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Lay workers honored with St. Joseph Award

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Bruce and Cathy Zgoda pose with Bishop Michael Fisher after receiving the Lay Award of St. Joseph from the bishop at Mass on May 2. The Zgodas waere among 52 people recognized with a lay award of St. Joseph for her dedicated service to the Catholic Church. Photo by Patrick J. Buechi

Sunday Mass turned into a celebration of the good work of the dedicated lay people in the Diocese of Buffalo. The May 2 Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral, saw Bishop Michael Fisher present the Lay Award of St. Joseph the Worker to 52 deserving men and women.

That Sunday’s Gospel reading spoke about Jesus being the true vine and his disciples being the branches that will bear fruit, as long as they stay connected to the center vine.

“It is perfect, I think, for this celebration that we have today as we honor those who have devoted so many hours, so much of their life to ministry and work in the Church for the benefit of others,” Bishop Fisher said.

The recipients of the St. Joseph Award took home a St. Joseph Medal and citation.  

 “In my mind, I don’t do anything,” said Christine Lewandowski of St. Casimir Church in Buffalo, who was nominated by Father Czeslaw Krysa. Once she starts to list the seemingly small things she does to help out – such as working in the food pantry, cleaning the church and rectory, helping out with the livestream, and handing out Communion – she realizes her importance to St. Casimir’s.

“It makes me feel good. It makes your heart feel good when you can be of help to someone, especially with the food pantry,” Lewandowski said. “We go visit people. We talk with them. We’re maybe the only people they see during the week. So, it’s a joy to give to people.”

Antoniette Drzewiecki received a St. Joseph Medal, a citation and a flower from Bishop Michael Fisher at Mass on May 2. Drzewiecki was one of 52 people recognized with a lay award of St. Joseph for her dedicated service to the Catholic Church. Photo by Patrick J. Buechi

Bruce Zgoda, has been attending Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Harris Hill for over 40 years. He and his wife, Cathy, like to give back to the Church that gave them so much. Together they have taken on the roles of eucharistic ministers and lectors, as well as helped other couples prepare for marriage in Pre-Cana classes. Bruce has also served on the finance council and lay leadership council. One of the highlights of his time with the parish was leading 15 teens on a tour of Rome during his days with the youth group.

“I believe in serving,” he said. “We been blessed. That’s why I do what I do. It’s not a chore, it’s just part of what we do. I’ve also been blessed with so many good people around me.”

The bishop said the award recipients were honored for their “attitude of care, concern and love for one another. Our faith determines our attitudes towards ourselves. If we are truly aware of our connection to the vine in self-respect, a healthy self-love is a natural and easy thing. We truly see our lives and one given to us as gift, as miracle. If we can honestly see and accept ourselves as instruments of God’s light in the world, then somehow the personal standards of society seem pretty vain and empty to us. And truly living out the personal standards of Christ become something that we owe ourselves. It is demanded of us. It is our response to our baptismal call to holiness, to make Christ’s presence personal and real through us,” Bishop Fisher said.

The Mass was organized by the Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.

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