VANCOUVER—A longtime volunteer at St. Patrick's Parish in Vancouver has become the first person to be posthumously honoured as a faithful servant in the archdiocese.
Lilia Ceres, who served her parish for 20 years, died before she could receive a Stewardship Award at Holy Rosary Cathedral April 12.
"She did a lot of things in the parish," said friend Adele Sanchez, who accepted the award from Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, on her behalf.
Ceres was a Legionary, a PREP teacher, a lector, and an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion at St. Patrick's Parish. She also served in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul for a short time and volunteered in the parish office on Sundays.
"She's deeply missed. Everybody missed her, even the young ones," Sanchez said. "She promoted the Legion of Mary to the kids and she also taught some Filipino folk dances."
Ceres had a strong affection for Our Lady of Penafrancia, a devotion she had brought from the Bicol region of her native Philippines.
"She was so devoted to Our Lady, and every day she would go to Mass at the cathedral," Sanchez recalled. When cancer caused Ceres's health to decline, her friends tried to persuade her to make fewer trips downtown.
"I said, 'God will be understanding if you don't go to Mass.' But even if she was sick, she could go to the cathedral," she said. "I was very touched."
Sanchez added: "She would be so proud, she would be so happy," at receiving the award.
Archbishop Miller recognized a total of 37 faithful stewards and longtime volunteers at the awards ceremony on Divine Mercy Sunday.
"This award honours members of the lay faithful who have shown truly exceptional dedication in offering their precious time, their many talents, and their God-given treasure to the Church," he said during his homily.
"Our parishes simply could not carry out their mission were it not for their stewardship of God's gifts."
He added that by honouring the 37 recipients, "We are honouring the good Lord, Who gives us such witness of such vitality, faith, and dedication in our parishes. He has truly blessed us."
Lou Specken of All Saints Parish received the award for promoting natural family planning since 1978 and founding the B.C. branch of the World Organization of the Ovulation Method Billings.
"I'm very honoured. (The award was) not expected, not expected at all. You don't do it for that," she said after Mass.
St. Joseph the Worker parishioner David Chang revealed the source of his energy in organizing parish events and fundraisers for the last decade.
"You just commit to it. Once you're committed to it, God will give you the energy to do it. You just have to have the faith to do it," he said.
"Stewardship is basically a need to share your talent, share your love, and share your treasure for the parish that you love."
Sisters Mary and Therese Leung have humbly served Sts. Peter and Paul Parish for 29 years.
"I feel that many other people really deserve it," Mary said after the ceremony. "The church is made up of many bricks. We are just two of them."
The sisters, both retired educators, take on many tasks: leading devotions, counting collections, heading the welcoming team, throwing parish parties, and decorating the church, for example.
"I think stewardship is giving of yourself," Mary said. "The more you give, the more you have. If you don't give it away, it will remain a seed, but if the seed dies, it will grow. I think that's how the community of the Church grows."
(St. Patrick's, Vancouver)
Lilia Ceres died Dec. 8 in her native country, the Philippines. She travelled home annually to celebrate Our Lady of Penafrancia.
A member of St. Patrick's Parish in Vancouver since 1995, she provided innumerable hours of volunteering. Her sweet smile and infectious personality inspired many other parishioners to get involved. She was also well known in the Holy Rosary Cathedral and Guardian Angels parishes.
Lilia was one of the founders of the Legion of Mary at St. Patrick's, where she was an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion at Sunday Mass and took Holy Communion to the sick, particularly to Windermere Care facility.
She taught PREP, which she helped coordinate for a time, and was a lector on Sundays and weekdays. Devoted to Our Lady, she started devotions to Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Our Lady of Pe¤afrancia at St. Patrick's, where they continue today.
She was a committed volunteer at the parish office on Sundays and loved to help out with the work of St. Vincent de Paul. She was also an organizer of the Christmas pageant for children, and of the Easter Salubong tradition.
Her death at the age of 67 prevented Lilia from accepting her Stewardship Award in person, but she was recognized posthumously. Her friends had much more to say about her witness of faith, even on the local transit system.
(All Saints, Coquitlam)
Lou Specken and her late husband Art founded the World Organization of the Ovulation Method Billings, B.C. (WOOMB BC) in 1978. Its aim: to promote natural family planning in British Columbia by teaching the Billings Ovulation Method developed by Doctors John and Evelyn Billings of Australia.
