Three families, hundreds of donors to ABCD honored at annual ThanksForGiving Mass
“I thought stewardship was the envelope,” said Marcela. “I had no idea” it also involved time and talent.Then their pastor at St. Agnes Church in Key Biscayne, Father Juan Carlos Paguaga, asked them to head the stewardship council. After educating themselves, they have spent the last year educating others about what it means to give to the church.
“Latin Americans are not used to giving. They expect the church to give to them,” said Father Paguaga, referring to the ethnicity of most of his parishioners.“It’s a cultural thing,” agreed Marcela.
For their efforts, the Erañas were honored with the One in Hope award at this year’s ThanksForGiving Mass, celebrated Nov. 19 at St. Mary Cathedral. The award recognizes a family who “embodies the four infinitives of stewardship”: receiving God’s gifts gratefully, nurturing them responsibly, sharing them justly and sacrificially, and returning them abundantly.“If it wasn’t for our pastor, we wouldn’t have done it,” said Eduardo.
Father Paguaga, in turn, credits the Erañas for helping the parish grow “beautifully. There are more people involved, more ministries, and more people aware of the life of the parish,” he said.
The Erañas were one of three families honored at the annual Mass, attended this year by more than 600 people. The Mass is a way of thanking everyone who donates to the annual ABCD campaign, which supports the charitable and educational works of the archdiocese.
The other families honored were Ducarmel and Monique Augustin of St. Helen Parish in Fort Lauderdale, who received the One in Faith award; and the children of Alicia Aixalá, whose posthumous donation could yield as much as $17 million for the archdiocese and her parish, Epiphany. It’s the largest donation received by the archdiocese in decades. On behalf of their mother, the five Aixalá children accepted this year’s One in Charity award. (See accompanying story)
Erañas not only head the stewardship committee, they also are involved in Emmaus retreats and the “Why Catholic?” evangelization program. And they’re the parents of four children who attend St. Agnes Academy.
The Augustins weren’t exactly sure why they were honored. “Supporting my parish, maybe?” said Ducarmel, a doctor in private practice.But anyone listening to them describe their 30 years of involvement at St. Helen would have figured it out.
“Maybe for service,” said Monique, who works as office manager for her husband. “We do a lot of services. We do a lot of medical missions. We help a lot in the church.”In fact, Ducarmel Augustin serves on the board of St. Helen School, where all three of their now adult children attended. He leads medical missions in Haiti. The couple also organize health fairs at the parish.
“I’ve been faithful to St. Helen for so long, I know everybody there,” said Ducarmel.
Archbishop Thomas Wenski, who celebrated the Mass,thanked all the honorees and all those who donate faithfully each year to the ABCD campaign.
“Your gifts opened the door of our world to God and bring hope for our people,” he told them, noting how ABCD helps the Church in South Florida fulfill the biblical commandment to “care for the widow, the orphan, the alien, the oppressed and the poor among us.
“And we do this in so many ways,” he said, “through our Catholic Charities, through our religious education programs, our Catholic schools… through our support of our seminarians and priests… in our marriage preparation programs, our lay ministries that form people to minister to the bereaved, the homebound. Yes, we do this in so many countless ways.
“But we can do it only because of the generosity of people like yourselves, people who in good times and in bad times keep their support of the Church on their list of major priorities,” the archbishop said.
Although he admitted he was “preaching to the choir,” he reminded those present that “we are not the self-made men and women we sometimes pretend to be; rather what we are, who we are, is a gift we each have received ultimately from God. And what God has given us he has given not just for our own sakes but also for the sake of others.”