by Linda Caldwell
Fitting to the celebration, Bishop John Noonan presented Third Order Regular Franciscan Father Anthony Aarons (pictured) with the Diocese of Orlando’s “Witness to Hope” Award during the celebration of the baccalaureate Mass for Bishop Moore Catholic High School (BMCHS), Monday, May 18, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe.
This award is a special presentation to an individual who demonstrates through his or her ministry of evangelization, the opportunity to enkindle a deeper faith in the hearts of the people of God, form leaders in Christ, and harmonize ministries to the mission of the Church. One of Father Aarons many ministries is serving the youth, faculty, staff and parents of BMCHS as school chaplain.
“I was quite surprised,” Father Aarons said. “This award looks at the areas of priority of the diocese – enkindling a great faith, harmonizing ministries, and so forth. In a sense, I held to those things when I came into the diocese. I have been trying to do that. It seems like a natural thing. It should be what everybody is doing.”
Carol Brinati, chancellor for administration for the diocese, praised Father Aarons for his dedicated service not only to the diocese, BMCHS, and the San Pedro Spiritual Development Center in Winter Park, where he serves on the pastoral staff, but also to the many people he serves in his ministry.
“He has done much work in the areas of retreat ministry, liturgy and spiritual direction with lay persons, clergy and the religious,” she said. “We are pleased and honored to present Father Aarons with the Witness to Hope Award.”
Father Aarons currently serves as a member of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission and assists with Retrouvaille, a ministry focused on sustaining healthy marriages. He is the writer of daily reflections for Faith Fit, an app created by Bishop Noonan and his staff to help us become physically and spiritually fit by promoting the health of the whole person: body, mind and soul. At the same time, Bishop Moore High School faculty, staff, students and parents know him as their chaplain.
Father Aarons said he tries to bring hope to the people he serves every day.
“I have met various people, whether it is at Bishop Moore, or if they come here to San Pedro for confessions, persons in Retrouvaille, or wherever, by listening to what they say, I try to offer words of encouragement based on Scripture and the Church’s teaching,” he said.
Father Aarons was born in Jamaica to a family renowned for their involvement in and service to the Anglican Church. Already an Anglican priest, his conversion to the Catholic Church as his spiritual home brought the blessing of his ordination to the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Mandeville in Jamaica where he served in many capacities as vicar general, director of liturgy, director of vocations, and as a diocesan school principal and pastor.
He was received into the Third Order Regular Franciscan Friars on Feb. 14, 2013.
Father Aarons said he is blessed in that he witnesses hope in his daily life.
“For me, my day begins with private prayer even before I get to the chapel for community prayer with my brothers,” he said. “I also get my strength from the Eucharist. I need the daily Eucharist in order for me to do what I do. I tell people that whatever comes out of me comes from my connection with Jesus in the Eucharist.”