Lou has spent the last 36 years promoting Natural Family Planning throughout B.C. and through the Archdiocese of Vancouver's marriage preparation program.
During that time she has helped hundreds of couples naturally to achieve pregnancy, postpone pregnancy, and monitor their reproductive health without the use of harmful drugs or devices and within the moral precepts of the Church.
Moreover she has given these couples a better understanding and appreciation of the God-given gift of their fertility. Lou's efforts truly embody and exemplify a courageous response to Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae.
Nathan and Marge Degrano
(Holy Trinity, North Vancouver)
Nathan and Marge Degrano have been active supporters of church and school. Leaders in the Filipino community, they offer assistance wherever needed.
They look after the monthly Tagalog Mass and social, and organize a very successful annual fundraiser. They are extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, members of the parish council, and counters of Sunday offerings.
The couple coordinate the Project Advance campaign in their parish and have had great success inspiring more participation. They recently attended a stewardship conference in Florida at their own expense.
Nathan is active in the Knights of Columbus and is responsible for putting up the outdoor crib scene and Christmas lights.
They are more than willing to help out with enthusiasm and great joy in any area of parish life. Together they are outstanding examples of Christian stewardship.
(Holy Rosary Cathedral, Vancouver)
Juliana Monzon has been a very active, dedicated daily volunteer at the cathedral since the 1990s. A woman of prayer and humility, she is friendly to all, working tirelessly among people and ensuring the effective stewardship of resources at the cathedral.
She has shown prudent leadership in numerous projects and ongoing tasks: assisting with liturgies, leading devotional prayers and hymns, and organizing parish office work and parish service groups.
Her reverence for God, her respect for priests and parishioners, and her commitment to the good of the Church shine through her words and actions.
(Christ the Redeemer, West Vancouver)
Robert Hickson has devoted himself to the liturgical life of the parish. He opens the church each weekday at 7 a.m. and prepares everything for Mass. He helps to plan all major liturgies, assisting with rehearsals.
He has worked hard to train servers and relief sacristans, imparting his knowledge and his love of the liturgy to those who assist him and will someday replace him.
He supports the parish generously not only through regular Sunday offerings but also through generous donation of liturgical items.
He has been a notable supporter of Queen of Peace Monastery, providing the Dominican nuns with contributions of food and other items. He accompanies the assistant pastor when he drives to the monastery for Mass.
(Church of the Assumption, Powell River)
Antoinette Knight has been involved in music ministry for 65 years, starting at St. Mary's in Chilliwack. In Powell River she has not only played the organ for the children's choir for 49 years, but has also been a choir director and accompanist.
At Assumption School she became a full-time substitute teacher, teaching as a volunteer for five years while her children attended the school. She later became a teacher and acting principal.
An active member of the CWL for 45 years, she has provided music at funerals and helps with the bazaar. She plays the piano for seniors in extended care and plays for the Italian Masses in St. Gerard's Church in Wildwood.
She participates daily at Mass, where she is a lector, and with a fellow parishioner has looked after the church gardening for the past two years.
Sylvia and Brian Blackwell
(Holy Family, Sechelt)
Sylvia and Brian Blackwell are tireless workers in the parish, always ready to help. Brian coordinates the office work, and recently helped install new pews in the church. He and Sylvia are part of every parish event, whether it's setting up the Nativity scene or looking after tables and chairs.
Sylvia has made a significant contribution through various ministries and associations. She has been president of the CWL, led the lectors for many years, and taught PREP for more than 30 years.
She has organized parish clean-ups, leading and training those involved in keeping the church in good shape. She has also taken care of church hall rentals by scheduling events and organizing set-up as well as clean-up.
She is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and represents her various ministries on the parish council.
(Star of the Sea, White Rock)
Ann Dobie, a past parish president of the CWL, is a life member who has been an active member for over 48 years. She has shared her talents generously while leading committees at Star of the Sea School and Holy Cross High School as well as in the parish.
With her welcoming nature, she invites and encourages others to become involved in the church community. She is known for reaching out to others at meetings and for making sure new members feel connected. She works hard at creating and strengthening personal relationships, continually challenging others to a higher level of excellence.
