By Seth Gonzales
The Texas Catholic
With family and friends in attendance, nearly 150 people from 77 parishes and Catholic organizations were recognized by Bishop Kevin J. Farrell for their outstanding service to the church.
Those recognized were bestowed the Bishop’s Award for Service to the Church during a Mass and ceremony at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe on Feb. 22.
“Today, our whole diocese comes together to celebrate, honor and give thanks to what I call the backbone of the Catholic Church: those who tend to the flock of God, those so many volunteers who do so much work,” Bishop Farrell said. “We honor all of those people who have made our church what it is today: a vibrant, Catholic and living church in every corner of this city. You are the agents of our church today of the New Evangelization. You are commissioned to make our church work.”
In a ceremony during the Mass, Bishop Farrell placed a personalized medal around the necks of each recipient.
Among the recipients was Andrée Hawkins, a parishioner at Christ the King Catholic Church who runs the parish’s Grief Ministry.
“When I went up and the bishop put the medal over my neck, he held my hands, said the sweetest words and brought tears to my eyes,” said Hawkins, whose great-great-grandfather Maxime Guillot hosted the diocese’s first recorded Mass in the parlor of his home in 1859. “When I got the letter saying that I would be receiving this award, I felt very humbled and shocked, to be honest. This day has been a very moving experience.”
An emotional Mauricio Frye echoed that sentiment, but emphasized that his years of service were not done seeking praise.
“I do what I do not for recognition, but because of the Holy Spirit and how it makes me feel when I do things for others,” said Frye, a 22-year parishioner of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Frisco who volunteers with organizations that help children with special needs, including the Special Olympics. “I thanked the bishop when he gave me this award. It’s a great honor.”
Marilyn Riley has been a parishioner at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Denison for more than 30 years and said volunteering there continues to be a labor of love.
“I’m sure all the volunteers feel like I do in the sense that serving the parish family is just something we love doing,” said Riley, who during the course of her time at St. Patrick, has volunteered in just about every ministry. “It’s all been such a blessing and the people in the parish are just my family.”
Since 1981, Laura Watson has committed countless volunteer hours in the service of underprivileged children.
“They keep me young and have something different to say all the time,” said Watson, a 91-year-old parishioner at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Dallas who serves in the Foster Grandparents Program and at Head Start of Greater Dallas. “This award means so much to me, but I thought about my husband, Thomas, who did much more work in the church than I did. He should be given this award, but I just feel very grateful.”
Each year parishes and local Catholic groups are invited to nominate individuals from their respective communities for the Bishop’s Award for Service to the Church, particularly those who have demonstrated exemplary service and public witness to the Catholic faith.