St. Timothy Awards were given to, top row: Christine Adams, Araba Aikins, Mark Brenner, Aidan Broderick, Lauren Christensen; middle row: Cameron DeStefano, Cameron Diaz, Freddy Enriquez Jr., Sara Kendall, Kate Kennelly; bottom row: Kimberly R. Kiley, Kiera Kulaga, Daphne Lombardi, Victoria Magnussen and Mark McIlvain. Courtesy photos
St. Timothy Awards were given to, top row: Christine Adams, Araba Aikins, Mark Brenner, Aidan Broderick, Lauren Christensen; middle row: Cameron DeStefano, Cameron Diaz, Freddy Enriquez Jr., Sara Kendall, Kate Kennelly; bottom row: Kimberly R. Kiley, Kiera Kulaga, Daphne Lombardi, Victoria Magnussen and Mark McIlvain. Courtesy photos

Service, faith and an awe-inspiring joy. These are just some of the characteristics 25 teens from different parishes around the Diocese of Trenton have in common in winning this year’s St. Timothy Awards.

Presented annually by the diocesan Department of Evangelization and Family Life, the awards recognize youth who follow in the footsteps of St. Timothy as an example of love, faith and virtue.

In their own words, read what youth ministry leaders found exceptional in nominating these young people – and how this next generation of Catholics is living God’s mission of love and mercy in everyday life.

• Christine Adams: St. John Neumann Parish, Mount Laurel, Senior, Bishop Eustace Prep

“I believe Christine Adams deserves this award because she is a lovely girl that loves to help out. Not only did she attend BOLD Youth group events, she also does a lot of community service around St. John Neumann. Her affiliation with Good Counsel Homes and setting up a gym there for the residents not only show that she is mature and passionate, but that she has a servant’s heart. Her love for people is shown in all the acts of service she is associated with. I think that is exactly the type of person we need to represent this fantastic award.”        

• Araba Aikins: St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square, Junior, Robbinsville High School       

“Araba has been a member of the Gregorian Youth Ministry for the past three years and has been a key participant in Project Appalachia ministry, where she has impressed us with her leadership ability. This past year, Araba organized a team of teens who would get up at 6 a.m. to help prepare breakfast and also set up for lunch. Additionally, she organized a team of teens who coordinated the evening prayer service and make the desserts that we would have afterward. Upon our return from the trip to St. Gregory the Great for 5 p.m. Mass, Araba was selected as the teen speaker to share the Appalachia experience with the parish family. Araba has also participated in the Junior Lector ministry and is a reader for St. Greg’s Children’s Liturgy.

Araba, who is currently a junior at Robbinsville High School, is also a key member of the First Robotics team, Nemesis, where she leads the marketing team. Additionally, she is a senior Girl Scout of Central and Southern New Jersey and has earned her silver award. Araba is also an active member of the Interact club and was elected vice president of her freshman class. She has also been a participant with the International Health Care Volunteers’ annual medical mission trip to Ghana. Araba is a young lady who embraces her Catholic faith in all that she does.” 

• Mark Brenner: Sacred Heart Parish, Mount Holly, Junior, home schooled

“Mark Brenner is a true follower of Christ and offers his time willingly to not only his family and friends, but to multiple ministries at our parish as well. He is actively involved in our high school youth ministry, assists with the St. Vincent de Paul Society, volunteers to help with our religious education program and every week is the accompanist for our Saturday Vigil Mass. Mark is currently home schooled but also takes classes at Rowan University and would like to be an Air Force pilot. He also recently broke both wrists yet requested smaller casts on his arms so he could continue to play for Mass.”

• Aidan Broderick: Holy Cross Parish, Rumson, Senior, Christian Brothers Academy

“Aidan has been a super example to our youth program all four years – great attendance, participation and positive mental attitude to all. He is in the top of his class academically. Aidan is a great leader and serves as our president, doing this with great enthusiasm. He is involved in many service projects at school and with our group. He attends Mass regularly and is also helpful to many parishioners. He is an awesome young man!”