Individually and collectively, she builds others up by recognizing and drawing out their special gifts and talents. Her nominator says, "Ann is an inspiration to so many as a spiritual leader and teacher of the faith; a great mentor and friend."
Pat and Maureen Carroll
(St. Mary, Vancouver)
Pat and Maureen Carroll (St. Mary's, Vancouver) have been very active parishioners for more than 50 years.
Maureen has co-coordinated the Saturday Mass for more than 20 years, is a money counter, member of the CWL, washes and irons the altar linens and vestments weekly, and is a former Project Advance coordinator.
Pat has been a volunteer handyman for the parish and school for more than 20 years, is coordinator of the ushers, and is a member of the building committee.
Both have served on many committees and are always present for events. They have worked at bingo for over 40 years, including setup and purchase of supplies.
They are members of the liturgy committee and generous donors to collections; the first to help out with everything from time and money to prayer.
They are an example of faith, steadfastness, the covenant of marriage, stewardship, and volunteering.
John and Helga Topp
(St. Andrew, Vancouver)
John and Helga Topp (St. Andrew, Vancouver) have been active parish members since 1979. Once members of the Roncalli Club at Holy Rosary Cathedral, they were pioneers in the parish pro-life movement.
They have supported and are always involved in charitable works, such as the spring fair for 20 years, and the RCIA Team. Helga was the CWL president from 1995-1997, and has worked tirelessly for the organization.
John is a member of the parish council, an active member of Knights of Columbus 4th Degree, and the chief maintenance person for 20 years. Call John and he'll be there all the time. John got the centennial service award during the 100th anniversary of the parish in 2013.
Indeed, John and Helga have shared their many talents, their treasure, and most particularly their time to build and support the parish community.
Deogracias R. Edmilao
(St. Joseph, Langley)
Deogracias R. Edmilao and his wife Linda have been active in parish life since the 1970s. After attending a World Wide Marriage Encounter weekend, they became a team couple, hosting weekend retreats until 1982.
For more than a decade they led a Marriage Encounter program for the engaged, and they developed and provided leadership for teen programs.
Deogracias, a Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus, has served on the parents' education committee of St. Catherine's School and serves on a number of parish committees.
He is a fundraiser for school and parish and a visitor of the elderly; an altar server, master of ceremonies, choir organizer, and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.
He is active in pro-life and in the Filipino community, helping temporary residents and new permanent residents and promoting a number of devotions such as Simbang Gabi and Bisita Iglesia.
(St. Joseph the Worker)
David Chang is "a man of action who does not let the grass grow under his feet," says his pastor.
In the decade since he entered the Church he has become one of the dynamos who keep the parish running smoothly. For nine years he has chaired the parish fall fair, one of the major parish fundraisers, and is responsible for much of its growing success.
He cares for sick parishioners, raises funds for Little Flower Academy, organizes raffles, arranges events at the parish golf tournament, throws parties for parish volunteers as a gift of gratitude for their generosity and dedication, and is one of the first to be called whenever trouble of any kind arises.
"All set David apart as a special treasure this parish would be very sorry to lose."
Alda Antunes Silvestre
(Our Lady of Fatima, Vancouver)
Alda Antunes Silvestre has been a member of the pastoral council for three years. Along with her husband, she is a model of dedication to the parish and community.
In addition to looking after her large family she maintains a commitment to the parish. She is involved in music ministry, where she strives for excellence.
She has been a catechist and youth group leader and is involved with parish festivals, where she takes leadership. At Christmas she organizes the decorating of the church.
(Our Lady of Mercy, Burnaby)
George Gastaldo was involved in the building of the new parish church with his late father and has been a member of the parish building committee since that time.
He always sees the church as his own home and helps to maintain it, with the result that he takes on a large number of responsibilities that the pastor does not have to worry about.
George does his work quietly, everything from changing light bulbs to informing the pastor about necessary repairs. Recently he helped lay a concrete foundation for the new Marian grotto and pavement.
He faithfully attends daily Mass and is an example for other parishioners of loving God and neighbour.
Anne and Peter Walton
(Our Lady of the Assumption, Port Coquitlam)
Anne and Peter Walton began hosting marriage preparation sessions at Holy Name Parish about 30 years ago when the archdiocesan program was just beginning.
