Servant Leadership Awards were conferred to 35 high school and college students by the Congregation of the Sisters of Saints Cyril and Methodius. The presentations were made in a ceremony May 16 at St. Augustine’s parish in Larchmont, where all of the award recipients are parishioners.
“The commonality, particularly this past year, and even before the pandemic, is that these young people always want to reach out and serve others,” Sister Suzanne Duzen, SS.C.M., the parish’s director of religious education, told Catholic New York.
“And we want to recognize that. It came from an idea of helping young people to recognize what their vocation might be; not necessarily for the religious life, but in serving others you find out much more about yourself and what you might want to do as a follower of Christ. I nominated these 35 young people. I know them. They're all from our parish. Most of the 35 have quite a repertoire of services.”
Sister Suzanne also noted, “We started this in 2003 at our motherhouse in Danville, Pa. We have it there every year on the last Sunday of October (for young people from local dioceses). But in the past few years, we have decided to move it out to other places where our sisters are...We have given this award out to other teens and young adults in other dioceses, but this is the first time that we are doing this in the Archdiocese of New York. I’m the only sister of my community in the whole state. So it’s really coming from my community’s idea.”
She said the award is normally given to juniors and seniors in high school, but that she asked the congregation to include young adults in college, since this was the first time within the New York Archdiocese. “They have been with me all this time working and serving; most of them have served as catechists, but they’ve also done so many other kinds of services,” added Sister Suzanne, who noted the award focuses on teens who have remained active in their faith beyond confirmation.
The recognition came by way of a certificate, a mentor pin and a towel. The towels, which have the initials of the congregation, symbolize the Gospel gesture of service when Jesus washed the feet of the apostles. The award recipients took turns going to the microphone to speak two sentences about a mentor. They presented the pins to their mentors, “in honor of inspiring them and being that mentor for them,” Sister Suzanne said.
Sofia Fonti, 18, a senior at Rye Country Day School, was among the award recipients. She has served the parish as a catechist filming weekly segments on the Gospels for virtual sessions. She also participates in the parish Midnight Run (homeless outreach), food pantry and Advent wreath sales. Her biggest accomplishment has been working at Good Counsel Homes for homeless pregnant women and their children, in Spring Valley and the Bronx.
“I’m incredibly honored to receive this award. I feel very grateful for the opportunity to have worked with Sister Suzanne this past year as a catechist,” Sofia told CNY. “I highly encourage people to reach out and to use the gifts that God gave them to help other people.” Sofia gave her mentor pin to her father, Joseph.
Kerry Soropoulos, 19, a graduate of Mamaroneck High School, is now a freshman at Boston College majoring in political science and economics. He served the parish as a catechist while in high school. While in high school, he was on the student council and president of the school chapter of the National Honor Society.
“I am extremely honored,” Kerry said of being a recipient of the award, adding that it was important for him to help youngsters in “getting involved in their faith, in the formation of their faith.” Kerry gave the mentor pin to his mother, Amanda.