Beacons of hope

Each May, Catholic Charities holds its Spring Celebration at the John F. Kennedy Library. It is a terrific event for us, and our supporters come out for the evening to celebrate our service to our clients and our belief in the Catholic social vision. We pack the house, and have raised $1.5 million in each of the last two years.

Several things resonate about the event, but key are the people we choose to honor. We try to keep the focus on those using their place in society to commit wonderful and continuous acts of justice and compassion. Our last three honorees were Father J. Donald Monan of Boston College, Edmund F. Kelly of Liberty Mutual, and A. Raymond Tye, formerly of United Liquors, and whom, to our great sadness, we lost in March of this year.

On May 20 of this year, we will honor two people. First, in a year marked by the loss of several great Boston leaders, we also lost John P. (Jack) Driscoll. Mr. Driscoll was a prestigious lawyer at Nutter, McClennan and Fish, and a partner in their business department. He was a noted philanthropist and civic leader, serving on countless boards, including that of the Catholic Schools Foundation. For us at Catholic Charities, he was a dedicated friend, and a former chairman of the board. It was inconceivable to us not to honor his memory at our event.

We also have chosen the 2010 recipient of the Justice and Compassion Award. This year’s award winner is Ken Hackett, executive director of Catholic Relief Services. Ken was born and raised in Boston, a graduate of both Boston College High School and Boston College. He has been with CRS most of his adult life, and has run the agency for nearly 20 years.

Catholic Relief Services brings the social justice vision of the Church to people in more than 85 countries. Ken and CRS have been particularly strong leaders in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti in January. They stand with people in need, and help them build better futures for themselves and their families, just as we try to do here at Catholic Charities.

Why spend a column telling you about these men? We are in trying times, and I think sometimes we cast about looking for hope, for leaders to not only appeal to the better angels of our natures, but who send their own angels out to lead the way. We need to be reminded that the potential for greatness, for compassion and for justice exists in us all. When we see our neighbors, the leaders in our own communities, the people we grew up with, showing themselves to be those leaders, we understand that such leadership is a little more possible for each of us, is a little more available in all of us. That is what celebrating the work of Ken Hackett and the memory of Jack Driscoll will remind us of at Spring Celebration this year.

Please join me in congratulating Ken Hackett, and in thanking the Driscoll family. If you would like to attend Spring Celebration, or support it in their honor, you can call Kathrine Hastings at 617.451.7952, or visit our web site at If our event is not for you, please take a moment anyway to reflect on the example that both their lives give us for two very different and very effective ways to make this world a better place.

Tiziana C. Dearing is president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston.