By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – When Bishop John Joseph Chanche arrived in the newly formed Diocese of Natchez in May of 1841, there were no Catholic Churches, only a couple of missionary priests, and his flock was far flung. He rose to the challenge and laid the foundation for the Diocese of Jackson. The diocese honors his legacy and thanks those who continue to build on his foundation with the Bishop Chanche award for service.
This year, Bishop Joseph Kopacz and the Office of Youth Ministry awarded 11 young people the Bishop Chanche award. Due to COVID, awards were given at individual parishes. The brief descriptions on these pages come from the Bishop Chanche nomination forms and offer a glimpse into the young men and women who serve the church today.
Carolina Acosta – St. James, Tupelo
Character: Humble, committed and hardworking
Activities: Altar server, lector, Christian fellowship leader at school
School: Tupelo High School, senior
Acosta was nominated by Mary Frances Strange, director of youth ministry, who said that Acosta lives out her Catholic faith by being brave. “She is one of those people that is hard to describe, because there are few like her. This past year I offered the opportunity for the newly confirmed juniors to help as leaders their senior year. I had eight that were interested. She was one of these,” said Strange.
Acosta helps lead a small group at the parish and comes to all service projects. This year, she even assisted Strange with the Confirmation retreat. “I was so blown away by her, she was the most efficient and productive help I have ever had as a youth minister.”
Anna Elise Crout – St. Joseph,
Character: Dedicated, enthusiastic about her faith and desire for growth
Activities: Youth Lead Team, parish and school cantor and pianist, school band, volunteer at Hope Hollow Ministires and MadCAAP
School: St. Joseph Catholic School, junior
Crout was nominated by Pam Minninger, the LEM for St. Joseph Gluckstadt, who said that she reliably serves her parish and Catholic school not only by being a dedicated and enthusiastic participant, but also serves in music ministry as a talented piano player and cantor. She promotes involvement in youth events such as DCYC to her peers and serves as a youth leader on the Youth Ministry Leadership team, which involves being an example of leadership as well as conducting (adult supervised) activities for younger teens and children in St. Joseph’s parish ministries.
“We can always count on Anna to not only participate and share her talents, but to also take a lead in her role as a Youth Lead Team member and also with a genuine enthusiasm for her faith and a desire to share her love of faith with peers,” said Minninger.
Emma Rose Dickerson – St. Alphonsus,
Character: Responsible, honest and compassionate
Activities: Vacation bible school volunteer, gift bearer, Jag2jag mentoring program, Life Teen, St. Alphonsus social committee, Volunteer at many school events and at WINGS and St. Andrew’s mission
School: North Pike High School, senior
Dickerson was nominated by William Jarvis, youth minister at St. Alphonsus McComb, who described her as having a sensitive heart to those who suffer.
“Emma’s level of commitment is something that we can rely on. We know that if we need someone trustworthy and reliable, that Emma can be called upon,” said Jarvis.
Maria Garcia – St. Therese, Kosciusko
Character: Dedicated, loyal, dependable
Activities: Altar server, bilingual lector, Rosary leader, CYO president, Beta club, Spanish club, book club, member of Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) and volunteer at Shepard’s Touch Clinic
School: Kosciusko High School, senior
Garcia was nominated by Father Odel Medina, ST, pastor of St. Therese Kosciusko. “Maria deserves the Bishop Chanche award for youth because she is dedicated to help bridge the language gap between our Spanish and English-speaking congregational members. She is loyal to her duties and is dependable in all that is asked of her. She is a roll model for her family, church and community,” said Father Medina.
Garcia makes herself available to translate either verbally or written from English to Spanish or vice versa. She has a servants heart.
Father Medina also said that Garcia has encouraged and taught the younger children of the parish how to serve and participate in Mass. “She has taught several other children of the church how to serve as an altar server, say the rosary and participate in Stations of the Cross. Her positive outlook on life is infectious and others want to be around her and like her,” said Father Medina.
Kirstie Graves – St. Joseph, Meridian
Character: Integrity, honesty and selfless
Activities: Lector, choir, Panther Reads, Beta club, member of HOSA, soccer team, softball team, volunteer at Love’s Kitchen
School: Quitman High School, senior
Graves was nominated by John Harwell, office manager of St. Joseph Meridian. Harwell describes Graves as one of the most active youth at the parish and said that she helped rebuild the youth program at the parish. “She made is a priority in her life and she would always be here for the youth Mass and as many activities, programs that she was able to make. … When she starts a task, she does not stop until it is finished.”
