The annual Archdiocesan Christian Service Awards celebration honoring exemplary high school seniors and teachers for their extraordinary commitment to community service took place at a concelebrated Mass with Archbishop José Gomez at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels March 20.Sponsored by the Department of Catholic Schools, the event honored 78 students representing all of the archdiocese’s 50 high schools for their outstanding Christian service to parishes, educational institutions, hospitals and other non-profit agencies. Ten high school teachers were also singled out for their dedication in fostering Christian service on their campuses.

A short list of services performed by the students included volunteering for groups such as the Good Shepherd Shelter, Habitat for Humanity, Kairos (retreat leader), Kaiser Permanente (blood drive), LAUSD (special education teacher’s assistant), Santa Rosa School (tutor), YMCA (coach/mentor) and Youth/Confirmation ministries at several archdiocesan parishes. 

In her welcoming remarks, Holy Faith Sister Angela Hallahan, archdiocesan moderator of Christian Service, said that the awardees had worked and sacrificed during the past year to bring meaning to the lives of many in the archdiocese.

“It is to those who have no one that these students and teachers reached out in loving service,” said Sister Hallahan. “This morning we thank you for your generosity and ask that God bless you.”

Calling the honorees a great example and inspiration, Archbishop Gomez in his homily pointed out that Catholics do not assist others because they are “social service agents,” but because they believe in Jesus Christ and, as his followers, are trying to imitate his life of service.

He said the day’s Gospel passage about a sick man who had long lain by an unreachable pool of healing waters before he met and spoke with Jesus, who later healed him, points out the importance of faith, patience and ongoing conversion needed in people’s lives. 

“With our service and the practice of our faith, we are really trying to correspond to God’s love for each one of us,” said Archbishop Gomez. “Let’s never forget that, because that’s the essence of who we are and what we are doing.”

At the end of the liturgy, Msgr. Sal Pilato, archdiocesan superintendent of high schools, called forth the awardees one by one, who walked to the altar where Archbishop Gomez presented them with their Christian Service medal. After all the high school students had received their awards, the teachers were called forth for recognition.

Bellarmine-Jefferson student awardee, Elizabeth Tapang, commented that her work as a volunteer in parish religious education classes and children’s choir was personally inspiring. “I love being with children because they’re so contagious [with] their energy, their optimism, their happiness,” said Tapang. “It makes me feel that I can also be like that.”

Michael Mardirossian, a Bishop Alemany student involved with the school’s Key Club, Warriors for Life, and weekend children’s mentoring program, also enjoyed his volunteer work with children. “The highlight for me was playing with the children in Alemany Amigos and helping to give them a great time,” said Mardirossian.

Fellow Alemany student Wendy Lozano, involved in campus Christian Leadership, Warriors for Life and Key Club, said her favorite volunteer activity was helping the homeless. “My highlight would be serving at the homeless shelter because of how the people react to us --- they love seeing us there,” said Lozano.

Christian Beltran, a Crespi Carmelite student, did his Christian Service working with LAUSD special education students and also volunteered in the high school counseling department helping students fill out college applications. “I got a lot out of it and I feel it helped me become a better person,” said Beltran.

Louisville High School’s Melissa Padilla volunteered as an assistant at her mom’s elementary school, and also served as a camp counselor and St. Mel parish confirmation peer leader.

“The highlight of my service is that I’m making an impact on kids’ lives,” said Padilla. “Being able to see them smile at the end of the day just warms my heart. It’s just so much more fulfilling than getting a pay check. That’s why I volunteer.”

Her mother, Connie, said she was filled with pride seeing her daughter up on the altar receiving an award for her Christian Service. “She’s become a good woman inside,” said Mrs. Padilla.

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