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Feature News | Monday, November 13, 2023

'That’s our community, and they had a need'

Here's how some honorees felt after receiving Jubilaeum Cross at anniversary service

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MIAMI | Here are a few other reactions from parishioners who received the Jubilaeum Cross at the vespers service Oct. 22, 2023 at St. Mary Cathedral.

“I was in shock” on hearing she and her husband, George, would receive the honor, said Denise Pasvantis of St. Ambrose Church, Deerfield Beach. “We never did it for recognition. We did it just because that’s our community, and they had a need.”

Still, a lot of children have learned the faith in her religious education and confirmation classes at St. Ambrose. And a lot of people have been fed at the many occasions – breakfasts, fish fries, dinner dances, school functions – at which George has cooked.

“Volunteering feels like more of a blessing to us than to the community,” Pasvantis said.

Carl Lowell and Ely Fleites from Epiphany Church receive the Jubilaeum Cross from Archbishop Thomas Wenski during the Archdiocese of Miami's 65th anniversary vespers service, Oct. 22, 2023, at St. Mary Cathedral. They were accompanied by their pastor, Father Jose Alvarez.

Photographer: JONATHAN MARTINEZ | FC

Carl Lowell and Ely Fleites from Epiphany Church receive the Jubilaeum Cross from Archbishop Thomas Wenski during the Archdiocese of Miami's 65th anniversary vespers service, Oct. 22, 2023, at St. Mary Cathedral. They were accompanied by their pastor, Father Jose Alvarez.

Carl Lowell of Epiphany Church, Miami, understood the feeling, too. “I'm honored, but I'm not worthy. So many people do so many things here. It’s impossible to honor everybody who dedicates time to the church.”

An Epiphany member since 1977, Lowell is an extraordinary minister of Communion and an advocate for marriage annulments. He and his wife are among a half-dozen people who count offering receipts. And he coaches baseball at Epiphany School.

But he says his service is “not heroic. I have a theory that you can't give out happiness if you're not happy yourself. And I enjoy what I do.”

Patricia O'Neill at St. Gregory Church, Plantation, took the Jubilaeum honor more in stride. “We always feel that way when we’re singled out. It’s not why we do what we do.”

Worshiping at St. Gregory since 1971, O'Neill has coordinated and trained lectors. She's also served as an extraordinary minister of Communion. And she launched the church’s program for adult converts, RCIA, in 1992.

She previously received the archdiocese’s Primum Regnum Dei, and she likewise treasures her new Jubilaeum Cross pin. But for her, helping at church is its own reward.

“When we serve our church, we serve our God,” O'Neill said. “What else is there to say?”

Chien Pham and Thanh Thuy Truong from Our Lady of La Vang Vietnamese Mission receive the Jubilaeum Cross from Archbishop Thomas Wenski during the Archdiocese of Miami's 65th anniversary vespers service, Oct. 22, 2023, at St. Mary Cathedral. They were accompanied by their pastor, Father Joseph Long Nguyen.

Photographer: JONATHAN MARTINEZ | FC

Chien Pham and Thanh Thuy Truong from Our Lady of La Vang Vietnamese Mission receive the Jubilaeum Cross from Archbishop Thomas Wenski during the Archdiocese of Miami's 65th anniversary vespers service, Oct. 22, 2023, at St. Mary Cathedral. They were accompanied by their pastor, Father Joseph Long Nguyen.

James Kelley of San Pablo Church, Marathon, felt much the same. But he was mindful, as were other recipients, to spread the credit around.

“There’s nothing wrong with being named,” said Kelley, an extraordinary minister of Communion who also heads the pastoral council at the church. “A lot of people in the parish do work around here. You can't run a parish of any size without a group of volunteers.”

A retired engineer, he and his wife visited the Keys on weekends when they lived in Coral Springs. He went full-time with San Pablo more than six years ago.

“I do [church work] for the right reasons,” Kelley said. “My wife and I have had a good life. God has been good to us. We’re just giving back.”

Emma Caris Francois and Lionel Laurat from Notre Dame d'Haiti Mission receive the Jubilaeum Cross from Archbishop Thomas Wenski during the Archdiocese of Miami's 65th anniversary vespers service, Oct. 22, 2023, at St. Mary Cathedral.

Photographer: JONATHAN MARTINEZ | FC

Emma Caris Francois and Lionel Laurat from Notre Dame d'Haiti Mission receive the Jubilaeum Cross from Archbishop Thomas Wenski during the Archdiocese of Miami's 65th anniversary vespers service, Oct. 22, 2023, at St. Mary Cathedral.

Lionel Laurat remembers his plea on reaching the U.S. in 1994: “God, give me a place where I could work for you.”

When he found Notre Dame d'Haiti in Miami, he took it as an answer to his prayer. There, he serves with fellow immigrants from his homeland. Laurat heads the church’s charismatic group and works on the social committee. He handles a range of money matters for concerts, banquets and other functions, from tickets to T-shirts.

He praised the vespers service at St. Mary, where he attended with family and friends. “The service was very, very good. God is good, and God helps us so much.”

When Phil Medico was asked how he felt about receiving a Jubilaeum Cross, he told of his wife’s tragic pregnancy. Andrea was bedridden in Boca Raton for a month and a half, her life at risk. Their son Christian was born prematurely and died 10 days later.

“We lived at the hospital,” Phil recalled. What got them through were people from a nearby church who brought Communion every Sunday. The experience prompted the Medicos to become extraordinary ministers of Communion at their home church, St. Anthony in Fort Lauderdale.

“We wanted to do the same for others,” Phil said. “We want to be there for people, and allow God to be with them, and bring some peace and hope.”

Besides that work, Phil is also on the finance board and organizes charity drives for the local Knights of Columbus. It sounds like a lot, but he denies it’s a burden. “We get to know people. We feel like we’re part of a family here.

“We were shocked that we were chosen, but it was a joy and honor to be recognized for action that comes from love for God,” he added. “An authentic Christian does something even when no one is looking. But we will never forget that event for the rest of our life.”


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