“Kirstie is going to go on to do outstanding things as an adult but more importantly she will do her life’s work as a backdrop to her Catholic faith. I am proud to nominate her for the Bishop Chanche Youth Award,” said Harwell.
Anna Marie Lamanilao – St. Michael,
Character: Kind, generous, and faith-filled
Activities: Violinist in choir, altar server, band, retreat team, key club, Mu Alpha Theta, mentoring team, Chick-fil-A Leader Academy, camp counselor at Camp Silver Cloud
School: St. Aloysius Catholic School, senior
Lamanilao was nominated by Father Robert Dore of St. Michael Vicksburg, who describes her as a wonderful example of how today’s Catholic teenager should live her life. “She is proud to say she has faith in God and is aware of His infinite love and mercy and the blessings he has bestowed upon her,” said Father Dore.
A member of St. Michael parish since birth, she has been involved in the parish in many ways, including Bible school, youth volunteer, CYO, choir, altar server and more.
Nate Leary – St. John the Evangelist,
Character: Compassion, enthusiasm and self-discipline
Activities: Eagle scout, tennis, altar server, volunteer at Lovepacks and veterans home
School: Lafayette High School, senior
Leary was nominated by Camille Bianco of St. John Oxford and she describes him as a natural leader. “He is always willing to volunteer to help others, willing to be a ‘speaker’ for the prayer service, and willing to ask and answer questions at youth group. His enthusiasm for all he does, especially his faith, is easy to denote. The years it took him to obtain his Eagle Scout award shows that he is persistent and has self-discipline. He is fun-loving, yet serious about his faith. This combination makes him unique and he will be much-missed next year at youth group,” said Bianco.
Alida Perez – St. Joseph, Starkville
Character: Faithful, leadership and pious
Activities: Youth group, altar server, church choir, school choir, food pantry volunteer
School: Starkville High School, senior
Perez was nominated by Deacon Jeff Artigues at St. Joseph Starkville, who says that she lives her Catholic faith through her active participation in the parish’s youth group. “She’s involved … because she wants to strengthen her bond with God and her Catholic peers,” said Deacon Artigues.
Katheryn Prater – St. Francis, Madison
Character: Genuine, generous, leader
Activities: Vacation bible school team member, hospitality minister, Life Teen, cantor, music team member, Beta club, National Honor Society, volunteer at Our Daily Bread and Why Not Now
School: Madison Central High School, senior
Prater was nominated by Mary Catherine George, director of religious education at St. Francis Madison, who says it has been a privilege to work with Prater at the parish and witness her growth as a strong Christian. “She is a dependable, generous and service-oriented young lady. From my perception of her, she has shown leadership and moral character in all areas of her life,” said George.
In 2020, Prater spent countless hours preparing supplies and take-home kits for the parish’s Vacation Bible School “At-Home” program and even worked on a craft demonstration video with the program.
“Her assistance in our children’s events and youth program has been beyond helpful to me, to our staff, and to the volunteer ministers she has worked with. She makes time to serve in various ways and expects nothing in return,” said George.
Christopher Tonos – St. Joseph,
Character: Honest, dependable and committed to his call to serve as a disciple
Activities: MC at Mass, Youth group, St. Vincent de Paul volunteer, tennis
School: St. Joseph Catholic School, senior
Tonos was nominated by Father Aaron Williams and Alyssa Ingram, director of youth ministry. Ingram explained that the parish has a Confirmation class outside of the youth program, so those candidates do not generally return to the program after Confirmation but Tonos did. “He comes back every week and meetings between regular scheduled events as well, [He] does more than ‘show up,’ he steps up. The example and honest heart that he has poured out and into the youth this year has been better than I deserve,” said Ingram.
“His authentic heart for Jesus pours out of him and into whatever he is doing.”
Chase Walter – St. Jude, Pearl
Character: Steadfast in faith, humble and leader
Activities: Altar server, usher, Vacation Bible School volunteer, Youth Alpha, Richland Mayor’s Youth Council, Mu Alpha Theta, baseball
School: Richland High School, senior
Walter was nominated by Stacy Wolf, DRE for St. Jude Pearl. Wolf describes Walter as a young man with the heart of St. Joseph. “Chase stands out not because he draws attention to himself, but because of his quiet, steady faith and dependability. He sets an example for his peers and our younger children, not by his words, but by his deeds and actions. He leads by example with strength and courage,” says Wolf.
Even during the pandemic, Walter has continued to serve the parish with grace. In addition to serving as an usher and alter server on Sundays, Wolf said that he has also continued to take part in Zoom Sunday School and youth activities, despite having a very busy senior year.