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St. Joseph Cathedral had all the pews open and saw a nearly filled church as it celebrated the lay men and women who generously give their time so lovingly to their parishes. The Lay Award of St. Joseph was presented on March 19 to nearly 80 individuals who have dedicated their time to various ministries within their individual parishes. 

Bishop Michael W. Fisher presents one active parish volunteer with the Lay Award of St. Joseph. (Photo by Nicole Dzimira)

“It is a privilege to welcome all of you today, especially those who will be receiving the Lay Award of St. Joseph to thank you for your good work for the Church, for all that you do with your God-given gifts and talents,” said Father Sean Paul Fleming, rector of St. Joseph Cathedral.

Bishop Michael W. Fisher called St. Joseph a “model father, a model disciple, a man of faith.” Although he is never quoted in the Bible, Joseph is depicted as a faithful man willing to do what God asks of him.

St. Vincent de Paul has said about St. Joseph, “There is nothing more holy, more imminently perfect than resignation to the will of God.”

“When we hear these words, we often think, really, of Mary, our Blessed Mother declaring herself “the handmaid of the Lord.’  Or maybe we think of Jesus crying out on the cross, ‘Into you hands, Lord, I command my spirit.’ And yet, we know another example of complete sacrifice to God that often slips by us. And that is of Joseph, the silent steadfast husband and father who cared for Mary as the Lord commanded. He raised Jesus as his son,” Bishop Fisher said.

In closing his homily, the bishop told the award recipients, “You do extraordinary things by carrying out the ordinary things in life, in your families, and in what you do for the Church and for our parishes and for the diocese. By following St. Joseph’s example we can find considerable peace of mind  knowing that we are faithfully doing the ordinary little things of God. … Your example gives us a reflection of Christ’s love for us and for our Church family. Again, we thank you for all that you have done and may St. Joseph continue to bless you, to guide you, to be with you.”

A common thread among the recipients is their humble generosity. Many take part in several ministries at once without thinking much of the time they spend on parish grounds. 

“I do a little bit of everything,” said Arnold Soeder from St. Benedict’s in Eggertsville. “I lector during the week. I’m a sacristan during the week. I usher on the weekend. I count the collection. I’m involved in RCIA and our Men’s Group. So, quite a few things.”

He feels there are plenty of worthy people at the parish. “I think it’s all for the greater good. It’s something that gives me joy, and I hope gives God joy too,” Soeder said.

Mary Anne King felt a call from the Holy Spirit to help out with the liturgy committee, bereavement team, and parish council at Our Lady of Charity Parish in Buffalo.

“Its important to me to keep the parish going, and it’s up to the people to do it. God gave me the grace and pushed me forward to do it,” King said, who has been volunteering for 22 years and attending the parish for over 30 years. “I love every minute of it. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it.”

Even with Covid restriction lifted, some people decided to play it safe by wearing a mask at the St. Joseph the Worker Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral, March 19. (Photo by Nicole Dzimira)

Jerry and Betsy Tirado from SS. Columba-Bigid Parish in Buffalo serve at the food bank and on the Finance Committee. They also work to make sure the church itself is maintained. Betsy is a Gardening Angel, part of a team that maintains the parish grounds, and Jerry has been cutting the lawn for 15 years. 

“What makes them special is they will do anything,” said Father William Weiksnar, pastor. “Jerry is very humble. They do the things that are behind the scenes. Every pastor loves having people he can count on to do the behind the scenes things that keep the place going, but don’t always get the credit. So, I’m thrilled that they are getting the credit for doing it.”

Carol Autieri from the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels in Olean, leads the Stephen Ministry which provides high-quality, one-to-one, Christ-centered care to people in the congregation and the community experiencing life difficulties. It can be loss of a loved one, stressful pregnancy, health issues, losing their job, “Anyone who needs someone to walk beside them and give them support,” said Autieri.

Why does she do it? “I love people and I want to be there for them and I want to do something for my God,” she said.

