Immaculata Awards honor more than 100 from dozens of parishes

By Tom Maguire | Associate editor

2019 Immaculate medallion

The artist had a vision even before her husband’s cancer diagnosis.

“I’ve actually had this chapel in my head for about two years,” Ellen Rahner said, “and I said if we get through this, I’m building the chapel, I’m building it for free.”

Now the Adoration Chapel draws visitors at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Cortland, and Ellen’s husband, Doug, is in remission from cancer.

Sunday, Ellen was among 113 honorees from 84 parishes who received Immaculata Awards for Service in the Diocese of Syracuse. Bishop Douglas J. Lucia presided at the Solemn Vespers and Award Ceremony at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse.

“We have what it takes to be God’s sons and daughters,” he told the crowded cathedral.

Ellen attended the ceremony with Doug and their daughter, Emma. Ellen was trained in stone sculpting, so she knew she could build the dividing wall for the chapel, which includes beautiful murals and an exposition tabernacle that allows the lay person to open a little door and see the Eucharist behind glass.

“Ellen transformed a mundane room into a transcendent visual depiction of the Holy Trinity that serves as Adoration Chapel, meditation room, and confessional,” says the nomination form for Ellen’s Immaculata Award. It is signed by the pastor, Father Joseph S. Zareski.

The form concludes: “Ellen’s contribution to St. Anthony’s and the Syracuse Diocese is unique and profound.”

Accepting their Immaculata Awards from Bishop Douglas J. Lucia are Cheryl and William Michalski of St. Marianne Cope Parish in Solvay.

Ellen appreciates all who helped with or inspired the project.

Chapel visitors 

“It’s small, it’s really small,” she said of the chapel. But she added: “You don’t know when you create art how it will affect people.

She was told that a woman who lost a family member entered the chapel and started crying to God, “I forgive you, I forgive you” for the loss of her family member.

And “there’s a man who comes every day, and I’m so impressed,” Ellen said.

Doug was diagnosed with lung cancer a year ago.

“I was anointed at Mass before my surgery,” he said.

And now, he said, “I’m in remission.”

“All the women in church prayed for him,” Ellen said.

Bishop Lucia talked about living according to God’s vision, and Immaculata honoree Kathleen Cusick does not find that difficult to do: “I see that it needs to be done; I know how to do it or I learn and I just go ahead and do it.”

She is a lifelong member of St. Stephen’s in Marathon, writes Father Douglas D. Cunningham of the Catholic Community of St. Stephen–St. Patrick in Whitney Point and Marathon.

Cusick directs her parish’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program, coordinates the Ash Wednesday and All Souls Day services, and serves as lector and Eucharistic minister. She has a fulltime job and takes care of a homebound family member and “still volunteers for all this,” Father Cunningham writes. “She is a true model of a devout Catholic and Christian who we are so fortunate to have in our parish family.”

Why do these honorees devote so much time to their parishes?

“God’s been pretty good to me with a great wife and three great kids and five grandchildren that are awesome,” explained Immaculata winner William Michalski, of St. Marianne Cope Parish in Solvay.

His wife, Cheryl, also was honored.

A question for God

“Every day I ask God to place me where he needs me,” Cheryl said. “And since I’ve asked that prayer, it’s amazing that he has put me exactly  where I needed to be. Of course, I didn’t understand it at the time, but afterwards I realized where I’m supposed to be, and what I’m supposed to be doing.”

The nomination form signed by Father Joseph J. Clemente says: “Cheryl is involved in all aspects of parish life.” She leads the Altar Rosary Society’s many functions and she also is “very faithful to parish liturgical ministries, collection counting, and social functions. She … serves with generosity and grace because her faith is strong and she is willing to share it.”

William is a sacristan, an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, a collection counter, and president of the Holy Name Society. He also cooks the pasta and meatballs for all the funeral receptions.

“He is always willing to help make parish events successful,” his nomination sheet says. “William is a good balance of Faith and Action.”

So is he the No. 1 organized guy around?

He laughed and said: “She’s the organizer, I just follow the directions.”

