Begun during the Jubilee Year of Mercy in 2015, Catholic Charities’ Disciples of Mercy Awards recognize outstanding individuals and ministries who exemplify mercy by reaching out to those who are poor and vulnerable. They will be presented alongside the guest honoree, Sister Norma Pimentel, M.J., executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, at the Justice for All Awards Dinner on Thursday, Oct. 4.
The awards dinner annually benefits the work of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Camden while also honoring the tremendous service of individuals and organizations in the diocese. Below are this year’s honorees:
The Compassionate Outreach Ministry — Saint Andrew the Apostle Parish, Gibbsboro
The Compassionate Outreach Ministry at Saint Andrew the Apostle is a diverse group of parishioners who respond to the needs of the poor and vulnerable through fulfilling the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The ministry has prepared, collected and served thousands of meals for the guests at Joseph’s House of Camden, New Visions Homeless Day Shelter and local families in need or facing crises.
The Compassionate Outreach Ministry has collected hundreds of pounds of clothing, food, furniture and household items which are given to needy parishioners, members of the local community, those in homeless shelters, elderly and disabled veterans, refugees and the sick. The group also offers mentoring, counseling and employment assistance for inmates through the Prison Ministry. Its Nursing Home Companion program has conducted over 2,000 face-to-face visits with nursing home residents who have no other visitors besides these ministry volunteers. The team has collected and delivered over 5,400 diapers and baby items to local agencies, educating at-risk mothers about parenting skills.
Yearly back-to-school drives are held to collect school supplies for needy students. The ministry coordinates a Christmas Giving Tree every year to provide gifts to individuals and families struggling financially.
These efforts have directly improved the lives of thousands of individuals living on the margins of society in South Jersey, while inspiring others to do the same.
Dennis Chang — Saint Simon Stock Parish, Berlin
Dennis Chang is an active member of his parish, as well as a leader of the Saint Vincent De Paul Society since 1998. He functions not only as the Thrift Store manager, but also as the director of combined services — a title that the society conferred on Chang in recognition of his extensive involvement to the organization.
Chang grew up in Fiji, where he and his family were recipients of assistance from the Saint Vincent de Paul Society. According to one of his fellow parishioners, “Dennis has never forgotten the kindness of others that helped his family. From that early age, Dennis learned the concept of empathy.”
He is a parish leader who inspires many others to join the society, often reminding them that every person who comes through the doors of the ministry office represents Jesus, and that by serving these individuals, they are serving him. Chang recognizes the God-given dignity of every person, treating those of all walks of life as equal brothers and sisters.
As another member of the society explains, “Dennis reminds us how humbling it can be for people to come to us and ask for help, and how people who are poor or in need deserve to be treated with dignity just like everyone else, and it is not easy to seek help. Dennis truly walks the walk with the poor while holding their hand any time, day or night.”
Katherine Golden — Catholic Community of the Holy Spirit, Mullica Hill
Katherine Golden has a commitment to serving the homeless of her community. For the last 12 years, she has worked within the Compassionate Care ministry of her parish to support the Family Promise Organization of Gloucester County, an organization which houses displaced families in Gloucester County through the congregations in the area. These efforts have brought shelter and comfort to hundreds of families over the years.
Golden coordinates the dates for hosting the homeless at her parish, gathers the volunteers and provides them with training prior to the guests’ arrival. She manages the set up and clean-up, from making the beds to setting up the family dining room. She is also on-site for the majority of the time during the weeks the Catholic Community of the Holy Spirit is serving as host for the families. Golden shows compassion toward the guests, and is devoted to the growth of the program within the parish.
She is a leader and a mobilizer of volunteers and parishioners. Golden is also a member of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.
According to a parishioner, “She is a wonderful ambassador for our Catholic faith as she works together with different churches in our area in service to those in need. Katherine’s entire persona radiates the love of Jesus to everyone she encounters in her ministry. Her gift of hospitality is the same even after all these years of service, offering respect and gratitude to each person she encounters. We are blessed by her steadfast example of how a life offered in love and mercy to others can truly make a difference in our world.”
Harry Cherico — Saint Katherine Drexel Parish, Egg Harbor Township
Harry Cherico of Saint Katherine Drexel Parish has displayed a life-long dedication to his parish, the community, the diocese and the church. Cherico earned a master’s degree in pastoral theology, and has put his education and knowledge to use in many ways. He has led parish prayer groups for 41 years, helping his fellow parishioners grow in their faith.
