By Liz Sullivan
Catechists from parishes across the Diocese of San Jose came together on May 8 for the 48th Annual Saint Pius X Awards Banquet at Villa Ragusa restaurant in Campbell.
The evening honored 86 catechists for 10 to 50 years of service of religious education ministry. Overall, the honorees combined for 1,535 years of service to the Diocese. Mary Clarke of Santa Teresa Parish was recognized for 40 years of service; while Angie Wilson of Holy Family Parish and Guadalupe Garcia of Holy Spirit Parish, were honored for 45 years. Sister Elisa Maria Santos, FHIC, from Five Wounds Parish, received a standing ovation for her 50 years of service.
“We have a great deal to celebrate tonight,” said Bishop Patrick J. McGrath. “We are celebrating those who share the vineyard with us.”
The event is the collaboration of the Diocese’s departments of Catechetical Ministry and Hispanic Apostolate, which now fall under the Office for Evangelization.
Of all of the catechists who were honored, only one was a surprise.
Lupita Vital, Director of the Hispanic Apostolate, announced that Hilda Porcella, from Saint Mary Parish, Gilroy, was the sixth recipient of the Sister Maria De La Cruz Aymes, SH, Award for Excellence in Catechetical Ministry.
“I felt frozen,” said an obviously surprised Porcella. “I am very touched by such a big recognition. It is a joy to see people happy and smiling as we celebrate the Word of God. I never thought God would call me to share his word. Thank you.”
Sister De La Cruz was an acclaimed leader in modern catechetics and the author of the “On Our Way” series, which provided the foundation of religious education for a generation of Catholic youth. Bishop McGrath met her when he was a seminarian in Ireland in 1969 and they became friends when he moved to San Francisco after his ordination a year later. He established this award in her honor.
Vital said Porcella has been a Pastoral Associate for more than 30 years and is “generous, very committed, attentive and in tune with the Gospel.”
In addition, Linda Cunha-Riccio, who is retiring the end of June as Director of the Institute for Leadership in Ministry (ILM), was honored for her years of service to the Diocese.
The Saint Pius X awards are named in honor of Pope Saint Pius X, 1835-1914, who as Pope encouraged daily reading of the Bible, directed liturgical renewal and encouraged Catholics, especially in Italy, to become involved in political issues to achieve peace and order. He was most noted for lowering the age of First Communion to the age of reason.