Known as the highest award a Catholic youth can receive, there are 26 parishioners in the Diocese of Trenton who have received the St. Timothy Award for Excellence, with 21 of the students coming from the Jersey Shore.

The Catholic Diocese of Trenton, which covers Burlington, Monmouth, Mercer and Ocean Counties, have recognized these youth as "being a role model to their peers or volunteering in their parishes and communities," and who "exemplify the meaning of faith, service and spirit in living out their Catholic values."

The annual St. Timothy Award is presented around this time each year by the Diocese’s Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, who "recognizes youth who follow in the footsteps of St. Timothy, a young disciple and companion of St. Paul, by living out their faith."

These students have been recognized for embracing their faith and being leaders by example in their parish community and beyond by living the lessons they're taught by the church.

It's a high honor that only a select few earn every year, picked by their home parish out of all the youth in their church.

1. The candidate must be a senior in high school.

2. He or she must be in good standing in the community, in school, and/or in their place of employment.

3. He or she must exemplify the threefold purpose of the award - good moral values, Christian service and Catholic leadership - to a degree to be worthy of Diocesan recognition.

4. He or she has been involved in pa

Here are the 21-students from Burlington, Monmouth and Ocean Counties with an excerpt written by their home parish's youth coordinator:

• Cathryn Cardinale: St. Catharine Parish, Holmdel, Senior, Holmdel High School                           

“‘Cat’ demonstrates a heart for service to her church, her school and to those in need. She has served in the religious education program over the past four years, as a teen helper and then a catechist, and as a teen helper in the intensive summer religious education program. With persistence and strong leadership skills, Cat ran a walkathon fundraiser through St. Catharine Parish, which resulted in a $5,000 donation to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Cat’s enthusiasm in St. Catharine’s youth group, and her leadership on the executive board for three years, have benefited all members of our group.  At school, she serves as president of the Ambassadors’ Club and in the Heroes for Kids Club.”

• Lesley Castro: Jesus the Lord Parish, Keyport, Sophomore, Keyport High School                          

“The commitment Lesley demonstrates to her Catholic faith and her church is rare in today’s youth. She has been a skillful altar server (along with her brother, Yordy) for the 11:30 a.m. Mass almost every Sunday for at least three years now. That in itself is an accomplishment, but it is Lesley’s love and humility that make it all the more special. It is her common practice during the Sign of Peace not only to share that moment with those at the altar, but also to come down and hug her parents and brothers. It is so clearly indicative of her love for her Church, for her family and for her community.

“Lesley is an active participant of the youth group at Jesus the Lord Parish, and with her cheerful smile and laughter, is always quick to welcome any new member or to reach out with a hug to anyone who is going through a difficult moment.

In true Christian spirit, Lesley is always available to hand  out food baskets for Thanksgiving or fill plastic Easter eggs with candy or babysit at church so that adults can share a cup of coffee after Mass at Welcome Sundays. As a young person in today’s world,  Lesley is a modern day disciple of Jesus and a role model to her peers.”

• Brittany Cortez: Mother of Mercy Parish, Asbury Park, Senior, Trinity Hall High School             

“Brittany started as an altar server when she was 7.  She always helped when needed, or to cover for someone with no hesitation – always putting God in first place. Now she is 18, a coordinator of the youth group and altar servers, an active extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and she volunteers at her school to help with homework at Red Bank Primary School. She always said that she would go where ever God takes her. I believe she is truly a young disciple as St. Timothy who deserves the recognition.

“She is a very sincere and kind girl who brings sunshine with her smile. I hope God guides her to find the college that will help make her dreams come true.”

• Angela Gibilisco: St. Catherine Church, Middletown, Junior, home schooled 

“Angela is very active in our parish and dedicated to her faith. Angela has taken on many service projects here at St. Catherine’s. She had a very active part in the writing and directing of our youth group’s Christmas play. She is a member of all three of our choirs. Angela is a very talented young lady who is always there for our parish. I strongly believe that Angela is deserving of this award.”

• DanaRose Glenn: St. Pius X Parish, Forked River, Senior, Lacey Township High School               

“DanaRose has been an active member of the St. Pius X community since she was a little girl and is the perfect recipient for the St. Timothy Award. Dana has been an active member of our music and youth ministries for many years, a preschool crew leader for our Vacation Bible School and a volunteer for the religious education program. She has attended retreats and conferences with our youth group, as well as being the only youth from St. Pius X to attend Mission: Jersey V. Her spirit, enthusiasm and love for Jesus are infectious.

“Dana is very talented in vocal and instrumental music and theater. She is excited to pursue a career in music therapy after high school.”

• Nettie Halpin: Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Hainesport, Sophomore, Rancocas Valley High School

“Nettie has been an altar server for six years. Nettie  serves at the Mass not only on the weekends but on Holy Days of obligations with great joy and respect for the Lord. Nettie is always helping at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church and plans day and Easter egg hunts for the little children. Nettie is a coordinator for our junior youth group activities. Nettie loves to serve the Lord! She is always smiling and makes everyone around her feel the love of the Lord! Nettie is very humble and kind.”

