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 | By Megan Louise Brotherston, the 2023 Kecharitomene Award

His Compassionate Embrace

Speech Delivered at the Saints in the City Youth Awards Celebration

Description of Award Recipient: This honoree demonstrates the qualities that make a young disciple effective in the world today. They are kingdom-minded, fearless, possess a zeal for evangelization, and they are inspired by the truths of the Catholic faith. They embrace the will of God, love ‘in high definition’ and when peers are in their presence, they are intoxicated with the fragrance of Christ. The recipient desires to grow in holiness and live out their life’s work. 

Good evening, Bishop Cantu, pastors, priests of the diocese, peers, youth, family, and friends! Congratulations to everyone for continuing to 'live’ the Eucharist and follow the Word of God at a time in our lives when many may not! Way to go, youth and young adults of 2023. May we continue to be a visible sign of Christ in the world! First, I would like to thank Fr. George Aranha, pastor of Santa Teresa Parish, and Lily Maddela for nominating me, and the selection committee for the diocesan Saints in the City for choosing me; I am truly humbled and honored.

People always explain who Jesus is, but I want to ask you: who is Jesus to you? For me, Jesus represents community, the power of unity, and the joy of coming together. Every time I agree to a new project, I say yes because I know Jesus is there waiting for me. When I have the most random conversations with children, He is there listening to those conversations. When I put on the white liturgical gown and start dancing in church, He is there guiding me. When I help those in need, I am aware of Christ’s presence, and I feel His compassionate embrace, which is the same feeling I get when I see a Watsonville farm worker’s child overjoyed to complete a craft or share a meal with me. That same feeling comes when I count myself blessed to have helped put that smile on their face. But mostly, I feel that Jesus is with me when the project, event, or moment ends, and even if there is only one person, it is then that I am excited and feel joyful, witnessing their relief, smile, and enjoyment. I am grateful for all the ‘aha moments’ resulting from saying yes.

I have been very fortunate in encountering key role models who have included me in service projects at my parish since I was young. I am truly thankful to them for giving me my first opportunities to ‘live’ the Eucharist. Thanks to them, I was able to take away and bring so much to my life, especially the motivation to try a little harder, even during times when I am tired. 

From them, I have gained the ability to understand and acknowledge that there is a bigger picture, greater than me, that I am here to help and support. They have inspired me that I can do something, that any amount is better than nothing, and that there is never too little. Lastly, they have given me the strength and the courage to follow their lead and actively serve in my school, family, neighborhood, community, and church. 

In a constantly changing world that is filled with fears and worries, loneliness and lack of acceptance, violence, stress, peer pressures and demands, hunger, homework, and so many other personal concerns, following our own path can feel overwhelming. Remember that you were called here tonight for a reason; your positive outlook, your encouraging actions, and your thoughtful gestures are what the world needs more than ever. When I feel uneasy, discouraged, and with low energy, I think of my parish’s patron, Saint Teresa of Avila, and her desire to help, heal, and continue her journey. I often use her thoughtful prayer to give me the push I need. 

Let nothing disturb you,

Let nothing frighten you,

All things will pass away.

God never changes;

Patience obtains all things,

Whoever has God lacks nothing.

God alone suffices. Amen.

Hopefully, you have a prayer or saint who inspires you, too. Saints in the City of 2023, keep pushing onward to see the growth of inclusion, acceptance, loving others, and kindness in our world. Many blessings and congratulations!

The original speech was edited for clarity in the print publication.

Megan Brotherston is a junior at Santa Teresa High School. She and her family are parishioners at Santa Teresa Parish. Megan loves to dance, travel, read, and watch hockey. She also performs in her school’s color guard.

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