They soon began to share their personal testimony and experience as presenters, then continued serving regularly and faithfully in these capacities at various parishes whenever called on, including St. Luke's, All Saints, and Assumption.
They have lived in St. Anthony Parish, West Vancouver, where Anne and her sons taught CCD for several years. Anne was an executive member of the CWL and has maintained an active membership that she cherishes.
They have quietly contributed financially to many causes and parishes, seeking no special attention. Their attitude has been constant: gratitude for grace received which compels their giving of themselves: time, talent and treasure.
They are excellent models of Christian stewardship and have been for several decades.
(St. Anthony, West Vancouver)
Janice Herrick has helped make the parish a more vibrant community through her generosity with joy, time, and talents. Janice was part of RCIA 1992-2000 and for more than 20 years taught PREP.
She started visiting the sick in 1987 and became an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.
She has a phenomenal memory for remembering and caring about people and events in the parish throughout the years, and for remembering where everything is kept and when it is needed in a very busy parish.
In her role as head sacristan since 1992 she has, in her kind, patient and reverent manner, trained many others to help with preparing for the liturgy.
For many of her nearly 30 years in the CWL she served as head of the membership committee, and recently has served on the parish council.
Ae Hee Kim
(St. Andrew Kim, Surrey)
Ae Hee Kim and her family have given exceptional service to the parish since its founding. Her willingness to give financially to the parish as well as to Project Advance has been greatly appreciated.
She has contributed her time to the altar florist groups and to the choir, as well as other volunteer commitments. She is a faithful member of various parish groups.
Although she has had to scale back her volunteer work to look after her husband's business since his death, she remains a generous benefactor of the new parish building as well as the education building.
(St. Francis Xavier, Vancouver)
Hilary Cheong and his late wife have served the parish behind the scenes with great joy and humility. His wife made flower arrangements in the 1980s.
Hilary has been a member of the Queen of China Choir and the St. Joseph Sodality for over 25 years. A building quantity surveyor by profession, Hilary's knowledge of building, renovation, and maintenance has benefited the parish greatly.
After his wife died about 15 years ago, he retired and became a property manager, overseeing the management of the new school building and the building of the new church. He ran errands and coordinating with architect, engineers, contractors, and city hall while overseeing the janitorial services and maintenance of the new school.
Hilary has served under five pastors, offering professional advice and work in building maintenance. He has also served on the pastoral council for many terms.
Therese Leung and Mary Leung
(Sts. Peter and Paul, Vancouver)
Therese Leung, a retired school principal, and Mary Leung, a retired teacher are pillars of the parish. The sisters have been parishioners for nearly 30 years, working quietly behind the scenes.
Besides leading exemplary lives as Catholics, the Leungs are actively involved in every facet of parish life, leading devotions and the welcoming team, counting collections, and leading discussions on Father Barron's video series.
Whenever there is a need in the parish, whether it's a project needing a time commitment or extra funds, Therese and Mary volunteer generously, from supplying flowers for the altar to organizing events such as the parish Christmas party, Lunar New Year dinners, and providing for the temporal needs of our priests.
Therese is a member of the parish pastoral council and a lector.
Without Therese and Mary Leung, the parish community would not be as vibrant.
Ludger and Christel Bernemann
(Sts. Joachim and Ann, Aldergrove)
Ludger and Christel Bernemann, daily Mass-goers in their 80s, are long-time generous donors not only to their own parish but also to others and to Project Advance.
They have always been among the first to finance major projects. They have contributed generously to church improvements, including the organ, finishing the choir loft, and lighting improvements, and are generous with their time and talents.
Christel assists in the kitchen at parish events and then helps by laundering and ironing tablecloths (and altar linen) afterwards. She also serves on the parish council and helps maintain the church and rectory gardens.
Maria (Ria) and John Schortemeyer
(Immaculate Conception, Delta)
Maria (Ria) and John Schortemeyer are dedicated parishioners who have been very involved in the parish.
Ria was a PREP teacher and then coordinator for more than 20 years, at one point with 500 children participating. She also sang in the choir and is a lector at daily Mass. She coordinates after-Mass coffee along with John, and takes care of a weekly seniors gathering.
