On the same historic day of Pope Francis’ installation serendipitously falling on the feast day of St. Joseph, friends and family members gathered March 19 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles to honor the 2013 student and teacher recipients of the archdiocesan Christian Service Awards.This year’s 76 high school senior awardees from 51 secondary Catholic schools in the three-county archdiocese gave a total of over 40,000 hours in service to the poor and less fortunate in their schools, parishes and communities, volunteering in a variety of places such as L.A.’s skid row agencies, the USC Medical Center and at Watt’s Women’s Healthcare.“It is fitting that these young men and women are being recognized on this day in the Year of Faith when we honor St. Joseph and our new Pope Francis — two men whose lives give witness to faith and selfless service and who are indeed an inspiration to all of us this morning,” said Sister of Holy Faith Angela Hallahan, archdiocesan moderator of Christian Service, before the concelebrated Mass with Archbishop José Gomez presiding.Referring in his homily to Pope Francis, Archbishop Gomez said the papal inauguration was “a moment of grace and joy for the universal church” as well as a sign of joy for those in the assembly who are “active participants” in the life of the church.Reflecting on St. Joseph, his patron saint, the archbishop noted that Mary’s husband and Jesus’ earthly father led a life of singular love and service to God. “From the example of St. Joseph,” he said, “we receive an invitation to serve, to act in the service of God and his people, to serve with faithfulness, with simplicity and with humility.“What a beautiful responsibility we have, a responsibility of changing the world. Instead of just thinking about ourselves, our call as Catholics is to bring fire and the love of God to the people of our time and our society — to change lives. So, congratulations, my young friends! We are proud of your witness to Jesus Christ and the mission of his Church.”Before the awards presentation at the end of the liturgy, Archbishop Gomez was presented with a basket of greeting cards from the students and serenaded with “Las Ma√±anitas” for a “Happy Feast Day.” The archbishop then blessed the service medals, which were individually handed out to students as their names were called out by Msgr. Sal Pilato, archdiocesan superintendent of high schools.“I think this event shows the witness of what youth are capable of,” said Erick Rubalcava, principal of St. Matthias High School in Downey. “We talk about the church of the future, and the church is now and they’re now, and I think showing their witness of what it means to live their Christian faith in service of others is the biggest call that we have as Catholic Schools to evangelize. They’re living testimonies of what our mission is — it’s tied to the universal church’s mission.”St. Matthias’ Rella O’Connor told The Tidings that she lost count of the number of hours she spent in high school doing a variety of Christian service projects, including her favorite volunteer role as a counselor for the last three summers at Camp Savio, sponsored by St. Dominic Savio Church in Bellflower. “I had to be creative and keep the youth entertained for four hours [at a time] over the course of the summer camp.”St. John Bosco’s Daniel Sandoval did over 800 hours of Christian service during his high school career, which included volunteering for blood drives. “I just felt it was my calling to help people, and it was the right thing to do,” said Sandoval.Daniel Monarrez, a senior at St. Francis in La Ca√±ada, whose projects included leading retreats, tutoring and serving breakfast to Skid Row homeless, said he pays his dues to God through service. “It felt so uplifting seeing smiles on homeless people’s faces. It touched me in a certain way. That’s what I feel compelled to do,” said Monarrez.Cathedral’s Azriel Caballero said his favorite service was an immersion trip to serve in other cities, including Portland and Los Angeles. “It helped me see how my service would affect others and what it means to live out your faith,” said Caballero.Helen Van Hecke, from St. Augustine Academy in Ventura, said that of her 500 hours of a variety of service projects, she particularly liked helping disabled children learn to surf during a beach outing. “It was just amazing to see such beautiful people created by God. Most people take them as if there’s something wrong with them, but really they’re more beautiful than us in many ways,” said Van Hecke.Bishop Alemany’s Jacquelyn Gutierrez also enjoyed helping children while participating in a service project at the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission homeless shelter. “To see the kids who are less fortunate and living life to the fullest was just amazing,” said Gutierrez. “To be able to serve them was an honor.”Cecilia Montellano of St. Monica High School, who completed more than 400 Christian service hours, said her favorite service was working with special needs children at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles. “I feel like my faith grew stronger in God, and I feel closer to these children,” said Montellano. “I used to go because I was kind of forced to, but now I do it because I really love it. I would love to do this throughout the years after high school.”Her classmate, Zackary Llorens, said he most enjoyed volunteering at his elementary school where he also did Christian service as a grade school student. “I gave my mom my Christian service medal [following the ceremony] because she’s one of my role models,” said Llorens.His father, Alan, noted that his son’s two baseball friends from middle school-age teams who went to different high schools (Junipero Serra and Verbum Dei) were also receiving Christian Service awards. “I thought that was pretty neat — somewhere the seed was planted,” said Llorens.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0329/chrservice/{/gallery}