• Lauren Christensen: Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, West Trenton, Junior, Ewing High School

“Lauren Christensen began serving God and the community of Our Lady of Good Counsel as an altar server in 2010. As an active member of the Our Lady of Good Counsel youth group since eighth grade, Lauren has participated in outreach to the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, Project Linus, Valentines for Veterans and much more. Lauren has also volunteered for the parish’s annual children’s Halloween party, Living Stations of the Cross and the parish Easter egg hunt. She has also been a Girl Scout since age six and received the Bronze Award. As a Ewing High School junior, Lauren is a member of the National Honor Society, marching band and varsity softball team.”

• Cameron DeStefano: St. James Parish, Red Bank, Junior, Communications High School

“Cameron has been a member of the God Squad since his Confirmation. He attends every meeting and participates in every service opportunity the group undertakes. Cameron is a reader at most youth Masses, has served as a parish altar server since the fourth grade and is a leader among his peers. He enjoys the annual Diocesan Youth Conference and New Jersey Catholic Youth Rally at Six Flags, Jackson. Cameron selflessly helps the group in any way possible by asking or just observing what is necessary to be accomplished. He is a young man of incredible faith and compassion, and we are all very inspired by the example he sets! Cameron is a photographer, filmmaker and terrific magician! He often entertains and amazes the group with his card magic.” 

• Cameron Diaz: St. Gabriel Parish, Marlboro, Senior, Marlboro High School        

“As a senior, Cameron has really stepped forward as a leader for our group. She always comes to meetings with a smile on her face. She is able to influence her peers in a very positive, supportive manner. She makes sleeping in a box for our Food Fast/ Homeless Awareness Retreat the ‘best time ever’ for all our members! Last year when I fractured my leg and was in a wheelchair for eight weeks, it was Cameron who made sure we had everything set for the Confirmation retreats we were scheduled to facilitate.”               

• Freddy Enriquez Jr.: St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Hightstown, Freshman, Hightstown High School

“Freddy has been one of the most devoted members of our church ever since he was a little boy. He has been an altar server, an usher, a teacher’s assistant in the religious education program, and he played the role of Priest Caiaphas in our Living Stations of the Cross.  Freddy has also been an active member of the parish youth ministry for four years. He attends all meetings, volunteers in all youth group projects and is always looking for new ways to enhance our youth group program. Freddy is a true role model for so many children, teenagers and adults at our church.”

• Sara Kendall: St. Barnabas Parish, Bayville, Senior, Central Regional High School

“Sara has been one of our most active youth ministry members and young parishioners.  She attends Mass faithfully and is involved in our community service projects, retreats and mission trips. Sara is also active in our ‘Screen Tech’ ministry, administering digital worship aids on the screens during Mass. She is a strong presence in the St. Barnabas Active Teens and is truly a leader among her peers, especially through her actions and the way she treats others. Sara’s deep faith and drive to serve others has had a great impact on all aspects of her life. This impact has led her to begin the ‘Kindness Krusaders’ (a club/program formed by Sara) that challenged and empowered members of our parish and her school to spread kindness in the world around them. Sara is filled with God’s love, which she shares selflessly with all those around her, witnessing to her faith and making a positive impact on the world.”

• Kate Kennelly: St. Joseph Parish, Toms River, Senior, Toms River High School North

“Kate Kennelly is a young person who consistently puts her faith into action by the way she lives her life. She is an extremely active member of our CYGNUS youth group, and she doesn’t hesitate to volunteer for parish events and youth ministry service days. Her warm and welcoming presence makes people feel comfortable and a part of the group. Kate stands up for what she believes in, she works hard to achieve her goals and she never misses an opportunity to help people in need. Kate has twice spent a week volunteering at Nazareth Farm in West Virginia, helping some of our nation’s poorest people with basic home repair. She participates in the Right to Life March and has helped coordinate the parish Christmas Giving Tree project. We can rely on Kate to give 100 percent to any project of which she is a part, and she’ll do it with a smile on her face. She is a beautiful reflection of her parents, and we are so proud to have her represent CYGNUS and St. Joseph Parish! Kate is an altar server, and she works in the parish office as a junior secretary.”