Her love of liturgy led to the reciting of lauds every morning in the church, and she is frequently consulted regarding appropriate celebration of liturgical feasts.
John, an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, for many years looked after the scheduling and routes for the distribution of Holy Communion to shut-ins. Given the number of people receiving Holy Communion every Friday, this task was essential not only for the ministers but also for the communicants' schedules.
James and Theresa Hargrave
(St. James, Abbotsford)
James and Theresa Hargrave have served and continue to serve in many ways since the founding of the parish in 1994. Jim is a longstanding member of the pastoral council.
His participation there has led to involvement in many committees and parish pastoral activities. Most recently he has been a member of the parish building committee.
Theresa, through her work with the altar guild, has a key responsibility for ensuring that the altar, vessels, and other sacred items are treated with care. During the parish's many years of having Mass in the school gymnasium, Theresa and members of the altar guild would ensure the altar was properly set up and supplied.
The Hargraves' dedication and generosity to the parish extends beyond their time to include their treasure and talents.
(St. Andrew, Vancouver)
Salvador Hombrebueno has been an Apostleship of the Sea volunteer for nearly 25 years. Under Father Joncas, Salvador worked diligently to assemble spiritual bouquets of rosaries and string necklaces of miraculous medals for sailors arriving at Canada's largest port.
Salvador has put together thousands of miraculous medals to be given to sailors who have to be at sea 10 months of the year before returning to their loved ones.
Even in the wee hours of the morning, Salvador could be found at the sailors' club, working at the Apostleship of the Sea office. Tirelessly and despite failing health, he continues his work from his home with his wife Trudy at his side.
(St. Ann, Abbotsford)
Mary Phillips, a retired teacher and assistant principal, has been supporting migrant farm workers at St. Ann's for years. Once she became aware of the workers, who are predominantly Spanish-speaking and Catholic, she set out to make them a part of her parish.
She started by reaching out to neighbouring St. Joseph's in Langley to coordinate with it. Her energy and willingness to begin this ministry in her parish started with just a few volunteers, little financial support, and using her own car to transport men to Mass.
She has said she wishes to share her gifts and talents with those most vulnerable and in greatest need in her community. She has personally set a goal that every migrant farm worker in the Fraser Valley know where the Catholic churches are.
(St. Matthew, Surrey)
Nannette Lenoue-Guze began as a very active parent at Our Lady of Good Counsel Elementary School, chairing the parents' group and the education committee, and now the REC at Holy Cross Regional Secondary.
She played a lead role in 2006/2007 in developing the Crusader eGram, an email newsletter for students, teachers, parents, and alumni. Nannette is in her 12th year as a member of the Board of Directors of CISVA and has been an active member since 2002 of the Crusader Youth Foundation, a fundraising group.
She dedicates endless hours to promoting and supporting Catholic Education.
She has led the "For the Glory" guitar liturgy music group every Sunday evening at the 7:30 p.m. Mass since August 1987, and continues to go out of her way to coordinate and provide assistance in every way she can within her parish.
(Holy Rosary Cathedral)
Jane Rosenthal is a key steward. She is president of the parish CWL, which she helped to reinstate eight years ago and which has grown to 36 members, who provide hospitality for many archdiocesan events.
She is a member of her parish stewardship committee, a lector, an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and a member of the Holy Rosary Women's Choir. She has taught Bible study classes and faith formation programs, and volunteered for Birthright, marriage preparation, and bereavement support.
She is capable and enjoys challenges and is cheerful, helpful, and well organized, as well as being a good listener and a kind and thoughtful mentor who directs parishioners to resources, seminars, and events they may benefit from, while attending many herself.
Jane is a willing collaborator who works well with other ministries in the parish, and is a model of energetic, charitable service and stewardship.
Phong Nguyen and Thoa Nguyen
(St. Joseph, Vancouver)
Phong Nguyen and Thoa Nguyen are devout and active members of their parish.
Phong has been the chairman of the parish pastoral council for several terms as well as the chairman of the building committee. He is currently chairman of the infrastructure renewal task force committee and the parish's Project Advance committee.
Thoa has been working with the finance committee in the role of chairman. They offer not only their time and talent but also generously donate financially to the Church and to the poor.