The diocesan Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries announced that 27 high school teens from Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean Counties were recently honored with a St. Timothy Award, recognizing them as being a true witness to the Catholic faith and exhibiting outstanding service in their parishes, schools and wider communities.

This year’s honorees, all of whom are in high school, were nominated by their pastors or other parish staff, such as youth ministers, parish catechetical leaders or catechists, are actively involved in parish life in ministries such as youth group, liturgical or music ministries, as aides in the religious education program or Vacation Bible School. The St. Timothy Award is named after the disciple, St. Timothy.

Following are profiles on the 27 St. Timothy Award recipients for 2022:

Alexander Daniel Acquaviva

St. Theresa Parish, Little Egg Harbor

Father John Large, pastor of St. Theresa Parish, proudly shared that Alex has been a faithful and dependable altar server for nine years.

“He is always looking to serve in his school, Church and community,” Father Large said, adding that Alex actively participates in mission trips to serve in poor communities.

The pastor shared a few facts about Alex, namely that he “loves to dance. He took dance lessons for 10 years because he wanted to,” Father Large said, then added “an eggnog is a favorite of Alex “and he wishes it was available all year.

“Alex is a true gentleman with a ready smile and engaging personality,” Father Large said. “He readily explains our faith to others when the occasion arises.”

 

Matthew Adamski

St. Isidore the Farmer, New Egypt

Matthew Adamski is an outstanding young man, according to parish catechetical leader, Celeste Grant. He is the oldest of three children and his sister and brother look up to him and they model his act of volunteering.

“He is always ready to volunteer in his parish and community,” Grant stated, then added that Matthew sings in Christmas choir, is a dedicated altar server and a Boy Scout. He provided the parish with a beautiful Rosary Garden.

Grant shared that while Matthew’s faith is an important part of his life, he also enjoys music. He is gifted with a perfect pitch and easily learns any musical instrument, she said, noting that his favorite instruments are drums, accordion and piano.

Matthew enjoys all genres of music, but his favorite is Polka music which his “dziadek” (grandfather) introduced to him as a little boy. Matthew also plays in a rock band, various choirs in church and school community.

“Matthew is a serious young man with a kind, funny, happy demeanor which people are drawn to,” Grant said. “He is a true stand out among his peers.”

 

Matthew Battista

St. Leo the Great, Lincroft

Joan Kret, parish youth minister, remarked on how Matthew has taken on a leadership role in the parish’s Media Ministry where he assists with livestreaming Masses and displaying words to the Readings at Masses. Matthew also participated in the Synod Listening Session for teens.

Kret noted that Matthew is mathematically talented and tutors geometry during his lunch period at school. He suggested and then ran a successful summer tutoring program in St. Leo the Great during the summer of 2021.

“He would like to spread Catholicism to others in his diverse high school environment and he is always ready to lend a helping hand to anyone in need,” Kret said.

Kret noted that at High Tech High School, Matthew is also part of the Robotics and Coding Club and Technology Student Association and was a school ambassador in grammar school.

“He loves all things technology and really enjoys coding in his free time,” she said.

 

Daniel Bricker

Holy Innocents, Neptune

Fran Burke, coordinator of religious education who nominated Daniel for the Award, recalled Daniel’s scope of parish activity which included serving as a hall monitor for religious education classes and that he is one of the first members of the parish youth group to volunteer with their clothing drive to benefit parishioners in need in Christ the King Parish, Long Branch. Daniel has also worked on service projects to benefit Ronald McDonald House and the Blessing Bag Brigade.

“Daniel would often come to help at religious education before work and he would often be the best dressed person in the school,” Burke shared.

 

Lily Buerck

St. Teresa of Calcutta, Bradley Beach

Lily is an active member of St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish and has been since she was a young girl, according to Kathleen McGrorry, who nominated Lily for the St. Timothy Award.

“Lily has participated in VBS [Vacation Bible School] and Christmas pageants, and later went on to become a helper for these activities.”

McGrorry recalled Lily was in third grade when she became a “reliable” altar server.

“Once our high school youth group began three years ago, Lily has been a devoted member who not only attended the meetings but helped with many of the service opportunities both in the parish and the community,” McGrorry said, then added that “Lily is not only a faithful Catholic, but she is also a dedicated citizen as well.”

Lily reads to young children at the public library, is a member of Avon First Aid squad, an alumnus of the Henrik Lundqvist Foundation, a member of Manasquan Tennis Team, vice president of her senior class, and president of the National Honor Society at Manasquan High School.

 

Anthony Cammarata

St. Gabriel Parish, Marlboro

Marie Masiello, the parish youth minister in St. Gabriel, Marlboro, recalled that Anthony's faith and optimism never wavered during his four years as a youth group member. 

