Marist High School senior Peyton Ashford received the Junior African American Heritage Award during the 40th Annual Archdiocesan African American Heritage Prayer Service held at Holy Name Cathedral on Friday, February 23. Thirty-six fellow Marist students attended along with students from Catholic grade schools and high schools from around the Archdiocese.
This year marked the third time Ashford (Ashburn) has attended the event. As a junior, she worked on the planning committee, crafting and delivering the call to worship in 2017. She was surprised when this year’s organizers told her she would be receiving the junior award that celebrates students who are role models to their peers by demonstrating the importance of celebrating faith and embracing prayer that reverences the rich and beautiful diversity of the Catholic Church and world. Bishop Joseph Perry, Auxiliary Bishop of Vicariate VI, and Father David Jones, director of the Black Catholic Initiative and pastor of St. Benedict The African Church, were the adult recipients.
“Why me?,” Ashford said of her reaction to the award. “I was excited to find out but also didn’t know why I deserved it.” Ashford was selected based on her commitment to her faith and community. At Marist she is a Marist Youth service group member, Eucharistic minister, student ambassador, student council representative, and is active in the school’s broadcasting and journalism programs. She is also active in her parish, St. Ailbe in Chicago’s Burnside neighborhood. She plans to attend State University of New York at Oswego and major in broadcast journalism.
She spoke to the congregation on Friday, sharing her faith journey which includes the impact her involvement in Marist’s senior service outreach program has had. This double-period religion course assigns seniors to local schools, nursing homes, and facilities. Ashford serves at Providence Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Palos Heights, visiting with senior citizens and engaging in games, activities, and conversation with the residents. She credited her Catholic school education with helping shape who she is, pointing out that she is “a work in progress, not a masterpiece.” She acknowledged her Marist teachers and classmates and said she cried when they walked into the Holy Name Cathedral on Friday and sat behind her and her family.
Cardinal Blase Cupich presided at the prayer service that focused on the theme “Kwanzaa: First We Are One in the Spirit”. This sacred event centered on the richness of diversity, the beauty of unity, and the power of storytelling.
Check out an article and pictures from Chicago Catholic.