The Global Climate Strike took over the state capital in September. (Emily Benson photo)
The Global Climate Strike took over the state capital in September. (Emily Benson photo)
Finding ourselves in the smallest of stories
It was a wild year, wasn’t it?
I feel like I say something like this every year; how crazy the year was, how quickly it flew by, how much things have changed, etc. But every year I believe it. After all, a year is a long time, and a lot can — and did — happen.
This year we saw the passage of the Reproductive Health Act and Child Victims Act, we saw parishes come together for the Re-Igniting Our Faith campaign, and saw hundreds of Catholics carry out their faith in acts of kindness around the Diocese. From sisters making sandwiches for the hungry to high school students helping locals file their taxes, we saw and reported on the ups and downs of 2019. 
Even with all the craziness this past year has brought, there are some stories that were hard to forget. From the people I met, to the events that I covered, here are five pieces from the year that helped make my 2019 a little more wild and a lot more memorable.
I will never forget when Caroline Waterman threw her Vera Bradley bag out her second story window, and then — thanks to a flawless pulley system — lowered it gradually to the ground.
Waterman was just one of 20 Meals on Wheels recipients I met the day I did a delivery ride-along with Paulette Cross, a volunteer for Catholic Charities’ Meals on Wheels program in Schenectady. Though nobody else’s meal pickup method was quite as amazing as Waterman’s, (taking the stairs was difficult for her, so the pulley-system was established) the ride-along allowed me to meet and talk with Schenectady residents, which was a joy from start to finish. 
To have someone open their doors to you is such a simple and heartwarming experience, and it was so easy to see how important these visits were to program recipients. It’s one thing to report on how these meals are changing lives, but to watch as someone’s face lights up at seeing Cross – and Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger, who was also there that day — and to hear them chat and catch up about their weeks, it was clear to see how the program provided much more than just a warm meal. 
This international march swept over the world on Friday, Sept. 20, and Albany was no exception. 
Getting to cover a march that was organized and implemented by a number of high-schoolers, and watching it blossom into thousands of locals protesting through Albany’s Capitol, reminded me why I was drawn to journalism. Here was this historic day, the day of the Global Climate Strike — led by none other than the phenomenal Greta Thunberg — and I was there not only to watch it unfold, but to dive deeper into the strike. To ask protesters about their hopes and concerns for the planet, why they joined the movement, and what the day meant to them.
I’ll never forget the sight of how many people came out that sunny, Friday afternoon. The streets surrounding the State Capitol were flooded with protesters — young and old — armed with colorful signs and rhythmic chants. During the march, it was as if the group came together as one solid, immovable source of power as they walked the streets, demanding to be heard. It was a day where democracy and freedom of the press really shined.
I met Angie Bassi when she took a part-time secretary position at the Pastoral Center in 2018, the same building our office is located. I never spoke with her much, but she always carried a quiet, kind demeanor. 
Angie had worked for years as a radiation therapist, and took on her job at the Pastoral Center in retirement. My interview with Angie wasn’t like an interview at all, it was like talking with my grandmother; she was kind, inquisitive, informative, and gave the most amazing advice. She told me that everyday she was alive was a good day. It’s an important mantra that I think we often forget, but Angie helped me remember it. 
Gabe Donovan was another inspiring story. I met Gabe when he was in seventh grade at Christian Brothers Academy. Born with neurofibromatosis (a rare neurological disorder), nobody would know Gabe as anyone other than a kind kid with a great sense of faith. Now in high school, I talked to Gabe again this year when his selfless project to help a girl in need of assistive technology at St. Margaret’s Center for Children went viral. The project reached politicians and celebrities, and spread like wildfire on social media. 
When I was in high school, my biggest concern was trying to pass Spanish. Then there’s Gabe, who raised almost $50,000 for charity. It’s amazing to see the things students in this Diocese have been able to accomplish. Oh, and for the record, I still don’t speak Spanish. 
In June, I did a story on the anti-vaccination movement and the Church’s teachings on the matter. In the midst of working on it, I remember sitting at my desk, a list of doctors, psychologists and clergy in front of me who I was eager to call, and feeling an overwhelming joy for the work that I do. Not every story I write excites me or makes me want to grab a camera or pick up the phone and do an interview, some days the writing is work. But this one was different; I was excited to do this story.
Even now I’m hesitant to mention this as one of my favorite stories of the year. While the piece was generally well-received, it was also met with incredible backlash. Regardless, this story was hands down my most involved of the year. A great deal of research and reporting went into writing this and I’m proud of the work I published. I can only hope that this piece helped readers learn more about the topic of vaccines and the Church, and that reading it brightened someone’s day in a similar way to how writing it brightened mine. 

My first year working for The Evangelist, I covered the national March for Life in Washington, D.C. I walked with reporters from BuzzFeed and the Washington Post, I interviewed Catholics from across the country and witnessed thousands march in support of choosing life. This is not that story.
In fact, it’s probably the polar opposite. This story was from when, on a random day in June, I went to visit the first-grade class at Blessed Sacrament school in Albany. Students were saying goodbye to their therapy dog, Ernst, who had been working with the class throughout the year. 
On paper, this story isn’t flashy or exciting. It contains no hard-hitting information or large-scale national coverage. All I did was show up and take photos of students and a dog. And it was the best day ever. 
The students were buzzed with energy, whispering in secret about a visitor to the class. I made my rounds taking photos, and one by one, students started asking me questions. Where I worked, how old I was, why my hair was red (it was dyed at the time), if I also had a dog just like Ernst. They gifted me colored photos of flowers and gave a round of hugs when it was time to say goodbye.
It was the smallest of stories. One that probably got a tiny space in the back page of our paper, but not all the big stories are the best or most memorable. In fact, it’s these tiny stories about the wonderful and random events around our Diocese that I find the most fun. They’re wholesome and intimate, two incredible features most unique to the local media. Because these faces in our stories are more than just random politicians or businessmen, they’re our neighbors and our nieces, our teachers and our babysitters. 
I’ve loved being a part of telling these stories, and I look forward to telling more in the new year.