Living Out the Vision

March 30-April 5,06
Living Out the Vision
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
St. Augustine’s Parishioner Receives Sister Patricia Geary Christian Service Award

BALDWINSVILLE — Michael Conway has been following in the footsteps of the late Sister Patricia Geary, CSJ. The parishioners of St. Augustine’s Church were so impressed with the way he has involved himself in the parish community, they honored him during the 11 a.m. Mass on Sunday, March 19 with a presentation of the Sister Patricia Geary Christian Service Award. Sister Ellen Judith Lindsley, CSJ, representing the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, presented Conway with a framed certificate on which his name had been engraved. Conway also received an award of $1,000 to be donated to a charity of his choice. “It was pretty overwhelming,” said Conway. “When I first heard that I was going to receive the award, I was pleased about it. It was a real nice feeling.”

Each year, St Augustine’s Parish presents an award, which recognizes the values exemplified by the late Sister Patricia. The values are: Christian service to others, a call to respect the dignity of all people and a call to participate in the social mission of the church. Sister Pat (as she was commonly called) joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and was a religious for 46 years, until her death in the spring of 1998. Over the years, she served in the Albany and Syracuse Dioceses as an educator, administrator, pastoral associate, Director of the Diocesan Formation for Ministry Program and Provincial Superior of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Sister Pat, a woman of great faith, began her ministry at St Augustine’s in 1990. She quickly became a catalyst for growth and change for the parish as a whole and for the many parishioners who worked with her. She instituted a revised RCIA process that had a great influence on those preparing for Christian Initiation. She restructured the Pastoral Council by creating standing committees to increase communication. When the Pastoral Center was planned, she accepted the responsibility for a fund raising program that emphasized community building while raising money.

Sister Pat was gifted with wisdom and insight. These gifts, coupled with her strength and strong convictions, enabled her to lead others to recognize their own unique gifts. Sister Pat believed in the dignity of each person. She advocated for the rights of all, especially women in the church and society. She raised the consciousness level of each person of the need for social justice and compassion for all regardless of their position in life. This year, the six-member Sister Pat Geary Christian Service Award Committee thought Conway was the best candidate for the award. Committee member Nancy Wilson said choosing a recipient for the award from the 14 nominated candidates was very difficult. “The nominees were all well-qualified,” explained Wilson. “We are very pleased for Michael.”

The award committee looked for candidates with specific criteria. Those considered had to display service and reaching out to the poor and marginalized. Also considered was how the nominee had inspired other people. The committee also considered how long the candidate had been involved in Christian service and which ministries the person had been involved in. As a parishioner of St. Augustine’s for the last 20 years, Conway has been very much involved with providing Christian service to both his parish and the community. “I’ve done various things over the years,” said Conway. “I’m very focused on my church and outside the boundaries of the parish, reaching out into the community to its neighbors.”

A few years ago, Conway, his wife Maureen, Father John Rose and other parishioners traveled to Mexico as part of the Migrant Eucharistic Ministry. “It was really neat,” remarked Conway. “It was a heart-opening experience. We got to see church in action in humble surroundings. It was refreshing to see that people in different cultures can teach us a lot. They deal with the priest shortage very effectively. “I wasn’t always involved in parish life,” he said. “When my children were young, Father Tom McLaughlin saw that I was a teacher and suggested that I serve as a lector in church. That was the kick-start I needed. I really started getting into the Bible — it enriched my understanding of what was going on. Mass became more meaningful and everything made more sense. Through the years, I became more involved at church. Helping my parish and community makes me feel stronger as a Christian.”

As an art teacher, Conway has shared his artistic ability with the youth of the church. He has created drawings for the church bulletin and also designed a mural created from textiles on one of the walls in the gathering room of the church. In addition to serving in the Migrant Eucharistic Ministry, he has served on the Pastoral Council and helped with Vacation Bible School. Conway has also served in the PreCana Marriage Preparation program with his wife.

Conway currently serves as lector, Eucharistic minister, catechetical minister and teaches religious education. Conway generously shares his time and gifts with others. The parishioners at St Augustine’s are proud to call him one of their own.

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