• Kimberly R. Kiley: St. Joan of Arc Parish, Senior, Marlton, Cherokee High School

“Kimi, as we all know her, is a bubbly, bright, hardworking teen who brings everything she has to our WINGS program. She shows us time and again that no matter what the challenge, you can always overcome it and make the sweetest lemonade out of the lemons life can throw at you. Whether it’s from leading on our executive board, working tirelessly at every service project we have, or sharing the Scriptures as a reader at Mass, Kimi is always there working. She excels at whatever she does, whether it is in school, work or our program.  When you need something done, done well and done right, you ask Kimi, and she does it with that smile and great personality we have all come to love and admire. Kimi never turns down a request to serve. Other teens would be well recommended to follow her example. She will be greatly missed when she graduates, and we all know she will go on to even greater things!”          

• Kiera Kulaga: St. Leo the Great Parish, Lincroft, Senior, Middletown High School South

“Kiera has been a member of our youth group since she was in seventh grade. For all these years, Kiera has been an active participant in many community service projects that we do regularly such as Operation Shoebox, Christmas caroling at Luftman Towers assisted living, our annual rummage sale, babysitting at various events, car washes, parish events like fish frys, pasta nights, pancake breakfasts and coffee Sundays. She is always ready to volunteer and often takes on the leadership role to get things done efficiently. She works very well with younger children, too. She has spoken at several Confirmation retreats and is comfortable sharing her feelings. Kiera has many talents, a great personality and a willingness to make a difference.”

• Daphne Lombardi: St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral Parish, Freehold, Junior, Freehold Township High School

“I believe Daphne Lombardi deserves this recognition because she exemplifies the work of St. Timothy. Daphne has been in the youth group since eighth grade; she is a peer minister, has held the position of secretary and is now our vice president. For the past few years, Daphne has organized our parish’s Christmas market and Confirmation retreat, and she has helped organize our annual parish picnic. She has been an altar server since second grade and takes an active role in our Good Friday Soup Supper and the parish’s program of feeding the homeless. She has been a Girl Scout since preschool, has completed her bronze and silver awards and is currently working on her Gold Award, which will focus on diabetes awareness and education. Daphne is in the National Honor Society and challenges herself with honors and AP classes. In her sophomore year, Daphne was selected as her school’s sole representative for the annual Hugh O’Brien Conference, where she spent three days with high school students from around the state building leadership skills and creating service opportunities. Daphne is always a leader and always takes her great faith with her wherever she goes. Daphne has run cross country for two years, is currently on her school’s varsity swim team and works as a lifeguard. In her spare time, Daphne likes to spend time with family and friends and is always looking for ways to help others.”          

• Victoria Magnussen: St. Mary of the Lake Parish, Lakewood, Freshman, Brick Memorial High School

“Victoria aids in our religious education program every week without fail. The children absolutely love her; she is so creative and enjoys leading all types of activities with the children. Besides religious education, Victoria serves as an altar server every weekend that she is not cantoring or singing in the choir. She helps with sacramental celebrations and family events. Victoria is an amazing young woman who is so involved in her parish; she is a wonderful role model for the parish children. Victoria is the second-youngest of a family of nine children.”

• Mark McIlvain: St. Catharine Parish, Holmdel, Junior, Middletown South High School

“Mark McIlvain is a very active, enthusiastic and dedicated member of St. Catharine’s youth group. He is always at youth group meetings and is the first to sign up for youth group community service and outings. Mark has served on the youth group advisory board for two years and has helped lead group activities at meetings. Mark attends Mass faithfully and can always be counted on to help with youth group activities that occur after Masses, such as fundraisers. This year, Mark ran a parish-wide coat drive and presented a talk to the youth group on the Corporal Work of Mercy ‘Clothe the Naked.’

[At school], Mark is a member of the environmental club, the chess team and team manager for the football team. Mark has been involved in Boy Scouts since he was in first grade and is working toward his Eagle Scout, which he expects to receive next year.”