“We usually don’t stop,” Cheryl said. “In fact, tomorrow we’re settin’ up the manger up there.”

She added: “God gives us the energy to do what we need to do.”

When gardening is needed at Holy Cross Church in DeWitt, William and Susan Sovik are ready. With help from a few ladies, William and Susan planted about 80 daffodil bulbs at the church.

Bill said: “You’re home doing your own garden; it only takes a couple extra hours to do the church, and then if you get more people involved, it’s really easy.”

Their nomination form, signed by Father John Kurgan, says: “Bill and Sue as a couple volunteer to purchase flowers and maintain the landscaping in the front of the church and prayer circle, volunteer at the Samaritan Center and the Road to Emmaus Ministry on the South Side of Syracuse, and work at funeral lunches at the parish.”

Bill also volunteers for the Right to Life Movement, and four times already he has shown the film “Unplanned” at the parish.

He is pro-life, he said, “because it’s the natural thing to do. … What is God’s plan?”

“The thing, I think, is getting involved with the church, all the people we’ve met,” Susan said. So she and Bill accepted the Immaculata Award for all the people of Holy Cross.

Happy Monday!

Immaculata honoree Scott Darminio can’t wait for Mondays to arrive at St. Francis Xavier Church in Marcellus.

Instructing seventh- and eighth-graders in religious education at 2:30 p.m. is “the best thing I do on Monday,” he said. “There is nothing better than that for me. … They’re good kids and it’s awesome.”

Scott’s wife, Jennifer, also was honored, and their sons, Marcus and Kyle, were among the servers for the Solemn Vespers and Award Ceremony.

Asked what stood out for him at the ceremony, Scott said, “You have to say yes, just like Mary said yes.”

The family made a new ambo for the parish, the pastor, Father Daniel C. Muscalino said, and they also made the stand for the new statue of St. Francis Xavier.

“We want to set examples for our children to follow God and make it a priority in their life,” Jennifer said.

Father Muscalino, one of the many priests who attended the ceremony, said: “They’re very active in the parish. … I know that they’re going to be there. I know I can count on them, but more importantly know that they’re a family of faith. And that’s really incredible that they’re a family of faith and I know that.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that they’re faithful and these young men are going to be raised in our faith and they’re going to grow up to be wonderful Catholics — perhaps a vocation here or there — but wonderful Catholics in our tradition.”


