Peter Masado, a senior at St. Genevieve High School in Panorama City, enjoys devoting both time and energy to serving his fellow students and parish community as campus ministry president.

In that role, he has engaged with friends, learned new skills and developed leadership abilities. But the summer Masado spent volunteering outside of his immediate communities is an experience that will stay with him for a lifetime.

As an emergency room volunteer at Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys, he helped deliver lab samples, ensured the availability of clean bed linens in all rooms and provided snacks, water and blankets to weary, waiting patients.  

“But the most miraculous thing I’ve seen is a baby being born right outside the hospital, an emergency delivery that took place in the parking lot,” Masado recalled recently. “That happened on the first day of my volunteer experience and that just really opened my eyes to the miracle of life. It was amazing.”

Masado was among 78 seniors from 51 Catholic high schools throughout the archdiocese were honored March 18 for their exemplary community service during the annual Christian Service Awards Mass. Held at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, the event also honored seven exceptional Catholic high school teachers.

Archbishop José H. Gomez welcomed and congratulated the student and teacher honorees during his homily, describing them as “an inspiration to all of us.

“We are here to honor your service, to honor your witness to Jesus Christ,” said the archbishop. As Christians, he continued, we are all called to follow their example, to live a “life of service — serving God and serving other people.”

“Jesus wants each one of us to reach out to people” — including people who are sick, lonely or who are otherwise in need, explained Archbishop Gomez. “He wants all of us to serve other people, to help other people, just like he did.”

The students and teachers provided a variety of services, including confirmation catechism, pro-life seminar leadership, hospital interpretation, academic tutoring, volunteering with special needs children and at pet rescue and adoption centers and summer camps.

A sampling of the numerous organizations supported by these volunteer efforts includes Miller Children’s Hospital, Shane’s Inspiration, Habitat for Humanity, UCLA Riordan Scholars Program, Ignatian Solidarity Network, Kairos Retreat, Huntington Hospital, Camp Savio, Cedars Sinai Hospital and many others.

The top four student honorees at this year’s Christian Service Awards — which were launched in 1992 — performed a combined total of 5,339 service hours.  

According to Holy Faith Sister Angela Hallahan, archdiocesan coordinator of the Christian Service Awards, the award recipients have provided “amazing service” over the past four years through “thousands of hours of dedication and commitment to the less fortunate in our communities and in our parishes.”

“Recently, upon asking a student to share a moment during her Christian service when she felt blessed, she said, ‘The day I saw a mom crying when I was able to translate her worries to the doctor,’” recounted Sister Hallahan during the Mass.

“How blessed we are to be in this church this morning to participate in a liturgy honoring and praying for these teachers and students,” she added. “For the rest of us here it raises a question: Do we give witness to God’s work in what we do? Do we make a difference in this city, in this society? ... Go and make a difference.”  

For Megan Bacall, a senior at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy in La Ca√±ada Flintridge — who has volunteered with the Carmelite Sisters, San Gabriel Valley Medical Center and many other organizations — the biggest lesson she has learned is that even the simplest act of kindness, performed with joy, can go a long way.

“It was so nice singing Christmas carols for the patients and seeing their faces light up; they would be really happy,” she told The Tidings following the Mass. “I feel really wonderful being honored here today, and seeing all the other students here, knowing that all our hard work is being recognized, is really rewarding.”

See a complete list of this year's Christian Service Awards winners here.