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1,100 turn out to honor, support priests

Nearly 1,100 guests fill the banquet hall of the Seaport World Trade Center for the 3rd Annual Celebration of the Priesthood Dinner to support the medical and retirement needs of priests. Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy

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BOSTON -- Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley had another name for the dinner honoring priests on Sept. 21, one which was inspired by a youngster asking him if he was the "communion guy."

"So I'm here tonight with all of you to celebrate this 3rd annual dinner in celebration of the communion guys," he said.

Cardinal O'Malley's remarks were a part of the Celebration of the Priesthood dinner which, for the second year running, grossed $1 million for the archdiocesan Clergy Funds. There was also an additional $150,000 gift to be given over the next two years.

The Clergy Funds provides welfare and medical care for active archdiocesan priests, along with retirement, welfare, housing, and medical support for the archdiocesan senior priests.

Over 1,100 people attended the dinner held in a cavernous banquet room at the Boston's Seaport World Trade Center, whose entrance was adorned with nine priestly vestments of different colors and eras.

The evening was organized by the archdiocese's Boston Catholic Development Services (BCDS) and Clergy Funds and a dinner committee. According to BCDS, the costs of the evening were around $225,000.

Father Robert Reed, the president of the CatholicTV Network emceed the event.

Doug Kingsley, who co-chaired the dinner with his wife Joanie, delivered the evening's remarks.

"If you think about it, our priests baptize us, they confirm us, they marry us, they hear our confessions, they anoint the sick and dying, and most importantly they bring us the body of Christ in the Eucharist," said Kingsley.

Joseph D'Arrigo, executive director of the Clergy Funds, gave an overview of the purpose and needs of his group.

He reported that from a $10 million deficit two years ago, they are projecting a breakeven operating budget at the end of fiscal year 2011. This happened without a cut in priests' benefits, and by utilizing Medicare and Medicaid, along with the contributions of Mass collections and the dinners, he said.

"Just because we have stabilized the fund, doesn't mean we can rest; the intensity must continue," he said.

He called on attendees to take the message of supporting priests to their parishes and spoke about celebrating "the priests who have walked the walk quietly."

"It's honoring the good men that serve in a 24-7 job for most of their lives and it's also about fulfilling a promise we made to them to take care of them when it comes time for them to slow down a little bit," said D'Arrigo.

Following a video featuring interviews with several diocesan priests, Christopher Boyle, a teacher and coach at Memorial Catholic High School in West Roxbury took the podium.

Boyle, who recently was inducted into the Catholic Education Foundation Hall of Fame, spoke of the influence of priests at his home parish of Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in Hingham, Boston College High School, and St. Joseph's College of Maine. He recalled how priests comforted him at the death of his brother and the illness of his father, along with their friendship, humor, and tutoring.

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