By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Every other year, Catholics nominate outstanding youths and youth ministers for one of two diocesan awards. But in 2016, things didn’t go as planned.
Usually, Don Boucher, diocesan coordinator of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, presents the awards at the Diocesan Catholic Youth Conference (DCYC). When this year’s conference was cancelled due to low numbers, he needed to find another way to present the awards.
He decided to present the awards at the recipients’ home parishes, and it turned out to be an unexpected blessing in the midst of disappointment. It allowed family and friends who otherwise wouldn’t have attended DCYC to join in the celebration.
“For them to receive the award in their own parish meant a lot to the individuals,” Boucher observed. “It was neat to see how the congregations responded to each one of these folks.”
Carol Laughlin, director of religious education for St. Mary Parish in Pella, received a St. Don Bosco Companion on the Journey Award for her 30-plus years of ministry. In presenting the award, Boucher told Laughlin and the congregation, “Whether you are new to this parish or have been here for a long time, I’m sure you can attest to Carol’s dedication and commitment to ministry. … She has generously given of her many gifts and great personal efforts toward serving children, youth and families, and in helping them to grow more deeply in their faith and in their relationship with Jesus. Carol understands and respects families, and the challenges they face today.” The parish celebrated Laughlin’s award with cake and a social.
Sam Miller received a St. Don Bosco Companion on the Journey Award during Mass at his parish, St. Ann’s in Long Grove. The award came as a surprise to Miller, who was unaware he’d been nominated for his work teaching and leading elementary and junior high youth ministry in the parish and at diocesan youth ministry events for the past four years or so. His nominators wrote that Miller is “right in there with the teens, playing the games, doing hand motions to songs and setting a great example of how to pay attention and participate in prayer and Mass.” He also helps with Vacation Bible School and is involved in the parish council and CEW (Christian Experience Weekend) programs.
High school students Lillian Schierbrock and Joseph Hummel, both members of St. Mary Parish in West Point, received St. Timothy Awards for their commitment to living as disciples of Christ, witnessing to their Catholic faith, demonstrating Gospel values and exhibiting Christian leadership.
Nominators described Schierbrock as “a quiet person, but when she talks about her faith, especially to children and her peers, she gets really excited.” She has served as a Vacation Bible School leader for the past five years and is described as a role model to elementary-age children.
She has served as a lector, cantor, Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist and server at Mass. She also sings with the choir.
Hummel joined the Catholic Church five years ago. His nominators said he is eager to participate in diocesan and parish service projects, including Catholics in Action, Young Neighbors in Action, Just5Days, the End of the Month Meals and other local service projects.
The youths received their award during Mass at St. Mary’s. Additionally, they were honored during an all-school Mass at Holy Trinity Junior/Senior High School in Fort Madison, where both are students.
Boucher hopes the multi-location award presentations will help bring more awareness of the diocesan award to the parishes, and help the parishes feel more connected to the diocese in general.“I’d like to do this again in the future.”