“Youth Group gave Anthony an opportunity to step out of his comfort zone to share his gifts and talents,” the youth minister said. Other ways in which Anthony serves his parish include as an altar server, volunteer with the summer religious education program and, this past fall, he was a catechist for the religious education program. Anthony was also a facilitator for the Confirmation retreats.

The youth minister noted that it was most meaningful for Anthony to have the part of Jesus in the Living Stations presentation.

“We were so proud to walk with this kind, giving and humble young man,” the youth minister stated.

 

Christian Carroll

St. Joan of Arc, Marlton

Youth minister Jay Keesler noted that Chris has been involved with the youth ministry program since the eighth grade and that “he has always distinguished himself in service to the parish youth group WINGS.”

Examples of Christian’s commitment to the youth group have been reflected in his involvement with social, service and parish events, and most recently the Passion Play.

During the Covid pandemic, Christian stayed upbeat and tried to encourage others to stay engaged in youth group activities.

Chris also joined his peers for the most recent National Catholic Youth Conference, having a great time with teens from throughout the Diocese.

“Chris is very funny, hard-working and a wonderful teen to have in our program,” Keesler said, mentioning that Chris also has an encyclopedic knowledge of cars “which he will share with you.”

“We are sad to see him graduate this year, but so happy for the great things to come,” Keesler said.

 

Dominic Delgado

Sacred Heart, Mount Holly

Dominic has demonstrated his faith and compassion for others as he has volunteered as a catechist aide for the past three years, according to Barbara Kane, who nominated him for the St. Timothy Award.

“His patience and enthusiasm make him a favorite of the children, and he enjoys working with children who have special needs,” Kane said. “He is an excellent example to his younger siblings and was his younger brother’s Confirmation sponsor this year.”

At Rancocas Valley Regional High School, Dominic enjoys playing football, volleyball and participating as a captain of the RV Red and White Night event. He also mentors the younger athletes on his football and volleyball teams.

 

Kenechukwu Jason Echezona

St. Veronica, Howell

Kene is a fine example of Catholic youth, stated Resurrection Sister Ann Elizabeth Norton, parish catechetical leader.

As Sister Ann Elizabeth reflected on Kene’s qualities, she noted that he is a faithful Mass attendee and youth group member; a diligent student, and a member of the National Honor Society. Other qualities she shared is that Kene is very musical. He sings and plays piano, trumpet and French horn. He also performs in a marching band, where he is the drum major, as well as in chamber choir and chorus.

“Kene is very willing to share his talents with our parish,” Sister Ann Elizabeth was proud to say. “Kene strives for excellence in everything he does, from parish activities, acting in school plays and performing in bands. He has a heart for others, taking part in service projects and showing care and concern for his siblings.

“Kene is someone other young people can look up to,” said Sister Ann Elizabeth.

 

Matthew Foti

St. Aloysius, Jackson

Jennifer Petrillo, parish catechetical leader and youth minister, noted that over the past several years, Matthew has been a dedicated member of AYM (St. Aloysius Youth Ministry) and has participated in numerous parish and diocesan youth ministry events. In his senior year, he has especially been involved in recent AYM service projects.

Petrillo added that Matthew has also been a faithful volunteer in the parish’s Little Children of God program at the 10:30 a.m. Sunday Mass.

“Whether he is simply setting up supplies or dressing up like a Roman soldier for our special Palm Sunday program, Matthew is a great example for our young parishioners,” Petrillo said.

“He is continually willing to lend a hand,” she added. “Matthew also stands out as someone who seeks to grow deeper in understanding his faith. He engages in meaningful conversations, ready to share his own insights and ask questions.”

 

Valerie Geslak

St. Catharine, Holmdel

Lori Umbrino, who nominated Valerie for the St. Timothy Award, described Valerie as “the epitome of a Catholic teen.

“She has been a vital part of the St. Catharine youth group for the past four years and a board member for the past three years,” Umbrino said.

“She is also a very important part of our yearly church picnic and will be teaching her own class this summer during our Summer Religious Education program,” Umbrino said, then noted that during youth group meetings, Valerie is always volunteering to lead a group and creates activities.

“But most importantly, she encourages everyone to be themselves and feel comfortable,” Umbrino said. “She will be missed.”

 

Dwayne Gethard

St. Joseph, Toms River

According to Catherine Werner, parish youth minister, Dwayne has been an extremely active member of the CYGNUS youth group.

“He lives out his Catholic faith in all areas of his life,” she said, whether it is at home, St Joseph Parish, in school, when he plays sports and in his volunteer efforts.”

“He is a positive person, a humble leader and someone who consistently thinks of others,” Werner said. “Dwayne helped lead our visits to a local nursing home for several years and created our parish eye glass drive for the Lions Club.

“CYGNUS is so proud of Dwayne and grateful for all his contributions over the years,” Werner said.

