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St. Timothy winner recommends adoration to other teens

Students and adults recognized for their youth ministry dedication across Arkansas

Published: April 17, 2024   
Luke Parker, 18, a parishioner at Immaculate Conception Church in North Little Rock, received the St. Timothy award during the Catholic Youth Convention April 5-7 in Little Rock. (Katie Zakrzewski)

The diocese’s Office of Youth Ministry once again handed out its St. Timothy Award to a graduating senior who is a witness to his faith and sets a positive example for his peers.

Luke Parker, 18, a parishioner at Immaculate Conception Church in North Little Rock, received the award during the Catholic Youth Convention April 5-7 in Little Rock. 

The award, according to the Office of Youth Ministry, “is the highest recognition the Diocese of Little Rock can bestow upon a graduating senior high school youth.” It is the first time the award was given since 2019. That year, it was awarded to Collin Gallimore from St. Mary Church in Hot Springs. This year, Gallimore was the convention videographer.

Liz Tingquist, director of the Office of Youth Ministry, said an independent committee reviewed the nominations and selected Parker, a senior at Catholic High School in Little Rock who plans to enter the House of Formation after graduating. 

Parker said when he learned about the award, he wondered,”‘Do I deserve this award?’ I’m naturally hard on myself, so I think a lot about what I could be doing better. It’s something I always wonder about. But now I’m going to think of (the St. Timothy award) as something to live up to. My greatest fear is being complacent with where I’m at now. So I want to use it to push me forward.”

Parker leads discussions at Immaculate Conception Church’s CYM meetings, helps with Catholic retreats, is an altar server and participates in Bible study with Father Patrick Friend at CHS. 

When Parker was younger, he realized he needed to take a deeper look into his faith. He recognized it was the love of God that got him through the most trying times, including navigating his senior year of high school. 

“The greatest thing that’s helped me this past year is growing in that intimate relationship, growing to love God, especially my relationship with his mother, Mary,” Parker said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been more in love with anything. I think it’s that love that helps me forward. I don’t think anything else would do.” 

Parker’s advice to other young Catholics? 

“Go to adoration as much as you can,” he said. “I really wanted to get really deep into apologetics, but it’s hard to be firm in apologetics when you don’t love what you’re teaching, what you’re sharing, what you’re defending. I think you have to develop that real, intimate relationship with God before you start defending it.”

Tingquist described Parker as “a quiet strength and a wonderful prayer and spiritual life.”

“He is a respected leader in his youth group, serving with sincere humility,” she said. 

The two other nominees are recognizable faces in Arkansas’ youth ministry. 

Mailelani Lessenberry is a homeschooled high school senior and has also been a part of the diocese’s Youth Advisory Council. At her parish, St. Bernard in Bella Vista, she sings and plays guitar on the praise team, as well as teaches preschool through kindergarten faith formation.

Parker Vail has been involved in Christ the King Church in Little Rock’s youth ministry for two years. He has also been part of the praise and worship band Team Jesus for three years. Vail has also been part of the diocesan Youth Advisory Council and helped organize four Search retreats. After graduation, Vail also plans to enter the House of Formation. 

Twelve students were also recognized for service to the faith with a Youth Discipleship Recognition pin. The award is given to high school students who have “responded to the call of discipleship through service to their parish youth program and are worthy of recognition.”

  • Bella Vista, St. Bernard: Danielle Machado, Angela Machado and Mailelani Lessenberry
  • Conway, St. Joseph: Samuel Luyet
  • Hope, Our Lady of Good Hope: Carlos Mayo, Joelys Lopez, Jair Salgado and Brency Cabriales
  • Little Rock, Christ the King Church: Rachel Blair, Riley Foley and Parker Vail
  • Saint Vincent, St. Mary: Seth Rees

Madison Middleton, a volunteer from St. Bernard Church in Bella Vista, was awarded the Light of the World Recognition pin “given for a demonstrated commitment to young people and youth ministry.”

Two other parishioners from Bella Vista, Susan Kedrowski and Kim Syverson, also received the top adult service award called Companions on the Journey. 

“This is awarded to adults who have demonstrated excellence in youth ministry, a commitment to ongoing education and formation, who have served in youth ministry for more than five years, have a commitment to young people and have outstanding leadership at the local level,” Tingquist said.

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