BOSTON -- Nearly 1,500 people packed an expansive ballroom at Boston's Seaport World Trade Center Sept. 16 for a gala dinner to benefit the Archdiocese of Boston's clergy benefits fund, and pay tribute to the priests whose selfless sacrifices have touched the lives of faithful Catholics.
The second annual Priest Appreciation Dinner grossed $1 million for the archdiocese's Clergy Benefits Trust, according to Clergy Funds Advisor Joe D'Arrigo. Final tallies on the amount raised for the fund were unavailable at press time since dinner expenses still needed to be accounted.
The Clergy Benefits Trust funds retirement living and health expenses for the archdiocese's priests.
"A million-dollar dinner in Boston in today's economy is significant," he said.
Speakers for the evening paid tribute to the services of the archdiocese's priests and the role they play in the daily and sacramental lives of Catholics.
The evening's keynote speaker was Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, and remarks were also given by event co-chair and HP Hood chairman and CEO John Kaneb, City Year Foundations Manager Courtney Wahle, and event co-chair and Campaign for Catholic Schools President Kathleen Driscoll.
Cardinal O'Malley discussed the importance of priests to the sacramental life of Catholics, saying Catholics cannot receive the Eucharist without priests.
"We cannot live without the Eucharist," Cardinal O'Malley said. "The Eucharist is what brings us together as God's people where the Lord makes a gift of himself to us and gives us the strength to lead our lives."
Wahle, a 2006 graduate of the University of Notre Dame and alumnus of Notre Dame Academy in Hingham, gave a testimony of how the priests she has known have nourished her Catholic faith at different points in her life -- as a young parishioner at Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Parish in Hingham, to her college years and even during recent international visits.
"We are here to thank you, our faithful priests, for serving as a living testament to our beautiful faith," she said.
Driscoll, an event co-chair, followed Wahle to the podium and echoed Wahle's sentiments about the importance of priests in the lives of Catholics.
"The sacraments mean the most to me as a Catholic. They are critical to my faith in God and his Church," Driscoll said. "Without the priests here I would not have been able to receive them, or any of us."
She also credited the priests for their "self sacrifice and constant service" especially in the rebuilding of the Archdiocese of Boston since the abuse crisis and reconfiguration.
"It's all the great news that's not being reported today and it is because of their work for the better," she said.
The speaking portion of the program also touched on recent progress the Archdiocese of Boston has made to trim the operating deficit of its clergy fund.
Kaneb, a dinner co-chair and Hood chairman and CEO, remarked on the progress of recent efforts to raise money for the priests' retirement trust during his portion of the speaking program, noting how in 2008 the fund had a $10 million operating deficit and by next year the fund will be operating at a near zero deficit.
"This has been primarily a cost-cutting success story," said Kaneb. "All of us who are in business know you can't save your way to success."