 

Melaika Gomez

St. Mary of the Lakes, Medford

Christine Kotowski, parish youth minister, said that Melaika is deserving of the St. Timothy Award for her ability and willingness to serve the church and the community. She volunteers even when there’s nothing in return for her. She continues to participate in YES youth group as an upper classman, volunteers in service projects, and she sings during Sunday Mass and the Stations of the Cross. At Shawnee High School, she is a part of National Honor Society.

“She is a kind young lady and a joy to be around,” Kotowski said, then added that one of her favorite memories of Melaika was when she became a host for their Disney Family Feud Game.

“She was awesome, and everyone was laughing,” Kotowski said. “She is a wonderful gift to our parish, and I look forward to seeing her light shine throughout our community.”

 

Mary Catherine Harvey

St. Michael, West End

Father John Butler, pastor, who nominated Mary Catherine for the St. Timothy Award, noted that he has known Mary Catherine and her family since 2015.

“Mary Catherine is extremely active in parish life in multiple capacities as an every Sunday Mass-goer, as an altar server and lector at our Sunday Masses, and as a volunteer catechist in our children’s religious education program.”

In addition, Father Butler finds Mary Catherine to be always cheerful, enthusiastic and on-time at all parish events and commitments. Her other activities and accomplishments include honor student, president of the National Honor Society chapter at her high school, yearbook editor, varsity sports, intern for a U.S. Congressman, summer employment and many others.

Father Butler noted that Mary Catherine will attend the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md., as a first-year student in the fall.

“We are extremely proud of her here at St. Michael's,” he said.

 

Adrianna Kappmeier

St. Mary Parish, Barnegat

Adrianna "AJ" has been an active member of the youth group since 2015, according to parish youth minister Kait Ryan.

“She is dependable and dedicated to all that she does,” said Ryan, citing that AJ has assisted with VBS [Vacation Bible School), Lenten fish frys and the parish carnival among many other services.

“She is always ready to share her faith and serve with a smile,” Ryan said, noting that AJ's favorite youth group activity was the Live Stations of the Cross.

AJ is a member of her school's soccer, basketball and softball teams and she also plays travel soccer. AJ will continue her education at Houghton College, New York, where she will study music education.

“AJ is looking forward to all the ways she'll be able to share her faith.” Ryan said.

 

Isabel Lindsay

St. Benedict, Holmdel

"Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father" (Matthew 5:16).

That Scripture passage comes to mind as Ciro Saverino, coordinator of youth ministry, describes the attributes of St. Timothy Award nominee, Isabel Lindsay.

Calling her “a bright and shining light in our community,” Severino said Isabel started out serving as an acolyte for Sunday Mass, and now she serves as a reader and is a regular volunteer with the Confirmation prep program on Sunday nights.

“Isabel has been an amazing witness to her younger sister, and of course, all of her peers,” Saverino said. “She has edified the whole community with her grace, humility and piety.”

“Thank you, Izzy!” Saverino added. “Blessings on the next part of your journey. We are so proud of you.”

 

Justin Martinez

Holy Cross, Rumson

Justin was the catalyst for reinstating the youth group in Holy Cross Parish. He has already helped with Operation Tourniquet, Blessings Bags and a food drive for mothers in need.

Justin, according to the youth minister who nominated him for the St. Timothy Award, is also an athlete and leader in his high school.

“He is outstanding,” the parish youth minister stated.

 

Samantha Martinez

St. Justin the Martyr, Toms River

Deacon Frederick C. Ebenau, parish youth coordinator, described Samantha as a “very dedicated individual who is very involved with not only the youth group but also with outside activities.” She is also an altar server and has assisted with the parish’s Summer Bible Program for the younger religious education students.

“She is a very faith-filled individual and comes from a very close faith-filled family,” he said. “She is very friendly and very involved with the youth group.”

Deacon Ebenau noted that Samantha loves to dance, and she just celebrated her Sweet 16th Birthday.

 

Anthony Newcomb

Visitation, Brick

Parish catechetical leader Joanne Martone spoke of Anthony being a member of the parish music ministry for many years; he had leadership roles in Vacation Bible School, and he is a catechist. When he’s not serving his parish, he might be found playing a favorite sport at school – football.

“He never hesitates to help and is always eager to offer ideas,” Martone said. “He is a true witness to his faith. He lives out his faith fearlessly.”

 

Tristan Nguyen

St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold/St. Rose High School, Belmar

Nick Petrillo, the campus minister in St. Rose High School, Belmar, who nominated Tristan for the St. Timothy Award, described Tristan as a “student that stands out in matters of faith.

“He not only excels in academic pursuits but engages in the liturgy,” Petrillo said, noting that Tristan was a faithful altar server and a dedicated extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. During the pandemic, Tristan would attend Mass and operate the camera for the livestream.

