By Rosie Zepeda
With a beautiful Our Lady of Guadalupe tapestry hanging from the stage, tables draped in majestic purple, and twinkling LED lights inside clear bottles, on October 25 the gymnasium at Saint John Vianney Church was transformed to receive thirty-two young disciples, their families and friends at the annual award recognition banquet Saints in the City, this year a collaborative effort between the Department of Evangelization, Office of Youth and Young Adults and the Office of Hispanic Apostolate.
After enjoying taking pictures with the religious cutouts of a nun and priest, grabbing their “Saintly Drinks,” almost 300 guests took their places at their assigned tables representative of each parish and school, including priests, nuns, and community leaders. Many of the honorees were joined by their numerous school friends, and extended families, including a maltese service dog.
As Bishop Oscar Cantú took the stage, he was welcomed with a resounding applause. In his opening remarks he emphasized to the awardees and all the young people present: “This is your house, this is your church. In the times we live in, we need leaders like you to empower others.”
Sister Rosario Muñoz read the recipients of the Saint Teresa of Avila Award, honoring those committed to attaining the greatest heights of holiness by embracing Catholic spirituality. In the presence of her proud mother, Graciana Paxton from Presentation High School expressed her thoughts on receiving this award: “I was so nervous walking up there to receive my award, but I felt so proud to see there are others like me dedicated to our faith.”
The award with the most recipients was the Saint Francis of Assisi Award, given to those who fearlessly evangelize their communities. Candelaria Pérez from Our Lady of Guadalupe was one such recipient and expressed her joy and gratitude to her parish and especially to her immigrant parents, who were beaming with pride: “I feel so happy right now. It is because of my parents’ support that I have a strong faith. They work so hard every day for our family, so I can serve others.”
Adrian Santiago, recipient of the Kecharitomene Award, truly embodied the Greek definition of this award, which means “full of grace” as he evoked cheers and jubilation from all those present in his commanding acceptance speech: “Everyday I walk with the Lord…we have to walk together, because there is much work to be done…we are the leaders now…Everyone in this room is joining me to make our communities better! I am who I am because of my community!”
The 32 honorees waited patiently for the closing remarks of Sandra Torres and Robbie Ocampo, Director and Associate Director of Youth and Young Adults (respectively), then leaped out of their chairs to take selfies with Bishop Cantú, their friends and families and made a run to the most popular table of the banquet: “Saintly Sweets,” an array of chocolates, candies and popcorn.
Saints are not only in heaven, they are the young disciples walking amongst us with smart phones, serving their communities and sharing the word of God with each other and on social media. On October 25, they were the “Saints in the City.”