Leadership, perseverance and an unwavering faith in times of adversity were among the qualities youth ministry leaders shared about this year’s St. Timothy Award honorees.

Presented annually by the Diocese’s Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, the St. Timothy Awards recognize youth who follow in the footsteps of St. Timothy – a young disciple and companion of St. Paul – by living out their faith. Nominated by their parish youth ministry leaders, these young Catholics serve as role models for involvement in their parishes, schools and local communities. There is no doubt that these faithful teens will carry on that spirit of service as they continue on to higher education opportunities.

Chelsea and Chloe Berwick, St. William the Abbot Parish, Howell

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Chelsea and her twin sister, Chloe, took over the youth group from myself and a college student and planned inspirational meetings and volunteer drives. In addition, they facilitated the creation of supportive videos and messages for the parish family. During the first few months of the public health crisis, Chelsea and Chloe organized online meetings with the youth ministry members. This provided a safe outlet for the kids to talk about their feelings and to pray together. As the months progressed and the youth group felt more comfortable, they planned “picnic and prayer” socially distanced sessions on the lawn. It was so important for the kids to see each other “in-person” and support one another while strengthening their faith. Further, they developed uplifting videos for Father Thomas Maher, the Diocese and our parish community. Also, they organized card drives and delivered them to frontline workers in the neighborhood. Finally, Chelsea and Chloe collected items for Preferred Care in Wall and dropped off four bags of supplies for the residents. Chelsea is a straight-A student in school, loves to use her camera to take pictures of nature and family, and is the starting shortstop on her 18U travel softball team. Chloe is a member of One Voice at Howell High School, an a cappella singing group. She also teaches third grade religious education at St. William the Abbot. Chloe loves to share different Bible passages and interesting Catholic apps and websites to our youth ministry Group Me.

Abigail Braile, St. Aloysius Parish, Jackson

Abby has been one of the most active members of the youth ministry since she was in seventh grade. She is a young person who consistently puts her faith into action by the way she lives her life. Abby is a kind and gentle person and is always willing to help. She is a great leader and admired by her peers. Abby has a great sense of humor, and she brings joy to everyone around her.

Evan Czenis, St. Joseph Parish, Toms River

Evan has a joyful faith that he is not afraid to share with others. He has been a faithful member of the CYGNUS Youth Group since junior high and is a senior altar server. Evan has also been an altar server with the Bishop numerous times. He is dependable, friendly, and he energetically lives out his faith. We are very proud to have Evan represent CYGNUS!!

Kasey Chonko, St. Anselm Parish, Tinton Falls

Kasey organized an “Adopt a Parishioner” program during COVID-19 to keep parishioners living alone connected to our parish. She ran a crafts for kids program during the pandemic to help parents with a break once a week all summer. With little for families to do, the children looked forward to the weekly activities delivered, and the parents looked forward to the break! She ran our summer basketball camp for our youth in 2019. She helped with a bottle cap recycling art project. She organized the classrooms before religious education began this past year. She has played on our parish basketball team for the last four years. She received Confirmation this October.

Kasey is a true leader. She organizes new programs for our church and always involves her peers in her efforts. She is a fantastic role model for the younger parishioners.

Mackenzie Dakin, St. Monica Parish, Jackson

Mackenzie has been an inspiration to many younger children in our parish for years. She has been an altar server for the past eight years and has inspired others to join that ministry. She has also delivered food from our food pantry to homebound parishioners. She volunteers while also achieving high honors from her school. She is the captain of the field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse teams at her school and on the student council. Mackenzie deserves this award because she is always willing to help others and participates with an award-winning smile and attitude. She truly lives each day to the fullest and is always compassionate to those around her.

Brianna Diaz, St. Gabriel Parish, Marlboro

Brianna is the spark that ignites our youth group. Her love of God, family and friends encourages others. As a senior, this has been a challenging time. Brianna has continued to be a positive and supportive influence on our group; her enthusiasm lights up our screens during online meetings!

Shantal Ferrer, Mother of Mercy Parish, Asbury Park

Shantal felt the call [to faith] at a very young age. She started in the children’s choir, “Cómo Jesús,” and later became a member of the youth group. She serves as a monitor at the Spanish Mass, she is always willing to help others, and she has been representing Our Lady of Guadalupe for three consecutive years in our parish play. She is a true disciple of God. As she attends Caldwell University for art therapy, I know she will accomplish all her goals because God is with her.

Marco Niro, St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel

Marco Niro has always been involved in the St. Benedict parish and school. When the high school youth group experienced a transition in leadership, and I began my work as youth ministries coordinator, Marco was there, engaged and ready to help me, the new guy. Early on I didn’t think of it, but now, a year later, I’d liken Marco to Abraham, our Father in the Faith. The faith and growth of the youth group this year all started from one person willing to answer the call. Teens can be involved in so many things other than their parish ministry. I’m eternally grateful to Marco and his family’s support to our youth ministry. Marco has recently committed to Drew University and will swim competitively for his new school!

Ann O’Boyle, Catholic Community of Hopewell Valley

Ann is a vibrant Catholic youth who actively participates in youth group and parish service projects! Always with a smile, she shares the joy and light of Christ with those around her. It has been a joy getting to know this exceptional young woman who I know has great things coming in her future!

