like Anna exist across the diocese, as evidenced by the overflow crowd at St. Joseph Church on March 16 for a Hands of Christ awards ceremony. The spectacle warmed the heart of Bishop Matthew H. Clark.

“It’s a thrilling sight to see you all assembled, especially the brothers and sisters in the class of 2009,” Bishop Clark told recipients, family and friends at the onset of the 90-minute evening event.

And that was only the first of three such gatherings: approximately 800 seniors from across the diocese have received Hands of Christ recognition. Bishop Clark also presided at a ceremony at Greece’s St. Lawrence Church on March 18 and was to preside at one at St. Mary Our Mother Church in Horseheads on March 28. During the ceremonies, the bishop presents each teen individually with his or her plaque.

Hands of Christ awards are given annually to honor seniors for service in their church, home, school and community based on nominations submitted by parishes to the diocesan Office of Youth Ministry. The soon-to-be graduates are lauded for a wide range of roles — from working with special-needs people, to Scouting, to helping folks in crisis, to various types of liturgical ministry.

Peter VanLieshout, a parishioner of Livonia’s St. Matthew Church, encouraged recipients during his March 16 witness talk to remain open to God’s call as they enter into adulthood. Using his own example, VanLieshout acknowledged that as a high-schooler he never saw himself pursuing the priesthood — but he now belongs to Becket Hall, the diocesan pre-theology program.

“Let’s go deeper starting tonight, every day you get up,” VanLieshout suggested, adding that being a true disciple of Jesus is difficult in a culture that promotes self-fulfillment but “being here shows that you want something more.” VanLieshout added that the Catholic Church’s saints are excellent role models — “ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

Yet being the hands of Christ also means performing seemingly “unextraordinary” acts that are nonetheless important to God, noted Seth Walters, a Hands of Christ recipient from St. Dominic in Shortsville. In his witness presentation, Seth cited such examples as assisting people who struggle to transport their groceries; lending support to folks who are losing faith and hope; and even issuing a simple hello.

Anna said that Seth’s message really hit home, based on her own attempts at being the hands of Christ.

“He said you don’t have to do big things, it’s the little things that count. That made me feel I actually have helped people,” she explained.

Along those lines, Holly Bullock told fellow seniors in her witness talk to reflect upon, and celebrate, the strides they’ve already made in their spiritual lives. She detailed her own growth through being involved in leadership roles with the Diocesan Youth Committee.

“In ninth grade I didn’t think I’d get this far, but I did,” said Holly, from St. Michael in Newark. After a pause, she added, “All of us did.”

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