Since 2009, he has shown dedication to fulfilling the corporal work of mercy, “visiting the incarcerated,” and serving as the prison ministry coordinator to the Atlantic County Correctional Facility. Cherico also serves as a lifelong faith formation co-facilitator, and served as a Parish Council member for six years.
Cherico’s efforts go beyond his parish community through his role as the local coordinator and instructor for the Church Ministry Institute of Camden, which provides lay men and women with a foundation in theological studies, pastoral skills and spiritual development, in preparation for service within their parishes. Through this work, Cherico fostered a greater knowledge and deeper appreciation of the Catholic Church and its teachings, and to promote more active participation by Catholics in the diocese in the saving mission of the church by building up the Body of Christ in the home, workplace and the world.
Saint Mary Social Justice Ministers (Bill Schulze, Donna Esler, Midge and Leo Winkel, Tim and Gemma Wilson) — The Catholic Church of Saint Mary, Cherry Hill
These individuals comprise the leadership team of Saint Mary’s Social Justice Ministry and are responsible for coordinating all of the parish’s efforts to serve others through their outreach services and programs. Together, they provide coordination for the IHOC (Interfaith Hospitality Outreach Council), which annually houses 12 men in transition in the parish hall for two weeks, offering shelter and support for homeless men for the past 32 years.
Additionally, these ministers fulfill the corporal work of mercy — feeding the hungry — through their involvement in the Cherry Hill Food Pantry, where they staff the pantry, coordinate volunteers and spearhead food drives all year long. The members of this team also raise awareness of various social justice issues, such as offering support for refugees, and securing and selling free trade products every month for the past 10 years. They provide the support, direction, creativity and energy needed to keep the mission of service to others thriving in their parish and in their community.
Julianna Lovett Roche — Notre Dame de la Mer Parish, Wildwood
Julianna Roche, a recent graduate of Wildwood Catholic High School and a parishioner of Notre Dame de la Mer Parish, has demonstrated her passionate commitment to securing human rights and improving communities local and worldwide. She’s traveled to Haiti three times for Hand to Hand Mission, where she worked to supply seven local schools with supplies to help improve the educational opportunities of over 1,500 children. She plans to return to further her involvement in longer-term projects, such as ensuring that the country has access to clean water.
As a delegate of the Student Leadership Conference on development at the United Nations headquarters for four years, she has collaborated with students from around the world to research and recommend plans to achieve the U.N.’s goals for sustainability.
In a supervisory role, Roche has worked with peers exploring migration, innovation and education related to climate change. Most recently, she received the first ever Award for Excellence at the annual Student Leadership Conference on Development at the United Nations, an award that will be forever named after her, for her dedication to the organization’s mission to “bringing the world to the classroom.” Beginning in 2019, future recipients will receive the award in her name.
Roche is currently enrolled in the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange, a program that places 250 American students in Germany for 10 months as youth ambassadors. She plans to pursue a career in international development, or a related field, to address global issues and continue her plans of working toward securing human rights for all, near and far.
The Catholic Community of Christ our Light — Cherry Hill
This year’s Justice for All Awards Dinner takes place at the mid-point of the two-year “Share the Journey” campaign launched by Pope Francis in September 2017. The campaign calls for Catholics to support migrants and refugees, as it aims to raise awareness about their plight worldwide. The pope is calling Catholics to share a journey with their neighbors, regardless of how they look, speak or pray. In this spirit, the Catholic Community of Christ our Light and its pastoral associate for justice and community outreach, Pat Slater, will be honored with the Share the Journey Award for extraordinary witness to migrants and refugees and enhancing a culture of encounter in the Diocese of Camden.
The parish has been an inspiring and exemplary leader in the Share the Journey Campaign, hosting World Refugee Day 2018 for the diocese, sponsoring a potluck gathering for migrants and parishioners, sending parishioners on mission to Guatemala, participating in local community-organizing projects around immigration reform, and more. Living in South Jersey are many of the world’s most vulnerable people: migrants and refugees fleeing war, poverty and persecution, people who seek nothing more than basic needs and a path forward. The Catholic Community of Christ our Light has displayed unwavering commitment to “welcoming the stranger” and creating a culture of encounter.
The Justice for All Awards Dinner will be held on Thursday, October 4, at 5:30 p.m. at Resorts Hotel.
For tickets, sponsorships and more information, visit: www.CatholicCharitiesCamden.org/JFA2018