• Kenneth McKelvey: St. Theresa Parish, Little Egg Harbor, Senior, Pinelands Regional High School

“Kenny is very much deserving of this recognition. Kenny is a dedicated, talented and faithful young man. He puts his whole heart in our STAY group as well as parish events. He has stepped up to help with anything that is asked of the group and proves to be motivated and responsible while doing so. It has been an honor to watch him and his faith grow throughout his years. Kenny has displayed his faith by jumping into our summer mission trips and continuing that momentum throughout the year, whether attending Mass or sharing his thoughts at our weekly meetings. Kenny has always had enthusiasm when it came to his faith, along with putting his faith into action. We wish him the best of luck in everything he does, and we hope that this award will remind him of the love from his STAY family no matter where life takes him. We’re proud of you, Kenny!”

• Brianna McNally: St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford, Senior, Seneca High School

“Brianna has been an active member of our Y.E.S. ministry throughout high school. In addition to regular attendance and participation at youth group events, she serves as a junior catechist, sharing faith with second-graders, and helps prepare them to receive the Sacraments. She is also a cantor and shares her vocal talents at Sunday Mass. Additionally, she is also an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. She eagerly shares her gifts, talents and strong faith within our parish community. She is an intentional disciple. Brianna never says, ‘no’!”       

• Sarah Milne: Our Lady of Perpetual Help-St. Agnes Parish, Atlantic Highlands, Junior, Henry Hudson Regional School

“Over the last few years, we have had the pleasure of watching Sarah grow up – both as a young adult as well as a Catholic Christian. Her love for the Lord is evident in what she says, how she carries herself and her eagerness to comfort those with needs. Sarah is a leader within our youth group, but not only as a group president. She serves as a mentor to the younger members, a role model to many others and a friend to all. Her energy and enthusiasm are both inspirational and infectious to those she is around. She truly is a great witness of the Catholic faith. As an outstanding member of our youth group family, Sarah exemplifies the meaning of this award.  She is a leader of good moral standings and a true Christian servant to the Lord.”

• Collin Nichols: St. Paul Parish, Princeton, Senior, Princeton High School              

“Collin has been active in our student ministry since I arrived at St. Paul in 2013. He also has dedicated three years to helping with our Confirmation program, One8, which is a huge commitment, and our parish religious education program. In addition to these undertakings, Collin participates in a number of other parish ministries, including being inducted into the Knights of Columbus earlier this year. He’s worked with our diocesan department [of youth ministry] on events such as the Diocesan Youth Conference and attended the National Catholic Youth Conference with us in 2015. Through his work in the parish, Diocese and beyond, Collin has developed a servant’s heart and is absolutely a role model for younger teens. I’m so proud to know him and so grateful to have been blessed with the opportunity to walk with him on his faith journey over the last several years. This fall, Collin will attend Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., and has just been signed with their men’s fencing, a Division I team.”

• Blayn Parks: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Whiting, Senior, Central Regional High School

“Blayn Parks is a young devout Catholic who shares his faith with others. His actions whether they are toward his faith, family or school speak volumes about his character. For the last two years, Blayn has portrayed Jesus in the Live Stations with reverence and devotion. He is a mentor to our young altar servers and is passionate about helping others.  Every year, he is one of the first to step forward for our annual mission trip to rebuild substandard housing for the poor and to deliver meals to the homebound. His deep faith radiates to all of our parishioners, both young and old. Blayn’s many years of service highlight the great commitment he has made to his faith and our parish.”

• Vincent Rotondo: St. Justin the Martyr Parish, Toms River, Sophomore, High School East          

“Vincent displayed a tremendous amount of leadership qualities, and even more important was the time he spent in giving of himself to the various community service activities around the church and his high school. Vincent can be counted on when and wherever needed, a true role model for the members of the youth group as well as the parish community. Vincent serves as an altar server, and has done so for many years. Vincent has a very close relationship with his family, especially his sister Vanessa, who just graduated from Fordham University and who is a former youth group member. Vincent is also not afraid to state his mind in a very respectful way. Vincent stepped up this year to play the role of Pontius Pilate at the Living Stations of the Cross on Good Friday in a very convincing and powerful manner. A true and respected individual that St. Justin the Martyr Church and youth group is proud to have as the 2017 St. Timothy Award recipient.”

