By Katherine Long
Unsung heroes from parishes across the diocese had a well-deserved moment in the spotlight Dec. 10 as the 2017 Immaculata Awards for Service were presented by Bishop Robert J. Cunningham during the celebration of Solemn Vespers at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse.
Instituted in December 2011 as a component of the celebration of the 125th anniversary of the founding of the diocese, the Immaculata Award recognizes and honors “those who generously and unselfishly give of themselves to their parishes and whose love for the Church has been shown through their devotion to the Holy Father, as well as to our Diocese. They are the unsung heroes in our midst who build up our parish communities by extraordinary service in parish ministry in volunteer service.”
More than 100 recipients representing 78 parishes and two ministries were honored at this year’s awards. The honorees “are like Mary — God-bearers,” Bishop Cunningham said in his homily. “They brought Christ to others by their acts of service. The forms of their service are as multiple as the number receiving the award. But in every instance they have shared the joy of the Gospel with others. The Good News is always more than words; the words must be observed, they must be alive in acts of love and service.”
Quoting Pope Francis, he continued, “‘Love and charity are service — helping others, serving others. There are many people who spend their lives in this way, in the service of others…. When you forget yourself and think of others, this is love!’”
Though applause is generally reserved for the end of the celebration, attendees enthusiastically clapped as Philip Cornacchia of St. Mary of Mount Carmel/Blessed Sacrament Parish in Utica received his award. At 101 years old (102 in February, he noted), Cornacchia holds the distinction of being the eldest award recipient in Immaculata history.
Cornacchia has served as an usher at the parish for 77 years and has spent the last half-century helping to set up the stoves at the parish’s annual summer festival. Why keep serving after so many years? “‘Cause I don’t know enough to quit,” he joked with a charming smile.