• Patricia Johnson: St. Justin the Martyr Parish, Toms River, Senior, Toms River High School East            

“Patricia is entertaining and engaging at the youth group meetings as well as being involved in other ministries such as the church choir, cantor and assists with the Holy Innocents Society. She attends Mass regularly and continues to get involved in church activities. She has been a great recruiter for the youth group.”

• Carlyne Keesler: St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton, Senior, Cherokee High School                 

“Carly has been involved in our group since she was eligible her eighth-grade year. She has been active and rose to a leadership role early. She is our biggest ambassador, bringing many new teens to our group over the years. She has been active in the music ministry since fourth grade and recently was the lead vocalist for our parish Passion play. She is always volunteering for our community service events, whether it be serving at the soup kitchen or dressing as a character for a sick child. Carly is a true rising star and will do amazing things going forward. She has a fun bubbly personality and a smile you never forget.”

• Gabrielle Kelly: St. Barnabas Parish, Bayville, Senior, Toms River High School South

“Gabby is a loving, caring senior member of our parish youth ministry program. Everyone in our organization loves her for the person she is. She is always wearing a smile and has a great sense of humor. She has huge responsibilities at home, helping out with important family needs, and never once have we heard her complain. Gabby is a perfect example of what living the life of Christ is all about. On behalf of all the teens here at BATs, the team leaders, our youth minister, our pastor, Father Stas’, and the entire parish of St. Barnabas: Congratulations Gabby, we love you because you are awesome!”

• Christopher Landry: St. James Parish, Red Bank, Senior, Middletown High School South

“Chris is a longtime member of the God Squad, our parish youth group. He deserves this award because of his dedication and devotion to God and his parish. Chris is always ready to help in any way; he is an usher and gift bearer at our youth Masses, helps in the annual  Souper Bowl of Caring collection and assists with the yearly Christmas Carol Festival and Confirmation Retreat. He is ready for any service opportunity, and enjoys diocesan functions such as the DYC and NJ Catholic Youth Rally. We see in Chris a terrific role model for the younger members, and wish him well as he continues his studies and faith journey at Monmouth University in the fall.”

• Aliza Liranzo: St. Aloysius Parish, Jackson, Senior, Jackson Memorial High School

“Aliza has been one of the most active members of St. Aloysius Youth Ministry (AYM) since she was in seventh grade with Jr. AYM. For all these years, Aliza actively participated in community events, service projects and retreats for both parish and AYM. She is a young person who consistently puts her faith into action by the way she lives her life. She is always willing to volunteer and is a member of AYM
leadership team. She is also a camp counselor and works very well with younger children. Her faith is the most important part of who she is and always stands up for what she believes in. She has a great personality and brings joy to everyone around her.”

• Caitlin McLaughlin: St. Leo the Great Parish, Lincroft, Junior, Communications High School

“Catie is one of the most grounded individuals in her faith and in her relationships with other teens and adults. She has been a member of our youth group since the seventh grade, and we have had the privilege to watch her grow spiritually and socially. She spends much of her time acting and being house crew and prop manager at CBA productions for volunteer hours. She has been co-teaching religious education for six years, and the children always respond so positively to her teaching. After being a lector at the DYC, she began lectoring at Sunday Masses. Catie is always ready and willing to volunteer at events and looks forward to events like Chris Stefanick and most recently, Father Larry Richards, which she evangelized on with her friends.”

• Matthew Mitchell: St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford, Junior, Holy Cross Academy            

“Matthew has been a committed and faithful witness within our parish for many years. Since fourth grade, he has served as an altar server and continues to do so as a high school junior. He is also a member of our liturgical ministry, serving as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. He attended the National Catholic Youth Ministry Conference in Indianapolis and represented our parish and Diocese in the opening ceremony. Matthew is an active and regular participant in our parish youth ministry program, Y.E.S., Youth Energized in the Spirit. He has been on two previous summer service mission trips, working in partnership with Habitat for Humanity and will attend his third trip this June. He is not afraid to stand up for the faith and attends Mass each week. At a time where most young people are afraid to choose God and the practice of the faith, Matthew is a stellar example of what it means to be an intentional disciple!”

• John Mollo: St. Mary Parish, Barnegat, Senior, Southern Regional High School             

“John is an example of love, faith and virtue and exemplifies good moral values. His loyalty to Christian service began before he was old enough to join the youth group and Knights of Columbus Squires. He continued to share his faith and gifts by assisting in numerous parish activities and events. When you see someone running with a large hot pan of food to feed hungry patrons at our annual carnival or Lenten fish fry, you can be sure it’s John. With much patience, he teaches our faith to the children, participating in Vacation Bible School and he always finds time in his busy school schedule to play a part in our youth group’s Live Stations of the Cross. He is kind, thoughtful, polite and treats everyone the way God wishes us to, with respect and dignity. His leadership skills helped to form our peer leadership team within the youth group. He will continue to lead the peer team until he leaves for Rowan University. He designed our current youth group T-shirts and is working with the team to design a new one. He will continue to grow in his faith as well as remain active in the Knights of Columbus. St. Mary’s youth group is proud of John Mollo, and he is an excellent St. Timothy Award candidate.”

