Seventy youth honored with St. Maria Goretti Youth Distinction

Bishop Joseph M. Siegel receives the gifts from honorees Gus Hagedorn and Avari Schneider both of Christ the King Parish in Ferdinand. The Message photo by Megan Erbacher

For a video of the event, click here

By John Rohlf

The Message assistant editor 

Over 600 people packed St. Benedict Cathedral in Evansville Sunday afternoon to help honor the 70 recipients of the 2024 St. Maria Goretti Youth Distinction. 

A Mass and awards ceremony were held March 17 at St. Benedict Cathedral. Bishop Joseph M. Siegel celebrated the Mass, with 22 priests concelebrating the 2 p.m. Mass. Mallory Kempf of St. Philip Parish in Posey County and Raymundo Santizo of Holy Rosary Parish in Evansville served as lectors of the Mass. Gus Hagedorn and Avari Schneider, both of Christ the King Parish in Ferdinand, served as gift bearers.

Bishop Joseph M. Siegel delivers his homily during the March 17 Mass celebration for the St. Maria Goretti Youth Distinction honorees. The Message photo by Megan Erbacher

Bishop Siegel focused part of his homily during the Mass on St. Maria Goretti. He said St. Maria Goretti carried the crosses of her life with patience and hope, along with a level of maturity beyond her 11 years. Bishop Siegel stressed despite having a difficult childhood in which she grew up in poverty, she was a happy and joyful girl. He stressed this joy was rooted in her love for Jesus.

Bishop Siegel added St. Maria Goretti’s life was an example for us. He said we must let go of our old selves, our old routines, habits and sins, and allow the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts and lives. Bishop Siegel said when we commend ourselves to God’s will and seek God’s will, then our lives, even our suffering and struggles, will take on new meaning.

Bishop Siegel also focused his homily on the accounts of the Passion of Christ in the Gospels of John and Mark. The account in the Gospel of John will be heard on Good Friday, while the account in the Gospel of Mark will be a part of Palm Sunday Mass. He said both accounts are united in that Jesus accepts his Father’s will. Jesus ascents to the Father’s plan for our salvation and the salvation of mankind, Bishop Siegel said.

Following the 2 p.m. Mass, a ceremony was held honoring the 70 recipients of the St. Maria Goretti Youth Distinction.

Diocese of Evansville Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry Jeremy Goebel said the 70 recipients were honored during the ceremony because their respective parishes saw something in them that set them apart as a leader and role model. 

“Your actions, your prayer, how you carry yourself in the church matters a great deal,” Goebel said. “And it gives a lot of us hope… Seeing the cathedral packed with over 600 people, that’s because of you. Well done and thank you.”

Jeremy Goebel, diocesan director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, welcomes everyone to the March 17 Mass and St. Maria Goretti Youth Distinction awards ceremony. The Message photo by Megan Erbacher

Goebel stressed the recipients have a home in the Diocese of Evansville. He said they may have a vocation someday to serve the diocese in a unique way. He asked the participants to prayerfully consider and be open to that. 

“Well done in being a young person that’s on fire for Jesus Christ,” Goebel said. “Well done on just following the Church, on following Jesus to the best of your ability. It gives people so much hope. And when you’re that age, you don’t realize the hope and the impact that you give other people. But it’s truly phenomenal what you’re able to give just by witnessing and being faithful, so thank you for that.” 

During the presentation, the recipients received their award from Bishop Siegel. After each honoree was recognized, Bishop Siegel prayed a blessing over the recipients. 

The purpose of the St. Maria Goretti Youth Distinction is to recognize young people for their outstanding faith, service and dedication to the mission of the Catholic Church in their local community. The distinction is meant to recognize youth and encourage them on their path to holiness. The award is eligible for any high school student who actively strives to live out their Catholic faith, although it is recommended that parishes honor high school juniors and seniors.  

More than 600 faithful filled the pews of St. Benedict Cathedral March 17 for Mass and the 2024 St. Maria Goretti Youth Distinction awards ceremony. The Message photo by Megan Erbacher