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Their quiet example of stewardship and service to others has now earned the elders recognition with the Eagle of the Cross award from the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown.

According to a press release from the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, the award is given to teenagers from the six counties of the diocese. “who model Christian discipleship and exemplify the qualities of moral integrity, prayer, good works, and Christian leadership in their school and parish communities.”

The 29 recipients, chosen either for their exceptional involvement in their parish and their community at large, or in a diocesan Catholic school, will receive their awards from the hands of Bishop David J. Bonnar, Bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown, during a ceremony from 6:30-8:30 p.m. May 2 at St. Columba’s Cathedral in Youngstown. The event will include an evening prayer with Bishop Bonnar presiding and light refreshments to follow in St. Columba Hall.

Sam, Grace and Nick are the recipients from Columbiana County. Other counties in the diocese include Ashtabula, Mahoning, Portage, Stark and Trumbull. Catholic high schools represented include Canton Central Catholic and St. Thomas Aquinas in Stark, Cardinal Mooney and Ursuline in Mahoning, John F. Kennedy in Trumbull, and St. John in Ashtabula.

Grace Leslie

The award was created by the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry and introduced in the diocese in 1999.

The three local recipients said they were surprised by the award, but also humbled and honored to be recognized for what they have done, for living their faith.

“I help where I can” says Sam.

The 17-year-old Salem high school student was named by three parishioners, Donna Dermotta, Fritz Schlueter and Frank Zamarelli. An altar server since he can remember, he attended St. Paul’s School from kindergarten through third grade, then Salem Schools.

His school activities include Band, Key Club, National Honor Society, Buckeye Boys State, Football, Wrestling, and previously Track. He’s in the next school play “Goodbye Birdie” this weekend as Mr Johnson and also as stage manager and previously acted in “Charlotte’s Web” at school and “Anne” on stage at the Salem Community Theatre.

Nick Bryan

Sam said being involved in the plays is fun, he meets new people and learns more about “go beyond your comfort level.” He said an actor can say a character’s lines and do what he does or what he can. “Create a character.”

As an altar server at the church, he remembers growing up and seeing how older servants behaved and served as role models for younger ones. Now it’s his turn.

“I was put in this position of being a role model and an example,” he said.

He’s on call if the church needs an extra server, hosted a wedding, helped mentor two young servants at their first mass, and recently served mass with Bishop Bonnar at St. Paul’s. He has also helped other churches, once sang in the youth choir and even played the trumpet for a Christmas Eve mass at St. Patrick’s in Leetonia. He helped at a recent retirement dinner for former pastor Reverend Robert Edwards.

As an Eagle Scout with St. Paul Troop 6, he installed a wheelchair swing at Waterworth Memorial Park.

“My parents emphasized the importance of church, going to mass on Sundays and being involved in your church and your community,” says Sam.

He has two younger sisters, Annika and Chaya, and plans to attend Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan in the fall to study welding engineering technology. After college, he may opt for an officer training school in Rhode Island.

“I am truly proud of the young man Sam has become. He has a strong Catholic faith as well as a call to serve others and his community. These qualities will be important as he prepares to begin the next phase of his life. », said his father Eric.

Holly, Sam’s mother, added: “I am so proud of Sam and all he has accomplished. Sam is a bright light in any room and he has a kind and humble spirit. His reverence for God and his steadfast Catholic faith from a young age age have always amazed me.

Nick and Grace, both 18, grew up together at St. John the Evangelist and both are seniors at Carrollton High School and heavily involved as leaders in the church’s youth group. Both were previously altar servers and now serve as readers during mass. Their youth group counselor, Diane Brown, nominated them for the Eagle of the Cross award.

In 2019 and again in 2021, Nick and Grace both attended the National Catholic Youth Conference, held in Indianapolis, Ind.

“That was super cool” said Grace.

She also explained that the experience helped her better understand her faith, which now has greater meaning for her. As a waitress, she followed in the footsteps of her older brother Luke. His younger siblings, Paul and Haley, also serve. Faith is strong in all of them.

At school, Grace’s activities include 4-H, FFA (Future Farmers of America), National Honor Society, basketball and volleyball. The church’s youth group is very active and had planned to organize an Easter egg hunt last weekend for the youngest in the parish. She said it meant a lot to her that someone noticed the hard work she was doing at church.

For Grace, to serve means to be “able to share my faith with young people and young people in the community and serve as an example to them.”

His advice to others? “Don’t be ashamed of your faith, it’s something you can be proud of” she says.

Grace wants to be a teacher and plans to major in middle school education at Ashland University.

Grace’s parents, Matt and Renee, had this message for their daughter, “We have watched with awe and awe how you have become the person you are today, and we watch with great anticipation to see what you are becoming. With your talent and determination, you can do anything. We are grateful for the leadership that guided you on your journey to receiving this award. We are so proud of you!!”

Nick previously participated in football and athletics at school and is a member of the FFA and is chairman of his 4-H club, raising pigs for the fair. He’s in the early release program at school so he can work on the family farm, prepare for what he’s called “real life.”

He said that attending the National Catholic Youth Conference twice was “awesome.” All the children were there for the same reason, which he said was “Pretty cool. You’re not alone in your faith. Everyone’s here to help everyone else.

Nick left with a deeper meaning and said the idea of ​​the conference is “to help connect with your faith and get to know faith.”

As the youngest of nine children, with two brothers and six sisters, he had many examples to emulate growing up. His brother Adam and sister Emily both received the Eagle of the Cross award, but Nick said he never really thought about it. He watched them go to the youth group and he was very involved in the youth group. With his family he said “you see faith pretty much everywhere you look.”

“It makes me feel like I’m living the right way. It means a lot to me,” he said of the award.

He said people shouldn’t get discouraged with all the bad things on the news, he said bad is not everything.

“Keep striving. Have your faith strong,” he said.

His future is on the farm, where he plans to continue working with the family.

“We are so proud of the young man Nick is becoming. He is very proud of his faith and follows his beliefs wholeheartedly. This award is a wonderful achievement for him,” his mom and dad,” his parents, Tonya and Earl, said.

The three students offered their thanks to those who nominated them.


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