Lay Award of St. Joseph recipients of 2022

Carol Autieri, Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels, Olean

Robert Ballard, St. Mary – St. Mark, Holley

James Beardi, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, Harris Hill

Elizabeth Beglinger, SS. Joachim & Anne Parish, Attica

Martha Bennett, St. Mary of the Cataract, Niagara Falls

Christine Blachowski, St. Lawrence, Buffalo

Ann Bonarek, Queen of Angels, Lackawanna

Gerald Borgogelli, St. Anthony Church, Lackawanna

Ellen Bowman, Holy Spirit, North Collins

Theresa Budzinski, St. John the Evangelist, Olean

Edward Camardo, St. John the Baptist, Kenmore

Therese Calovini, St. John de LaSalle, Niagara Falls

Barbara Carter, St. Mary of the Cataract, Niagara Falls

Patricia Casseri, Immaculate Conception, Eden

MaryAnn Dorman, St. Padre Pio, Oakfield

Buffie Edick, St. Mary – St. Mark, Holley

Denise Egnatchik, St. Michael, Buffalo

Richard Felicetti, Holy Family of Jesus, Mary & Joseph, Niagara Falls

Ed Finnerty, Immaculate Conception, Ransomville

Fran Finnerty, Immaculate Conception, Ransomville

Thomas Franco, St. James, Jamestown

Robert Funke, St. Padre Pio Parish, Oakfield

Joan Gasiewicz, St. Mary of the Assumption, Lancaster

William Gorka, St. Joseph, Fredonia

Ray Gorski, Christ Our Hope, Buffalo

Mary Hawes, St. Teresa of Avila, Akron

Kevin Hempe, All Saints, Lockport

Thomas Henninger, St. Gabriel, Elma

Annette Henninger, St. Gabriel, Elma 

Bonnie Hohman, Epiphany of Our Lord, North Collins

Shirley Joy, St. Christopher, Tonawanda

Robert Kahle, St. Anthony of Padua, Fredonia

Robert Kaufmann, St. Aloysius, Springville

Mary Anne King, Our Lady of Charity, Buffalo 

Terri King, Ascension, Batavia

William Kita, St. George, West Falls

Kathleen Kita, St. George, West Falls 

Marian Klubek, Queen of Angels, Lackawanna

Ed Knab, SS. Peter & Paul, Williamsville

David Knupfer, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Corfu

Robert Krolczyk, Annunciation, Elma

Robert Lichtenthal Jr., Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish & Diocesan Shrine, Bowmansville

Mary Ann Loskey, St. John the Evangelist, Olean

Dayle Loutzenhiser, St. Mary of Lourdes, Bemus Point

Michael Makey, Queen of Heaven, West Seneca

Linda McGuire, St. Michael, Warsaw

Amy McGuire, St. Anthony of Padua, Buffalo

Susan Starkweather-Miller, Holy Family, Albion

Joseph Morcelle, St. Vincent de Paul, Springbrook

Evelyn Morcelle, St. Vincent de Paul, Springbrook S

haron Morello, St. Brendan on the Lake, Newfane

Elyn Moscicki, Resurrection, Batavia

Pamela Mullen, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Silver Creek

Dr. Michael Noe, St. Gregory the Great Roman, Williamsville

Richard Pfentner, Good Shepherd, Pendleton

Ann Ploetz, St. John the Baptist, West Valley

Roberta Ptak, All Saints, Buffalo

John Rohde, St. Joseph Cathedral, Buffalo

Marsi Rohde, St. Joseph Cathedral, Buffalo

Lou Salvatore, Our Lady of Pompeii, Lancaster

Hon. Kenneth Schroeder, Nativity of Our Lord, Orchard Park

Michele Schubert, St. John Neumann Parish, Strykersville

Mark Schweizer, Our Mother of Good Counsel, Blasdell

David Scott, St. Leo the Great, Amherst

Arnold Soeder, St. Benedict, Eggertsville

Barbara Struebel, St. Teresa of Calcutta, Depew

Tom Surtel, St. Isidore Parish Community, Perry

William Taczak, St. Peter, Lewiston

Betsy Tirado, SS. Columba-Brigid, Buffalo

Jerry Tirado, SS. Columba-Brigid, Buffalo

Deb Wehrfritz, St. Mary of Lourdes, Bemus Point

Sheryl Weppner, St. Francis of Assisi, Athol Springs

Theresa White, St. Anthony, Farnham

David Wittmeyer, St. Mary of the Lake, Hamburg

Nancy Wittmeyer, St. Mary of the Lake, Hamburg

Paul Wozniak, Divine Mercy Parish

Dorthy Ducatte-Wozniak, Divine Mercy Parish

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