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Notes about people

August 6, 2009

Catholic Charities USA has named two Presbyterian women in San Jose Presbytery as winners of its prestigious “Volunteers of the Year Award” for 2009.

Melissa Kreisa and Elsa Amboy, members of Sunnyvale (Calif.) Presbyterian Church were two of three area women honored for their volunteer work with Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County to help support recently arrived refugees. The third woman is Andrea Lee.

In the midst of brutal economic conditions in the region, the three spearheaded an effort to raise more than $200,000 for housing for newly-arrived refugees in the San Jose area. “They are incredible human beings who have recruited and galvanized a significant number of other volunteers who now too are passionate about ‘helping and welcoming the stranger,’” a press release announcing the awards stated.

“They have worked at all levels — with individual refugees, with families and with the building community — and they are both advocates and partners in this work.”

Kreisa, Amboy and Lee will be honored at Catholic Charities USA’s annual gathering in Portland, Or, Sept. 24-27.

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The Rev. Donald E. Mason, a recently retired Presbyterian minister who had been volunteering at the Ghost Ranch conference center since April, died July 22 from a fall during a hike in northern New Mexico. He was 66. A memorial service was held July 27 at Ghost Ranch.

Mason, a native of Waco, TX, graduated from Hastings College in Nebraska and San Francisco Theological Seminary. He served pastorates in Davis, CA, and Palo Alto, CA, before moving to Urbana, IL, where he pastored First Presbyterian Church for 17 years until his retirement in January 2008. Upon his retirement, he and his wife, Donna, moved back to Davis.

Mason’s ministry was marked by involvement in international mission and ecumenical and interfaith relations. While in Urbana, he interested his congregation and the Urbana Rotary Club in clean water wells in Malawi. He was active in the Religious Leaders for Community Care and the Champaign-Urbana Ministerial Association organizations and served as president of the Illinois Conference of Churches.

In addition to his wife, Mason is survived by a son, Paul Andrew Mason of Seattle; a daughter, Marita Ann Renner of Asheville, N.C.; two grandsons; and several sisters and brothers.

His ashes have been scattered at Ghost Ranch.

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The Office of the General Assembly (OGA) has announced the appointments of the Revs. Molly Casteel and Timothy Gargal to fill interim positions.

Casteel began work July 1 as interim manager of the General Assembly Committee on Representation (GACOR) and Inclusive Services. Cargal will serve as interim associate for Preparation for Ministry and Examinations, beginning Aug. 31.

A native of Oklahoma, Casteel is a graduate of the University of Tulsa and Princeton Theological Seminary. She most recently served on staff of the General Assembly Mission Council as associate for Women’s Advocacy. She will provide staff support to the GACOR, serve as liaison with synod committees on representation, and build and evaluate relationships with constituency groups across the denomination.

Cargal has served as pastor of Northwood Presbyterian Church in Silver Spring, Md., for the past 12 years. Prior to that, he was an associate pastor in Tennessee and a faculty member at Western Kentucky University. He is a graduate of Southeastern University, Fuller Theological Seminary and Vanderbilt University. He will lead a staff team in the ongoing work of preparation for ministry by providing consultation and training for committees on preparation for ministry and overseeing the ordination exam process.

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