Hackett honored at Charities’ Spring Celebration

DORCHESTER -- Catholic Charities’ annual gala showed the organization’s donors and guests how much has been accomplished this year. Yet, the general message gleaned from the dinner speakers was that there is still much more that needs to be done.

“The combination of the spirit of the guests and the comments of the honorees and the speakers just grounded me,” said Nancy Sandman, a parishioner of St. Paul Parish in Wellesley who attended the event. “The message is so important.”

On May 20, the Catholic Charities 2010 Spring Celebration was held at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. The event was attended by about 450 people.

The evening included numerous speakers, including Ken Hackett, president of Catholic Relief Services, who received Catholic Charities’ annual Justice and Compassion Award.

Previous honorees have included the late philanthropist Ray Tye, Liberty Mutual CEO Ted Kelly, and current Boston College chancellor Father J. Donald Monan, S.J.

“We really wanted to move to a national honoree who embodied the social justice work of the Church,” Tiziana Dearing, president of Catholic Charities said. “CRS is our sister organization. They embody the same things we seek to do all the time.”

Hackett graduated from BC in 1968 and joined the Peace Corps. He served in Ghana, and then moved to CRS in 1972. He served that organization in a variety of posts in Africa, where he oversaw the organization’s response to the famine in Ethiopia in 1984-85 and the civil war in Somalia in the early 1990s. He is a member of the Pontifical Commission Cor Unum -- the Vatican agency that coordinates the Church’s charitable work -- as well as the USCCB migration and refugee agency.

Speaking of the situation in Haiti, the West Roxbury native said that difficult work remains in providing relief to the Haitian people. He said rubble is still on the ground and people are still living in tents.

He also said that the situation has taken a “spiritual and emotional toll” on relief workers.

“That’s going to take a long time to heal,” he said. “Those are the challenges that are going to stay with us as we rebuild.”

The situation there offers opportunities as well, according to Hackett.

“It calls us to be creative as well as determined, to look beyond the quick snapshot, to remember there are people involved,” Hackett said.

Hackett’s comments resonated with Sandman, the development director for global health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“It’s going to take years,” she said. “Not only do the people in Haiti need our support but the people who are supporting them need our support. Their days are long. There is no relief.”

Sandman said Brigham has provided medical staff for the people in Haiti.

Dearing said the dinner raised over $1.3 million, including a $75,000 gift made by the children of the late Ray Tye, the 2009 Justice and Compassion Award recipient, and an anonymous $25,000 gift.

Prior to dinner, John Driscoll honored the legacy of his late father, Jack, a previous Catholic Charities board chairman.

The after-dinner portion of the evening included a video presentation on Catholic Charties’ work welcoming immigrants and refugees.

Following the video, Frandy Boyer, the client speaker for the evening, discussed the impact of the Haitian Multi-Service Center on his life. He recalled his first visit there a month ago because of his difficulty with the English language. Since then, he has become involved in their activities. He said he hopes to go to medical school and become a doctor.

“I want to help others who don’t get medical care,” he said.

Charities’ president Dearing followed Boyer. In her remarks, she discussed the local impact of Catholic Charities in the current economic climate. During the recession, which she said resulted in more requests for help such as food and utility assistance, the organization increased its output of aid without hiring more staff.

“We got smaller where we needed to be smaller and got smarter where we needed to get smarter,” said a fired-up Dearing. “We figured out how to do it because that is our mission.”

Sandman concurred with Dearing’s remarks.

“They go to any degree to do what needs to be done,” she said. “That’s just inspiring and admirable.”

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley followed Dearing to the podium, and in his brief remarks he praised the work of CRS in Haiti following the earthquake.

Also in attendance was Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former Archbishop of Washington, D.C.