2019 Immaculata Award honorees

David and Fran Dodge St. Agnes Mission, Afton
Janet McDonough St. John the Evangelist, Bainbridge
Richard and Elizabeth Case St. Augustine, Baldwinsville
Paul and Joan Berrafato  St. Mary of the Assumption, Baldwinsville
Richard N. Deyulio St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Baldwinsville
Lillian Margaret Zabadal Church of the Holy Trinity, Binghamton
Marcell Mansour Ss. Cyril and Methodius, Binghamton
Patricia O’Neil Lynch St. Patrick, Binghamton
Dennis and Pat Coleman St. Thomas Aquinas, Binghamton
Nate Erickson Immaculate Conception, Greene
Nelson and Judy Lucier  St. Joseph, Oxford
Carol Breehey Ss. John & Andrew, Binghamton
Beverly Krinik  St. Francis of Assisi, Binghamton
Howard and Darice Schremph St. John the Evangelist, Camden
Linda M. House Divine Mercy, Central Square
Robert A. Sherman St. Patrick / St. Anthony, Chadwicks
Daniel and Kathleen Ford  Sacred Heart – St. Mary, New York Mills
Dolores Oberton Sacred Heart, Cicero
Lloyd and Annette Lapierre Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Cincinnatus
Kathleen Cusick St. Stephen / St. Patrick, Whitney Point
Ellen Rahner St. Anthony of Padua, Cortland
Raymond E. Dunphy, Jr.  St. Mary, Cortland
Judith Lloyd  St. Joseph, Deposit
Beth A. O’Neill  St. Mary, Kirkwood
Irene M. Yalch  St. Joseph, Sanitaria Springs
Ronnie and Peggy Cheeseman Our Lady of Lourdes, Windsor
Bill and Sue Sovik Holy Cross, DeWitt
Kathy Roberts St. Francis of Assisi, Bridgeport
Pattye Hubbard  St. Mary of the Assumption, Minoa
Anne Karkruff St. Matthew, East Syracuse
Antonette Diles St. Anthony of Padua, Endicott
Bernard E. Herceg St. Joseph, Endicott
Gerard Kohut Church of the Holy Family, Endwell
Henry and Donna McIntosh Immaculate Conception, Fayetteville
Paul and Rhonda Campolieta Holy Trinity, Fulton
Carolyn Fairbanks  St. Stephen, Phoenix
Terrence M. Murphy St. Mary, Hamilton, and St. Joan, Morrisville
Michael F. Washington and Susan R. Washington St. James, Johnson City
Diana Rynkiewicz St. Patrick, Jordan
Thomas E. Scofield II Church of the Nativity at St. Joseph, LaFayette
Richard and Deborah Henry Church of the Nativity at St. Leo, Tully
George W. Deangelo, Jr.  Church of the Nativity at Immaculate Conception, Pompey
Marianne Ralbovsky St. Patrick Mission, Tully
Frank J. Corradino St. Joseph, Lee Center
George and Marylyn Nassimos St. Joseph, Oriskany Falls
Linda Sturtevant St. Paul, Rome
Martin F. Cleary St. Bernard, Waterville
Joan Doyle Christ the King, Liverpool
Thomas J. and Linda G. Collins Pope John XXIII, Liverpool
Myrta Alvarez Epihany Parish @ Immaculate Heart of Mary, Liverpool
Jane L. Wansart Epiphany Parish @ St. Joseph the Worker, Liverpool
Karen Cappellett Most Holy Rosary, Maine
Richard and Kathryn Schlote St. Ann, Manlius
Scott and Jennifer Darminio  St. Francis Xavier, Marcellus
Ken and Nancy Cook  St. Margaret, Mattydale
Martha Sturtz  St. Anne, Mother of Mary, Mexico
Kathleen Crandall  Christ our Light, Pulaski
Harry and Barbara Avery  St. Theresa of the Infant Jesus, New Berlin
Joyce Steward St. Malachy, Sherburne
Eleanor Flaherty Newman  Our Lady of the Rosary, New Hartford
Dianne A. DeNigro Our Lady of Lourdes, Utica
Lucille Spado Hilts  St. John the Baptist, Rome
John F. Mosca  Transfiguration, Rome
Tedd and Ann Kehoe  St. Mary / St. Peter, Rome
William and Cheryl Michalski St. Marianne Cope, Solvay
Joseph Ridgway and Judy Bliss Ridgway All Saints, Syracuse
Mary Ann Zelinski Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Syracuse
Joseph A. Catalano Blessed Sacrament, Syracuse
Anne Marie Drury  (Michael Drury accepting) St. Vincent de Paul, Syracuse
Carmen and Donna Zeolla Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Syracuse
Edward and Shelly Terzolo Holy Family, Syracuse
Mary Beth Kennedy Our Lady of Hope, Syracuse
Eric and Colleen Rosenthal Our Lady of Pompei / St. Peter, Syracuse
Bob and Betty Warren St. John the Baptist/Holy Trinity, Syracuse
Patricia Blackmon  St. Anthony of Padua, Syracuse
Jack and Marianne Cavallo St. Daniel, Syracuse
Elna L. Dwyer  St. Michael / St. Peter, Syracuse
Claire Biedrzycki Holy Trinity, Utica
Dr. Roger Breslow and Mary E. Breslow St. Joseph / St. Patrick, Utica
Richard J. Wilk St. Mark, Utica
Beverly Franz St. Mary Mt. Carmel / Blessed Sacrament, Utica
Rose Brown Our Lady of Sorrows, Vestal
Carol Ann Giorgio St. Vincent de Paul / Blessed Sacrament, Vestal
Deborah A. Eassa Most Holy Rosary, Syracuse

These photos show the Adoration Chapel that Immaculata Award honoree Ellen Rahner created, with assistance, at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Cortland. Photos submitted by Rachel Hyde and Ellen Rahner.

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