By Tony DeGol
Even though Kaityln Sherwood lives away at college, she still makes it home every weekend to celebrate Mass with her parish faith community.
A member of Saint Thomas Aquinas Parish in Ashville, she also stepped up by helping out with the second grade religious education program this past year when COVID-19 resulted in a lack of teachers.
“Our Church needs more young adults like Katy,” stated Renee Pettenati, in nominating Sherwood for the Outstanding Parish Volunteer Award, sponsored by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.
Sherwood, along with Kathleen Bumbernick of Saint John Gualbert Cathedral Parish in Johnstown, walked away with the honor at the annual Catholic Charities Recognition Dinner, held June 1 at the Blair County Convention Center.
The agency also presented two young people – Alexis Ditosti of Our Lady of the Alleghenies Parish in Lilly and Madeline Waibel, a member of Saint Michael Parish in Hollidaysburg – with the Matthew 25 Youth Humanitarian Award.
Besides saluting the four award recipients, the gathering was an opportunity to celebrate the outstanding ministry and mission of Catholic Charities, which serves individuals and families of all faith traditions throughout the eight county diocese.
“Whatever charity we can express and share with one another makes a difference – a real difference in the lives of people who depend and need our assistance,” stated Bishop Mark in his comments during the dinner. “Thank you for your generosity. Thank you for supporting Catholic Charities in our diocese.”
For Sherwood, who hopes to be a teacher, she is often reminded that Jesus presented the innocent faith of children as an example of the type of faith adults should have.
“I love teaching kids because they’re so pure in their thoughts,” she explained. “That’s what keeps me coming back.”
Sherwood also served as an altar server in her parish and has helped train youth so that the tradition can continue at Saint Thomas Aquinas.
Bumberninck is a familiar face to viewers of the Proclaim! TV Mass. As a cantor and choir member at Saint John Gualbert, she is a beloved part of the broadcast.
Her service goes well-beyond the music ministry, however, and includes cooking, baking, and serving dinners at the parish, as well as reaching out to ill or homebound parishioners.
“Taking time from her busy schedule to help the Church is second nature to this stellar woman,” explained Evonne Yanzetich-Homway, Director of Music and Liturgy at Saint John Gualbert, in her nomination of Bumbernick. “She shares her talents not in a self-centered way, but in an attitude of loving service to her fellow parishioners and the community.”
Bumbernick grew up as a member of the Cathedral, where her family was heavily involved.
“Church was our base, our faith was our base, and I love doing things there with my friends,” she remarked.
Ditosti, a 2022 graduate of Bishop Carroll Catholic High School in Ebensburg, is also a lover of helping others.
Besides volunteering at her parish, she was involved in numerous initiatives at school, mostly centered on serving the needy. Among her outreach was food pantry collections, the Angel Tree project, and fundraising for cancer research.
As a member of the Student Evangelizers at Carroll, she helped organize retreats and became a leader in sharing the Catholic faith.
“Selfless is the best word that I could use to describe Alexis,” insisted Jonathan Nagy, the BCCHS Dean of Students who nominated Ditosti. “In the midst of her ideas that she develops to help others financially, socially, and spiritually, she never hesitates to do what she can for anyone.”
Ditosti will attend the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in the fall, where she plans to engage fully in Catholic Campus Ministry at the school.
“I want to give others the opportunity to see what faith is like,” she said. “I never want to force anyone to do that, but I want everyone to be comfortable and have a comfortable environment.”
Waibel is a 2022 graduate of Hollidaysburg Area High School who immersed herself in the religious education program at Saint Michael and Mary Parishes. In her sophomore year of high school, she assisted in the second grade, in her junior year, she found creative ways to teach the kindergarten students via Zoom, and continued teaching kindergartners in her senior year.
Beyond the parish, Waibel boasts much school and community involvement, and she uses her God-given talent in athletics and music.
“Maddie practices and lives her faith in all she does through being an exceptional example of morals and values,” noted Saint Mary/Saint Michael Director of Religious Education Sue Teske in her nomination of Waibel. “As a person involved in religious education for over 50 years, I can honestly say that Maddie is among the few that stand out as an exceptional child of God who serves her fellow brothers and sisters with a heart full of love.”
Waibel was participating in commencement exercises at Hollidaysburg Area High School the night of the Catholic Charities dinner, but sent a video message.
“My faith has taught me to love everyone and be kind to everyone, along with growing closer to God and making the right choices,” she said. “I will be going Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, to further my education in law and business. I will also be furthering my education in religion and doing more community service there, as well.”
[Photo (left to right): Cindy O’Connor, Executive Director of Catholic Charities; Alexis Ditosti; Kathleen Bumbernick; Kaitlyn Sherwood; and Bishop Mark. Absent was Madeline Waibel.]