Alyssa Roe, St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford

Alyssa is a living witness to the Gospel message of Jesus. She is kind, considerate and inclusive of others.

She has been a member of our youth ministry program since junior high school and has demonstrated her faith publicly in many ways. She helps often on collaborations with the parish Knights of Columbus and assisted at Breakfast with Santa & the Easter Bunny; served meals at the Trenton Soup Kitchen and slept out to raise awareness of teen homelessness for Covenant House.

She has served as a catechist assistant in the religious education program; attended two National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) trips; three Diocesan Youth Conferences (DYC) and currently serves as the social media chairwoman for the youth group

Throughout the coronavirus crisis, she has provided daily prayer postings on Instagram so that the young people in our parish know that God walks with them. Alyssa also attended our annual Habitat for Humanity service mission trip for the past three summers. She is always willing to lead the discussions at youth meetings and is an excellent mentor and role model for younger teens. She shares her faith willingly and can always be found at weekly Mass and even Adoration.

She is very deserving of the St. Timothy Award because just as St. Paul trusted Timothy with important assignments in the days of the early Church, Alyssa can always be relied on to lead and to pitch in wherever and whenever she is called upon. I have no doubt that she will continue to witness to the Gospel and live a life of faith.

Lauren Scott, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Whiting

Lauren is a very active youth group member and parishioner. She serves her parish as an altar server and lector, as well as her peers in her school campus ministry. I know Lauren to be faithful to the teachings of the Church, and always open to learning more. She has participated in many service activities including Good Works sponsored home repairs in Pennsylvania and serving the homeless in Atlantic City.  Lauren has a great sense of humor and is a good singer and dancer.

James Sullivan, St. Leo the Great Parish, Lincroft

James has been a member of the CYO/Ignite youth ministry for six years and has been a driving force in our group. He has been a team leader and has taken a leadership role in many instances. He is always willing to pitch in when volunteer work is needed. He has many great ideas and works well with other team members, especially with the younger teens. James has helped organize and participate in many fundraisers. He was in the theatre program for three years. He was in the National Honor Society and tutored children in Spanish. He was an officer for the American Sign Language club. He was a teacher aide as a senior for one of his teachers, Ms. Worth. He also volunteered at Atrium Senior Living. During all four years, he was working after school and on weekends. He has been able to do all this volunteer work and successfully balance his academic work as well. James applied to and was accepted at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut and will be part of their community service group as well. James has been an integral part of the St. Leo the Great community and the St. John Vianney (Holmdel) communities. He is enthusiastic about his faith and demonstrated exemplary service and leadership with our youth. We are very proud of James and thankful for all his years with us in the youth group. He will be missed as he goes to college, but we are confident he will come back to share his college experiences with our high school teens next year!

Isabella Thompson, St. Veronica Parish, Howell

Isabella has been a member of the St. Veronica youth group for more than three years. She is also an altar server. Isabella is an aide in our religious education program, helping to prepare grade 2 students for First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion. She has also helped with the Giving Tree at Christmas and with the junior youth group when needed. Isabella truly lives her Catholic faith and puts it into action through her kindness, patience and service to others. Isabella shows artistic ability and is also known for her cookies and brownies, which are always appreciated by her fellow youth group attendees!

Mirelis Villegas, St. Joseph Parish, Trenton

Mirelis joined the youth group about four years ago. Since then, she has been an active leader in the youth group. She is always willing to serve in any capacity and truly loves to serve others. Mirelis is recognized by other people as having extraordinary faith and is truly a conduit of grace for the young Church. Our youth group is fortunate to have such an exceptional girl. Mirelis has an amazing sense of humor and can instantly make others laugh. This young lady is full of happiness and joy and loves to spread it around.

Maeve Westhoven, St. Teresa of Calcutta, Bradley Beach

Maeve Katherine Westhoven is a faith-filled young woman who has spent the majority of her 18 years serving God. Maeve began altar serving when she was in third grade. She was a reliable and excellent server. In fact, when she was in eighth grade, she assisted our pastor in training new altar servers. Once she entered high school, Maeve began to serve as a lector at Sunday Masses. As well as her involvement in weekly Masses, Maeve attended, then later became a helper, at our parish’s VBS program. She also participated in the parish Teen Arise Program, and the high school youth group.

Maeve attended St. Catharine School, Spring Lake, from kindergarten through grade 8. She went on to St. Rose High School, Belmar, and graduated in June with her sights set on The Catholic University of America, Washington, to study nursing. Throughout the past several years, Maeve has been battling some health issues pertaining to her legs that doctors have had a difficult time diagnosing. She has undergone seven surgeries on her legs, many of which were trial and error. Her life changed greatly, as she was an avid basketball player, and was not able to play for her high school’s girls’ basketball team. Rather, Maeve supported her team by working as the team manager. The surgeries also meant a lot of time out of school for recovery.

Amazingly, Maeve’s health issues have drawn her closer to God. She truly trusts that he has a plan for her life, and these issues and surgeries are all part of his greater plan. Her intentions of joining the health care profession are so that she can help others like her who struggle. What a gift of faith she has to be able to recognize at her young age that there is a reason behind her suffering. It makes sense that Maeve chose the name Faith as her Confirmation name, as it has been her faith that has gotten her through challenges. It has also been her faith that has led her to be a positive role model in her parish and school communities.