Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

StJosMedal_2282Mary Altieri, 98, gives Archbishop Henry J. Mansell cookies (Click here to check out the photo gallery by Jack Sheedy)

HARTFORD – It started 10 years ago when 125 outstanding parishioners from all over the Archdiocese of Hartford were honored for their service. The number of St. Joseph Medal of Appreciation recipients has grown steadily since 2002, and on March 18 – the eve of the Feast of Saint Joseph – a record-setting 210 people accepted the award during a ceremony at the Cathedral of St. Joseph.

Recipients are honored yearly for demonstrating Christian values and for sharing their talents and services with their parishes.

"You make our parishes so much different, so much better," said Archbishop Henry J. Mansell. "Most of us don’t know [what you do] because you do it, for the most, part so quietly."

He said that when pastors write to him with their recommendations for the medal recipients, they write on the backs of the recommendation forms, in the margins and on extra sheets of paper. One letter said, "He does everything but celebrate Mass in our parish." Another said of a couple who were recommended, "They do everything. They don’t know how to say no." Still another pastor wrote, "I don’t know what I would do in this parish without this person."

These are the people, the archbishop said, who open the doors of the church in the morning and close them at night. They do landscaping and gardening, take care of vestments, sing in the choirs, maintain Web sites and help with finances. They visit the home-bound and those in hospitals, nursing homes and prisons.

"You make it possible to bring them Communion every day," he said.

"You know what it means to respond through the work of your parish. We know that you’re responding to God and to God’s message to us and God’s love for us," he said.

"You did not get this [medal] by accident. You did it through hard work, dedication, loyalty to your parish and love," he said.

He singled out Mary Altieri, a parishioner at St. Francis Church in New Haven, who is still active at age 98. Mrs. Altieri coordinates a ministry that creates crosses from the palms of Palm Sunday. "She’s also a tremendous cook, and I can verify that in person," Archbishop Mansell said.

After the ceremony, Mrs. Altieri presented Archbishop Mansell with a plate of homemade cookies.

Catherine McQueeney, a medal recipient from Our Lady of Mercy Church in Plainville, said, "I’ve been involved as long as I’ve been old enough. I’ve been a lifetime member of the parish. We used to have a school, and I was very active in the school, and then when the school closed, I became more active in the parish itself."

She said she teaches the baptism preparation program and summer Bible school, works in the gift program, is a lector in the children’s liturgy and is an altar server for funerals.

Armand Roy is proud to be a member of Knights of Columbus Council 18 at St. Thomas Church in Thomaston, a council started by the Knights’ founder, the Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney. He is also a Fourth Degree Knight in Torrington, where he is a past faithful navigator and current color corps commander.

He and his wife, Diane, are extraordiniary ministers of holy Communion at St. Thomas. He is also an altar server and works in scouting. A retired electrician, he also has done much electrical work at the church.

When he received the letter from the archbishop, "I was kind of surprised. I wasn’t looking for it. I went over to see [pastor] Father Robert Grant and I said, ‘Who’s the culprit that put me in for this?’"

Ann Wroblewski, of Our Lady of Grace Church in Bantam, accepted medals for herself and her husband, Boguslaw Wroblewski, who could not attend.

"I had no idea we were recommended," she said. "We got the letter from the archbishop and we were shocked but very honored."

She said she is a member of the parish council, and her husband is in the Knights of Columbus. She is also an extraordinary minister and volunteers in other areas where needed. "We also clean the church once a month," she added.

"I was surprised and shocked because I just consider it normal and my duty, and I didn’t expect any reward or recognition. It’s nothing that big," she said.

Patricia MacDonald, of St. Mary Church in Branford, said she was surprised because there are so many others at the parish who do a lot. "I was very shocked and embarrassed and didn’t even tell anyone about it until I was forced to. It was very touching," she said.

She is a lector, extraordinary minister, coordinator of the ministry to the home-bound and a helper with religious education and Bible study. She also helps count the collection.

Everyone who remarked on their reactions to receiving the medal used the word "shocked," including Cheryl Zukowski, a parishioner at Sacred Heart Church, part of the Torrington Cluster of Roman Catholic Parishes.

"I was shocked," she said. "I just figured there were others who worked very hard at doing the church stuff, and I didn’t expect it. I’m in Angels of Hospitality, so we do a lot of fund-raising and I run a lot of the events."

But, there are many other angels and ministers of hospitality in the group who could easily have been chosen, she said. "We all work as a team, and we work very hard," she said.

Click here to see list of recipients.