More than 200 students received the Bishop’s Youth Award at Saint Jude Parish in Mountain Top on April 4, 2022. (Photo/Dan Gallagher)

WILLIAMSPORT – Nearly 600 young adults in the Diocese of Scranton recently received honors for providing service to their parishes, schools and communities.

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, handed out the Bishop’s Youth Award to 596 recipients at four different Masses beginning on March 28. The Masses took place in East Stroudsburg, Scranton, Mountain Top and Williamsport.

“These young people have been of service to their parish or community in a multitude of ways and are very worthy of this recognition,” Jacki Douglas, Director of Word and Lifelong Faith Formation in the Diocesan Office for Parish Life, said.

Since 1996, the Bishop’s Youth Award has recognized young people in eighth and 12th grade for their exemplary practice of faith and for their commitment to serve others. Pastors, parish life coordinators, principals, faith formation directors or youth ministers nominate students for the award.

“I think that the awards being given out this year are particularly significant. We’re just ending two very challenging years in our world, our society, our church and our families,” Bishop Bambera said. “You have all made a difference in somebody else’s life. I know I speak for your families and your pastors in saying how proud I am of all of you.”

Award recipients stand during Mass at Saint Joseph the Worker Parish in Williamsport April 6, 2022. (Photo/Eric Deabill)

Luz Pomaquiza, a 12th grade student and parishioner of Saint Matthew Parish in East Stroudsburg, received the award for serving as a reader, altar server, choir member and youth group participant at her church.

“I like being able to help anyway I can,” Pomaquiza said. “You grow as a person as well.”

Zyrus Hernandez also received the Bishop’s Youth Award from Saint Matthew Parish. He helps serve meals to those in need and participates in parish fundraisers.

“It’s very humbling,” Hernandez explained of his time serving the less fortunate. “It was really an eye opener for me. It definitely allowed me to see the world differently and allowed me to see it through other people’s eyes. I’m going off to college this September and I plan on continuing service through my college’s service program and its ministry programs.”

Michelle Pierce, a senior of Saint John Neumann High School in Williamsport and parishioner of Resurrection Parish in Muncy, also received the award.

“It’s really gratifying to help other people and those who are in need,” she said of her efforts to collect food for the Ronald McDonald House in Danville.

“I feel blessed every single day that I can get the things I need. I have clothes, I have food, I have shelter, but I think it’s so important to give other people those basic needs as well.”

Award recipients serve as gift bearers at Saint Matthew Parish in East Stroudsburg March 28, 2022. (Photo/Shannon Kowalski)

Brendan Dincher received the Bishop’s Youth Award for teaching elementary students about their faith at Saint Joseph the Worker Parish in Williamsport.

“Before COVID, we used to teach a class for fifth and sixth graders about the faith and lead them on service projects to let them get out there and enjoy it,” he said.

Each of the students receiving the Bishop’s Youth Award gets a special pin as a symbol of the way they have contributed to the mission of our Church by touching the lives of others in real and meaningful ways.

Michael Grandzol, an eighth grade student at Saint Jude School in Mountain Top, received his Bishop Youth Award for his participation in boy scouts, as well being an altar server and partaking in the music ministry at Saint Jude School.

“In Scripture, Jesus washed the feet of the disciples and he said ‘serve other people’ and I feel like that is what I’m doing being an altar server or whatever else I do,’ Grandzol explained. “I know I’ve gotten a lot out of the Church.”

Erin Barno, a senior at Crestwood High School, says her service efforts have helped her remain a morally grounded person.

“A lot of times you see young people worship things on social media or worship things on the internet and that is not really what we should be looking towards. We should be looking towards our relationship with God and strengthening our connection with him,” she explained.

Molly White, who serves as student body president at Holy Cross High School, received the Bishop’s Youth Award for her service efforts as well.

“When you start to serve others, the way Jesus served others, that is when you really start to connect to your faith on a deeper level,” she explained.

“Actions speak louder than words and I think through service, that is one of the best actions you can take to living out your faith. It’s a humbling action, it’s a grounding action!”