(Photos: Matthew O’Connor)
Awards to students and schools that assist the missions was the highlight of the annual Mission Sunday Mass at St. James Cathedral-Basilica, Downtown Brooklyn.
Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros was the main celebrant and presenter as students accepted awards for service trips, community service and for the most money raised for missionaries. The readings and prayers of the faithful were in both English and Spanish.
St. Bernadette Catholic Academy, Dyker Heights, was honored as the elementary school to raise the most amount of money with over $7,000 collected. This marks the 15th year in a row that the school has won the award.
Bishop Cisneros gave thanks to the students for all their work.
“It is when we care for others, it is then that we give glory and honor to Almighty God,” said Bishop Cisneros. “I travel to South America often and see what life is like in other countries. In the wake of the earthquake in Mexico and the hurricanes in Texas, the Caribbean, and Puerto Rico, I have seen both the suffering and the joy of the people as they give thanks to God.
“We as men and women of God have the obligation to communicate God’s love and share the faith. We are the messengers of that faith. World Mission Day is the opportunity for the Christian community to join in prayer and celebrate the evangelization. We gather with our school children and celebrate their work and service as we see how God has touched their lives and how they have touched the lives of so many in need.”
Melissa Nereus, now a freshman at Pace University, was one of the students accepting on behalf of St. Edmund Prep, Sheepshead Bay. They had made a service trip to Cuba last year.
“It was an eye-opening experience and changed the way I think about so much,” said Nereus. “We raised over $11,000 and we able to give that money to the Salesian Sisters in order to establish a day care center. The trip was really amazing and I hope to stay involved, and after the hurricanes recently, hopefully people realize now is the time to get involved.”
Aaliyah Vargas, an eighth-grade student of St. Mary’s Gate of Heaven Catholic Academy, Ozone Park, accepted two awards for her school.
“Today is important because I saw how much effort we put in and even though we didn’t do it to win awards, it is nice to be honored and know our school is recognized,” she said. “How much work we put in just shows how strong our community is and how much we care.”
Msgr. Joseph Nagle, the diocesan director of the Propagation of the Faith made final remarks, “We thank all the wonderful young people for their actions, prayers and financial support. Some people give by going to the missions and some people go by giving to the missions. Without both, the missions cannot happen and the Gospel will not travel to all ends of the Earth.
“Today we are trying to pass on the awareness for the missions and for all the amazing work these young men and women have done. These students have learned firsthand what needs to be done and how much work is involved with reaching out and helping the many that are suffering both in our communities and around the world.”
Here are the Brooklyn and Queens winners from fiscal year 2016 at the 2017 awards:
Elementary Schools Under 250 Enrollment
Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Academy, Dyker Heights, and St. Mary Gate of Heaven Catholic Academy, Ozone Park
Over 250 Enrollment:
St. Bernadette Catholic Academy, Dyker Heights, and St. Sebastian Catholic Academy, Woodside
Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy, Gravesend, and St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Academy, Astoria
Banner Schools ($2,500+)
St. Joseph Catholic Academy, Astoria, and Our Lady of Fatima School, East Elmhurst
Religious Education Programs High Donors
St. Brigid Church, Bushwick, and Our Lady of Sorrows Church, Corona
Resurrection Church, Gerritsen Beach, and St. Mary Gate of Heaven Church, Ozone Park
High School Awards
For service to St. Francis Secondary School, Lare, Kenya: St. Francis Prep, Fresh Meadows
For service to Havana, Cuba: St. Edmund Prep, Sheepshead Bay
Diocesan High Donor to Propagation of the Faith
St. Bernadette Catholic Academy, Dyker Heights