• Timothy Nobel: St. Martha Parish, Point Pleasant, Senior, Point Pleasant Borough High School            

“I am so happy to present this award to Tim – a devoted, well-rounded member of the young Church of St. Martha Parish who exemplifies what this award is all about. He’s always actively pursuing knowledge about the faith and living his faith in many ways. Tim has overcome many adversities to become a true leader. Almost two years ago, Tim organized a fundraising dinner to raise money for his best friend, Matt, who needed a special, custom-made wheelchair racer to compete on the track and field team. At Mission: Jersey last summer, Tim went above and beyond in taking care of Matt’s needs, as well as having a transforming experience himself. Tim has helped the parish in many ways, including being a lector at Mass, and he has assisted at Vacation Bible School. A soon to be Knight himself, he has also helped our Knights of Columbus council in many ways, including helping at monthly breakfasts, decorating the church at Christmas and delivering holiday meals to the needy. Tim will be attending The Catholic University of America. Faith was so important in his college selection process that he inquired about Catholic campus ministry during each of his campus visits.”

• Kaleigh Remick: St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, Senior, St. John Vianney High School  

“Kaleigh is a very involved and devout Catholic teen at our parish. She has consistently shown great leadership skills throughout her time here in the parish. She served on the high school youth group leadership board as one of the co-presidents this past year, and she has been active in the youth group for a long time. She has also served our parish in many other ways including serving as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, lector and cantor. She is well-qualified and deserving of this award.”

  • Faith Scott St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Whiting, Junior, Donovan Catholic High School    

“Faith Scott is a very faithful Catholic teen; her Catholic faith is the cornerstone on which she builds her decision-making. Her courage and grace in sharing her faith is amazing, considering how counter-cultural it is to do so. She shares her faith in a way that is not prideful or judgmental. She has a special ability to read a person and situation and respond with the grace to be humble and prudent in her sharing. Faith has a tender heart and always extends herself to the new, troubled or bullied peer. She uses her great sense of humor in response to social backlash in her defense of the underdog, or of her life choices dictated by Catholic morality. In her friendships, she is very loyal and always makes kindness her choice.

“She is very active in our parish youth ministry as well as an altar server, lector and cantor. In youth ministry, she is on the core leadership committee, on which she helps to develop service projects and facilitate ideas for the middle school-aged members of youth group. Her enthusiasm is contagious, and her values are formed on Catholic teaching and are very solid. She is an excellent example of living the faith, while showing Mercy and compassion to those who do not. Faith is polite, engaging, well formed in her faith, and endearing. She is a bright ray of hope for the future of our Church.”

• Alivia Siedlecki: Holy Eucharist Parish, Tabernacle, Senior, Seneca High School                            

“Alivia deserves recognition for her outstanding four years of service to H.E.R.O. – Holy Eucharist Reaching Out Youth Ministry. It can’t be easy being the volunteer youth ministry coordinator’s daughter. Alivia has had to endure being the test subject for every crazy game, silly skit and creative recipe. She has cleaned roads, rooms and retreat houses. She has served the homeless in soup kitchens and on the streets. Alivia has set the example for her peers and her elders. She marches and defends the unborn, adores Adoration and is a staunch advocate for saying grace in private and in public. She lives her Catholic faith every day. Alivia is our HERO! She will begin a four-year nursing program at Stockton University in 2018.”

• Nicholas Testa: St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, Senior, Freehold Township High School           

“Nicholas Testa is a senior at Freehold Township High School. He is the president of our youth group and has been an active member since eighth grade. Nick is always the first one to volunteer whenever any help is needed in any capacity. He leads with his heart, and by example, and puts others’ needs above his own. Nick is a peer minister in our group – a leader in all activities, and he can be frequently seen mentoring the younger members and giving them helpful advice. One of his most memorable moments of his youth group experience is when he attended the pilgrimage to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington in November. Nick has overcome so much in his life, and he willingly shares his story every year in a witness talk at our eighth-grade Confirmation retreat to inspire others to “never give up!” Nick will be attending Monmouth University this fall, and we know that he will be a tremendous asset to their campus.

“Nick has held several roles throughout the years during our Living Stations of the Cross presentation on Good Friday, but the role of the soldier under the cross has been his favorite role that he has ever played.”

• Jake Vanella: St. Thomas More Parish, Manalapan, Junior, Manalapan High School

“Jake is always willing to participate in activities to help others. He has been an exemplary altar server for many years and is an excellent mentor to the new, younger servers. Jake has been a valued member of our youth group for the past five years and thrives in a leadership role.”

• Alicia Winters: St. Joseph Parish, Toms River, Senior, Toms River High School North                  

“Alicia is a young person who boldly lives out her faith on a daily basis and encourages others to do the same. She has been involved in youth ministry since junior high and is a faithful member of the CYGNUS Youth Group. She plays the violin at various parish Masses and events as well. Alicia has a deep love for Christ and his Church. She strives to spread his light and love in all areas of her life, whether it’s at school, her sports teams or our parish. I am proud of Alicia for her joyful evangelization and her strong devotion to our beautiful Catholic faith!”

More From The Jersey Shore: