Archdiocese gives thanks for its blessings during annual awards banquet


The Archdiocese of Anchorage celebrated 18 incredible stewards at the seventeenth annual St. Francis Stewardship Awards Banquet on October 3 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral. The St. Francis Awards recognize those who give themselves in service to our church and the larger community.

This dinner is one of the few times that the Archdiocese comes together in celebration, to give thanks for its many blessings. Each nominee is recognized during the dinner, and this year, six were chosen as recipients. This year’s celebration also included the Little Way Award, created in 2018 by Archbishop Paul Etienne, for stewards who do extraordinary things by their very small acts of service.

Though it would be impossible to share the life story of any one of these incredible stewards in one article, it is worth mentioning each. These are but the tips of the iceberg: our church is blessed beyond measure.

Award Recipients

Rich Arsenault of St. Patrick Parish, ministers with the Knights of Columbus, ACTS retreat program, and St. Patrick’s Thanksgiving Blessing project. He teaches at the Military Youth Academy and ministers with the St. Vincent de Paul Society and the scouting program.

Rudy and Marianne Berus of Holy Family Cathedral, contribute to the beauty of their parish. Marianne volunteers with catechesis, church decorating, and sewing, while Rudy continues to oversee the parish rectory project and created wooden bowls from the property’s trees as a fundraiser.

Judy Everard of St. Patrick Parish, coordinates St. Patrick’s Foot Washing Ministry. The clinic serves 80 clients per month and provides medical attention, community support, and spiritual comfort for those who are suffering.

Steve and Marsha Foy of St. Anthony Parish, were instrumental in bringing Worldwide Marriage Encounter ministry to Alaska, and in growing the stewardship ministry of their parish. They have shared both their home and cabin with priests, camp counselors, and even refugees.

Leon and Judy Francisco of St. Mary Parish, are key supporters of the parish’s outreach through its local thrift store ministry. They bring family and friends with them and are always ready to help those in need.

Tom (nominated posthumously) and Toni Kelley of St. Michael Parish, recipients of the Little Way Award, have been the backbone of the parish’s State Fair ministry, Slippery Gulch. Both have impacted the church’s facilities, community life, and interfaith outreach.

Diana Weber of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, serves as program coordinator for the scripture study and has grown the women’s ministry, Women at the Well. Diana coordinates the meals and homebound ministries and assists elderly and low-income parishioners in securing the resources they need for health and well-being.

Award Nominees

Mary Beth and Greg Bragiel of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish lead the RCIA program at the parish. In addition to their volunteer ministries, both are active outdoorspeople who educate and serve the civic community.

Gloria Castaño of Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral is a champion of multicultural celebrations, receptions, and the parish’s outreach food distribution program. Gloria prepares Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets and helps beautify the church’s space for worship.

St. Benedict’s Faith Formation Teachers were nominated to commend their dedication to sharing their faith with youth, 20 Sundays each year. Many have been teaching for over two decades, and all are dedicated to continued excellence and handing on the faith.

Faustina Felise of St. Benedict Parish is a high school teen who regularly volunteers with the Adoration Community, youth group, liturgical ministry, and Faith Formation. She is a member of the Children of Mary and a mentor to the community’s Samoan youth.

Jess and Aaron Gutzwiler of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish are involved in liturgical ministry, RCIA, and both the parish’s and the community’s social and philanthropic endeavors. Their lives of faith are evident in both church and civic life, treating each individual as Christ.

Joyce Lund, Principal at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic School and Sacred Heart parishioner, goes beyond her obligation as an educator to commit her entire life to service: immersing her faith community in community outreach, group grief counseling and funeral ministry, and connecting the school with the parish through various liturgical ministries at Mass.

Nick and Norma Nickarz of St. Anthony Parish are both involved with the parish’s liturgical ministries and Liturgical Renovation program. Nick teaches altar servers and is involved in the Knights of Columbus, while Norma is an example of hospitality and restored the parish’s St. Therese statue.

Teri Schneider, co-principal of St. Mary Catholic School and parishioner at St. Mary Parish, serves her parish school by spearheading the process of accreditation. She also contributes to the parish’s liturgical ministry, the community’s public school network, the local Alutiiq Language Nest, and mentoring her students.

Jim Seeberger of St. Benedict Parish is a coordinator for both Habitat for Humanity and Knights of Columbus. He organizes work parties for St. Therese’s Camp and has assisted in liturgical ministries, the church renovation, and is on the Lumen Christi school board.

Tim Van Gelderen of St. Anthony Parish is a high school catechist, a leader in the church’s youth group, a liturgical minister, and the Grand Knight of his council. Tim is a fish biologist at the Ship Creek Hatchery and is committed to protecting the environment and seeking sustainable solutions to caring for creation.

Peggy Bergsrud of St. Anthony Parish was also honored at the St. Francis Awards Banquet for her nomination for the Lumen Christi Award, a national recognition by Catholic Extension. Peggy is the Archdiocesan Archivist and is equally dedicated to the life and growth of her parish community.

The Archdiocese of Anchorage is grateful for these and all our stewards who continue to follow Christ in the footsteps of St. Francis, by their gifts of self and lived example of discipleship. Well done, good and faithful servants!

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