“His dedication to the faith is admirable and worthy of imitation,” Petrillo said.

 

Maura Owen O’Boyle

St. George, Titusville

Lisa Ann Limongello, parish catechetical leader and youth minister, said that Maura has been an active teen at St. George for years.

“She is our lead altar server, constantly steps up with her peers, and serves her community well,” said Limongello, who also serves St. James Parish, Pennington, and St. Alphonsus Parish, Hopewell. Maura has been a member of the youth group, IGNITE, since it started back up, and she always helps to coordinate all major youth group sponsored parish events.

“She is a joy to have around and a true example of faith in action,” Limongello said, then added, “Maura has a super fun sense of humor, and she loves to make people smile. She always steps up when someone needs her, and she cares a lot about others. She's taken on a peer leader role as an older teen in our youth group.”

 

Daisy V. Urbano-Ortiz

Mother of Mercy, Asbury Park

“We can always count on her,” Mother of Mercy Parish youth minister Laura Cortes said in her nomination of this year’s St. Timothy Award recipient.

“Daisy is always willing to participate and volunteer,” Cortes said, sharing that Daisy started out as an altar server and a member of our youth ministry and now she helps coordinate the altar server ministry.  “Daisy is kind, intelligent and selfless,” Cortes said, then added that Daisy is a member of the National Honor Society in her school and that she “loves anime and loves to dance.”

 

Cara Rand

St. Barnabas, Bayville

“Cara Rand is an active member of our parish, here at St. Barnabas,” said youth ministry leader Timothy M. Blumensteel. As a youth, she was an altar server and, as a teenager, was an energetic member of the BATs Youth Ministry.

Blumensteel remarked on how Cara enjoys making her peers laugh, “yet is kind and welcoming to new members.”

He noted that Cara is the first young lady to ever play the part of Jesus in a Living Stations presentation. She is currently looking forward to the youth ministry's summer programs and moving up to the young adult program, as well, he said.

Cara is currently the only youth group member to graduate from high school this year and she plans on starting college in the fall.

 

Declan Sales

St. Anselm, Wayside

Parish coordinator of religious education Fran Burke cited a lengthy list of Declan Sales’ accomplishments.

Besides being an altar server twice a month, participating in the Cardboard Box City Sleepover each year and volunteering with Family Promise when St Anselm was hosting, Declan is a member of the Order of the Arrow in Boy Scouts which is the honor society of Scouting that focuses on cheerful service to others. On service weekends members of the OA help maintain Scout facilities by setting up tents, clearing paths, painting structures, etc.

Burke was proud to add that in religious education classes Declan “always has had the right answers.”

 

Erin Saxe

St. Catherine Laboure, Middletown

Erin has been an active member of the parish Youth Group and Family Events for many years, according Theresa Gibilisco, parish coordinator of Youth and Family Events and youth minister, who nominated Erin for the St. Timothy Award.

“Erin,” Gibilisco continued, “brings to the parish her love for life, enthusiasm, dedication and commitment to anything she is involved in. She always goes the extra mile and never fails to show up when extra help is needed.”

A fun fact about Erin, Gibilisco noted, is that if Erin is unavailable to help out with an event or activity, there is a good chance she is in Disney World.

“Erin has been to Disney in Florida 26 times in 16 years,” Gibilisco said. “It was always the special spot where she went often with her mother and grandmother to spend time together.”

 

Ryan Schiller

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Whiting

Lori Downing, who nominated Ryan for the St. Timothy Award, reflected on how Ryan embraces his faith with gentle, friendly joy.

“He serves faithfully as a senior altar server and is an enthusiastic member of youth group,” Downing said. “His behavior is always exemplary. He is a gentle and humble soul that is compassionate, joyful and engaging. His joy is contagious.”

Downing noted that Ryan is a longtime plant enthusiast and that he will be majoring in horticulture. He is also an avid aquarist (keeper of fish aquariums), he said.

 

Caroline Speck

St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold

The way Jeanne Marinello, the youth minister in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral sees it, “Caroline is the epitome of what the St Timothy Award is all about. From the time she joined the youth group in eighth grade, Caroline blazed a trail focused on faith and community service,” said Jeanne Marinello.

Noting that Caroline was so inspired by the community service endeavors the youth group participates in, she was motivated to meet with school administrators and helped found the Blessing Bag Brigade Club in Freehold Township High School.

“Today many more high schools have a Blessing Bag Brigade Club but Caroline broke the ground to create the template,” Marinello said.

Caroline will attend the University of South Carolina and participate in the competitive business program as well as the Honors College there in September.

“Caroline always has been interested in helping others and she gives 300 percent to everything she does,” Marinello said. “I am extremely proud of Caroline and all of her accomplishments – the sky is the limit for this wonderful young lady.”