A record-breaking crowd filled the Lunney Center at Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral in Anchorage for the 15th annual St. Francis of Assisi Awards Banquet Oct. 5.
“We could not have gotten another table into the center,” said Laurie Evans-Dineen, director of stewardship and development for the archdiocese, which sponsors the popular event.
The banquet honors individuals, couples and groups who are nominated by their fellow Catholics as exemplifying the spirit of Saint Francis, a spirit of humble service and stewardship. A panel of volunteers evaluates the nominations without knowing names or parishes.
It’s never an easy task to choose the finalists, said Evans-Dineen, who called the 33 nominees wonderful and said “we wish we could have had 33 recipients.”
Many were described in their nominations as “the backbone of the parish,” “a person who gives selflessly and freely,” and “I don’t know what we’d do without him or her.”
Evans-Dineen described the event as “one of the few times the parishes and some of their people can all come together under the archdiocese for a fun and rewarding experience.”
This year, eight nominees were selected as recipients. A special ninth appreciation called “The Little Way” award went to Mary Lou Michels of St. Michael Church in Palmer. In addition to serving on several parish committees and being a stalwart at St. Michael’s Slippery Gulch food concession at the Alaska State Fair, Michels has made over 75 personalized baby quilts for children baptized into the parish over the years. Nominated by 30 members of the parish, Michels was described as “an artist when it comes to quilt making which is a personal passion.”
During the event, Barbara Block and Eileen Kramer were presented by Archbishop Paul Etienne with the Order of St. Gregory, an award made by the Holy See in Rome for conspicuous service to the Catholic Church. Anchorage Archbishop Emeritus Roger Schwietz announced last year that he had nominated the two women for this award for their long service to the archdiocese.
Deacon David Krueger of Catholic Stewardship Consultants, who had earlier spoken at the archdiocesan pastoral day, delivered the dinner’s keynote address.
Below are brief descriptions of the eight St. Francis of Assisi recipients.
Rowena Carrillo teaches English language learners with the Anchorage School District. Carrillo, a member of Holy Family Cathedral, is a leader with the El Shaddai Prayer Group, which nominated her and spoke of her willingness to go out of her way to give rides to members, especially elders. Committed to Filipino cultural values, she is a leader in Filipino community organizations and teaches Filipino dance. Carillo and her family participate in parish ministries including lectoring, altar serving and extraordinary ministry of the Eucharist. Nominators described her as being devoted to stewardship and evangelization.
Lucena Lagman’s nomination described her good works as “too many to enumerate,” and indeed this member of Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral is involved with ministries ranging from extraordinary minister of the Eucharist to sacristan, faith formation teacher, volunteer in the foot care ministry at Brother Francis Shelter and worker with Habitat for Humanity. She is a Marian devotee who visits homes to share the rosary. A former president of the Philippine Nurses Association, she helps to train others in several parish ministries. “She truly reflects God’s love and shares Christ with everyone,” wrote a supporter.
Alex Zerbinos has been a member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Soldotna for 25 years. Chairperson of the local Bishop’s Attic board of directors, Zerbinos is a volunteer always ready to lend a helping hand to the parish, be it in tree removal, plumbing problems or remodeling. But perhaps his greatest gift is his work in retreats. In 2006, he attended an ACTS retreat in Juneau which inspired him to begin local retreats. He’s been active in leading men’s Bible study and prayer in the parish ever since. For the past 10 years, Zerbinos has responded to a deeper call to serve in prison ministry where he supports inmates through Kairos retreats and through the Alpha Re-Entry team supporting men in their re-entry into the community.
JIM & SALLY SEELEY
Jim and Sally Seeley, members of St. Benedict Church in Anchorage, have been devoted to youth ministry for six decades. They’ve held youth leadership retreats at their cabin, led World Youth Day trips, been instrumental in developing the new St. Theresa’s Camp, volunteered for Lumen Christi High School, supervised dances, and done just about any volunteer activity which supports the growth of the Catholic faith in area youth.
Calvin Williams uses his musical skills to serve the Lord as choir director for St. Anthony Church’s Filipino Gospel Choir. An enthusiastic member of the Knights of Columbus, he has served as Grand Knight at St. Patrick Church, and now deputy knight at St. Anthony. He recruits enthusiastically for both his choir and the Knights. Williams visits prisons to share Scripture and volunteers weekly at Providence Extended Care where he shares both his faith and his musical talent.
Kateri Everard is this year’s youngest recipient, nominated by all the members of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church’s 11:30 choir, of which she is a member. At 11 years of age, she’s journeyed on a mission trip to Guatemala where she helped with vision screening, learned an introduction in Spanish and visited St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School’s sister school, delivering money raised by the students at her elementary. Everard’s stewardship includes altar serving and helping with cancer survival kits at the parish. Choir members noted that one year, Everard collected wrapped gifts for Clare House in lieu of birthday presents for herself, and regularly contributes some of her monthly allowance to the yearly fund for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s Guatemalan sister school.
Patricia Kennish has been an activist and volunteer at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church for decades. A former librarian at the parish school and in the municipal library system, Kennish has used her retirement to serve nearly fulltime in justice and peace work. One nomination read, “She spends the majority of her day in service to individuals, parish, community, state, country and world.” She led the parish discussion of “Laudato Si,” Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, and has spearheaded the parish recycling effort. She leads the parish peace and justice committee, is a trained spiritual companion active in listening ministries, participates in parish perpetual adoration and in Catholic Social Services’ Refugee Assistance and Immigration Services, St. Francis House food pantry, and the parish school’s sister school and aid project in Guatemala.
Conce Rock has been involved in almost every ministry at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church. Her nomination credited her with “countless hours” devoted to the parish’s social realm, from organizing several Easter Vigil receptions and other sacramental receptions to RCIA retreat breakfasts, helping with the Magi Craft Bazaar and meal team requests. As a graduate of the Toastmasters program, she’s comfortable making pulpit announcements and speaking at church gatherings, but equally willing to head up the dishwashing team at events. She’s active in faith formation and perpetual adoration. A nominator said, “Her kindness is boundless and as a role model she is a true example of a Christian life well lived.”