• Lexi Santitoro: St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral Parish, Freehold, Junior, Freehold Township High School

“I believe Lexi Santitoro deserves this recognition because she exemplifies the work of St. Timothy. She has been in the youth group since eighth grade. She is a peer minister, the youth group’s coordinator of community service, has been on Realfaith TV for the past four years, and is an altar server and reader. This year, Lexi started a program called St. Robert Bellarmine Youth Group Supplies for Scholars, whereby school supplies are collected and delivered to elementary and middle school districts of Freehold Township and Freehold Borough. This is now an annual program. Lexi is always looking for different ways that our youth group can get involved with the community and parish. She is in her school’s National Honor Society and Lead for Diversity Programs. Lexi is in the drama club and multiple chorus clubs. In her spare time, she spends time with family and friends and loves to sing, dance and act.”  

• Samuel Shapiro: St. Aloysius Parish, Jackson, Junior, Mater Dei Prep   

“I think Sam is an example of a person who ‘fans the flames of faith’ because his desire to grow as a Catholic is always present. Sammy is a kind person and always puts his faith, family and friends above anything else. He works at the parish program Little Children of God every Sunday, along with being an altar server. Samuel helps run the Vacation Bible School. He is an active member of the AYM Leadership team. Once a week, he volunteers during his lunch hour to read to elementary-age children. Samuel is a leader in Sylvia’s Children and the Optimist Club. He is a hardworking Catholic who definitely shows his love for Jesus Christ with enthusiasm. Sammy has a great sense of humor. He always has a smile on his face and is always making others laugh.”              

• Matt Tomaino: St. Martha Parish, Point Pleasant, Junior, Point Pleasant Borough High School

“I am so proud to be Matt’s youth minister. Matt has been one of our most active youth ministry members for three years now. His love for Jesus and the Church has had a profound effect on him. Matt has a condition called metachromatic leukodystrophy, and he uses a wheelchair and he walks as much as he can with elbow crutches. Having a love of track, two years ago he approached his high school track coach, and he became his school’s first wheelchair athlete. He earned six medals in last year’s county Meet of Champions. His coach attests to what an inspiration Matt is to other coaches, athletes and the school community. Matt has also been adopted by the Monmouth University Hawks basketball team, which pairs kids with disabilities and sports teams together. Monmouth players and coaches were quoted in the Asbury Park Press about how much Matt inspires the team. He also doesn’t let his disability get in the way of fully participating in our youth group service activities, and our parishioners love seeing him. Matt tells me he gets his strength and perseverance from praying and talking to Jesus, and he loves learning about the faith, a love that developed after joining our youth ministry.”

• Andrew Wohl: St. Mary Parish, Barnegat, Senior, Southern Regional High School

“Andrew Wohl is an example of love, faith and virtue. These qualities in him have been shared with our faith community and neighborhood since 2009, when he began as a parish altar server. He has been a member of the Knights of Columbus Squires since age 12 and our youth ministry since 2014. He continues to share his faith and gifts by assisting in numerous parish activities and events; for example, our Annual Nights of Summer Carnival, the monthly Knights of Columbus monthly parish breakfasts and Lenten fish fry dinners. He has assisted in many of our youth events or services as well as in the community, raising autism awareness, participating in pro-life functions or helping the elderly who are homebound. Andrew is kind, thoughtful and polite and treats everyone the way God wishes us to, with respect and dignity. Andrew attends daily Mass and Holy Day events as often as he is able. He states that he will continue to grow in faith through attending daily Mass at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md., in the fall and be active with the Knights of Columbus. Andrew keeps faith at the center of all he does so he can be an example to his peers by being the best person God wants him to be.”