“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love,” Saint Teresa of Kolkata proclaimed.
Her words of wisdom aptly describe the dedicated Catholics – 28 individuals, couples and groups — who were nominated for this year’s St Francis of Assisi Stewardship Awards.
This year’s 16th annual award banquet, held Oct. 25 in the Lunney Center at Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral in Anchorage, continued a tradition began by Archbishop Emeritus Roger Schwietz to honor the late Archbishop Francis Hurley after his retirement. Archbishop Hurley’s patron was Saint Francis of Assisi.
The popularity of the event stems from those it honors: not the big financial donors, celebrities or public officials. The event highlights people who do “small things with great love” — those who plow church driveways on frigid mornings, teach faith formation classes, help the choirs stay on key, make the parish dinners and bazaars successful, decorate the altars, welcome people to coffee and donuts, share the Eucharist, perform the works of mercy, and passionately proclaim the day’s readings.
In effect, the St. Francis Awards honor Alaskans who consistently, over many years and in many ministries and community activities, affect many people with great love and generosity.
Anchorage Archbishop Paul Etienne, who spoke to the gathering, said that all the nominees “work tirelessly, using their own unique gifts, as valued members of their churches and the local church.”
Nathan McCabe, archdiocesan director of stewardship and development, explained that nominations may be made by a parish or individual Catholic parishioners. A committee views the nominations, with names removed, and individually scores them, then gets together to sort through the hard work of narrowing down a list of recipients.
“Each nominee is worthy of the award,” McCabe stressed.
The theme of this year’s event was, “Thankful and Grateful.”
Here is a look at the six recipients who were honored this year.
MILA & DION ALDANA
Mila and Dion Aldana from St. Anthony Church in Anchorage were instrumental in encouraging a Filipino Mass at their church and doing all the footwork to create a choir of musicians, instrumentalists and materials for these celebrations. Mila is on the liturgy committee, schedules altar servers, makes sure their robes are clean, and coordinates the children’s Christmas play and the Easter pageant. Dion sings in both the Filipino and Sunday choirs.
“There’s no question,” wrote a fellow parishioner, “that Dion and Mila are good stewards.”
JAIME & NORMA FLORES
Jaime and Norma Flores’ service to St. Mary Church in Kodiak, and the Kodiak community, is “immeasurable,” wrote a nominator.
Jaime, a manager at Petro Marine, administers a compassion fund there to help those in need with fuel. He reorganized the Knights of Columbus in his parish, served on the St. Mary school board, chairs the school’s largest fundraising event, and organizes a school fish fry and the monthly parish pancake breakfast. He helps to organize the Hispanic Mass.
“If it needs to be done, Jaime will get it done,” read his nomination.
Norma, well known for her Mexican cuisine, volunteers weekly to make “Taco Tuesdays” at St. Mary School, creates baskets for the school fundraiser, makes and delivers food to people in need and helps lead a Spanish prayer group.
MEL & JUDY CHRISTIANSON
For more than 40 years, parishioners Mel and Judy Christianson have been an energetic presence at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in South Anchorage. Judy organized the first eucharistic ministers, and she and Mel have served in that ministry for years. Judy has served on the parish council and the altar guild, and is well known for her work designing floral and artistic arrangements for the worship space.
Mel has lent his handyman skills to numerous projects, and both were involved, not just with the first church building, but also with the design and rebuild of the church after the collapse of the initial building. Both have contributed to the Magi Project which contributes items for the parish bazaar, and grow extra vegetables each year to benefit St. Francis House food pantry where Judy volunteers. A master gardener, Judy has contributed to landscaping at the church and at Blessed Sacrament Monastery. She is a member of Catholic Daughters and an active volunteer for Catholic Social Services’ holiday immigrant and refugee projects.
Annette Alleva has been an integral part of St. Anthony Church for nearly 40 years. Since 1980, she’s taught at every level of faith formation, is a lector, serves on the liturgy committee and the bazaar committees for numerous special events and fundraisers. She can be found helping with and promoting the parish’s many multi-cultural and social events. She is a member of Anchorage Log Cabin Quilters and has used her artistic skills as a seamstress in many service projects and church fundraisers. She is a reporter for the Catholic Anchor, and a member of Anchorage Faith and Action Congregations Together. For 10 years, she has promoted fellowship among Catholics through the Creative Circle. A nominator described her as a prime reason “for the quality of the heart of St. Anthony’s.”
Jeanne Borega, a parishioner at St. Michael Church in Palmer, exemplifies Jesus’ commandment to feed the hungry. For over 18 years, Borega served as a volunteer at the Palmer Food Bank, and for the past six years she has served as the volunteer director of the agency, which serves up to 800 families each month. She is credited by those who nominated her with helping encourage her own parish to live out the responsibility to serve the poor with support both through time, food and monetary contributions, as well as inspiring the community to give more. Borega oversees all the food coming in and going out, cares for the grounds and property of an aging building, and continually encourages expansion and greater local involvement with the needy.
Sacred Heart Church in Seward is fortunate to have Clinton Paul as a parishioner, said a nominator who described him as the “backbone” of the small seaside parish. His long list of ministries spans a multitude of parish needs. He’s the “go-to” mechanical maintenance man, but also a lector, a eucharistic minister, faith formation teacher, and long-time parish council member. Paul served as co-project manager for the new church roof and inspired involvement in the installation of a new window above the altar. This energetic parishioner is well-known as the coordinator of the parish Fourth of July chicken barbecue, which serves over 500 meals on the day when Alaskans swarm Seward for the Mount Marathon race, which, by the way, Paul has run in several times.
His nominator wrote, “I am so grateful for his witness and invitation to new and returning Catholics.”