Guadalupe Alcala, 17, is the recipient of the St. Timothy Award. (LINDA REEVES|FC)

Grads celebrated during a special Mass

PALM BEACH GARDENS | Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito celebrated a Mass this month for young people graduating from high schools here in the diocese. Celebrations included special recognitions, the giving of certificates and the presentation of a national award to one outstanding role model of faith.

“We are so happy to be with you and to celebrate you,” said Bishop Barbarito as he welcomed all and began the Mass May 6 at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola in Palm Beach Gardens. “You are what we need — hope for the future. May God bless all of you wonderful people.”

Nearly 50 high school graduates from across the diocese attended the annual Mass organized by the Office of Catechetical Leadership, Youth and Young Adult Ministry. Friends and family attended the celebration along with members of the cathedral parish and other parishes.

Special guests included Salesian Father Timothy Zak, provincial of the Salesians Canada and eastern United States province. He was accompanied by Father Matthew DeGance, pastor of St. Phillip Benizi Parish in Belle Glade. The two priests concelebrated the Mass.

A highlight of the afternoon was the presentation of the 2018 St. Timothy Award. Father DeGance was all smiles when the recipient was announced because the national award went to his nominee, Guadalupe Alcala of St. Phillip Benizi.

Guadalupe, 17, grew up at the parish. She comes from a large family of seven children ages 7 to 24. She teaches second-graders at religious education programs at her parish, and over the years has assisted at the parish’s winter and summer youth camps. The teen also helps out at the parish oratory program for 5- to 13-year-olds from the parish and community at large. She has participated in leadership programs, continuing to strengthen her skills and participated in a mission in Haiti, where she served orphans and poor elderly.

“I am excited about the award,” she said. “I see it as a gift for my community.”

Guadalupe praised Father DeGance for his encouragement and guidance to get involved. “He has ignited me. He really helped me. I hope to come back to Belle Glade after school to help others,” she said.

Guadalupe plans to attend Florida State University in Tallahassee, and her dream is to become a physical therapist. Even though she will be on a new path and far away from home, she hopes to continue to grow in faith and service as she ventures on campus and meets new people. She explained that she will continue to stick to her motto: “Study hard and pray harder.”

“I want to make my faith stronger,” she said.