Kelly honored at Catholic Charities Spring Celebration

BOSTON — Supporters of Catholic Charities, including many leaders of Boston’s business community, gathered with Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley at the Kennedy Library May 21 for the Catholic Charities Spring Celebration, at which more than $1.5 million was raised for the anti-poverty agency.

“Some of us are on the giving end and some of us are on the receiving end, but all of us are part of a larger family,” the cardinal said in his remarks before offering his closing blessing.

During the evening, the cardinal joined the Catholic Charities’ president, Tiziana C. Dearing, in saluting Edmund F. “Ted” Kelly, the chairman, president and CEO of the Liberty Mutual Group, which is ranked 94th on the Fortune 500.

“It has been my privilege to personally witness Mr. Kelly’s dedication to providing families the hope for a better future, and his compassionate response to those struggling to make it through to another day,” the cardinal said.

“It is hard to imagine having a list of Justice and Compassion Award recipients without Mr. Kelly’s name in the group at the top,” Dearing said. “While we honor him, it is we who are honored, both by his work and by his presence here.”

One of the attendees, Michael T. MacNeil, director of technology at Lynn’s St. Mary’s High School, said, “We tell people that St. Mary’s is a school that has raised up from the ashes, but we could not have done it without the help of Ted Kelly. He was a major part of our capital campaign. It is great to support Catholic Charities and Mr. Kelly at the same time.”

In accepting his award, Kelly, who grew up in Northern Ireland and earned his mathematics doctorate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), said he was grateful to be recognized by such an important social service agency.

“I wonder how many people would be hungry tonight were it not for Catholic Charities?” Kelly asked in his remarks.

The agency helps approximately 200,000 people through 140 programs in 40 locations, he noted.

Kelly said that his thoughts were with his friend Thomas J. Flatley, who died May 17 at age 76 and whose funeral Mass was earlier that morning.

Flatley had championed the work of Catholic Charities and so many other causes, he said. “I can tell you that one of his last acts was to authorize a very large gift to Catholic Charities.” Then, touching the shiny black award with his right hand, “I dedicate this award to him.” The gift from the Flatley family was more than $100,000, as stated in the evening’s program.

As of the beginning of the dinner, the total raised for the night was nearly $1.525 million which surpassed the goal of $1.5 million, but was nearly double the total raised three years ago, said the program’s master of ceremonies, Michael Sheehan, the CEO of Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Inc. Sheehan was the dinner’s co-chair with Jeffrey J. Kaneb, a vice-president at H.P. Hood.

Sheehan closed his remarks with an expression of concern for the health of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, whose battle with brain cancer was made public May 20. “It is hard, being here at the Kennedy Library, not to be thinking about Sen. Kennedy, as we go forth in this difficult time.”

Sheehan commented that a member of the library staff said he noticed many more people visiting the museum exhibits, including the section devoted to the senator’s career, than in previous years. “Obviously, the news has affected people,” the employee noted.

In her own remarks to the more than 500 attendees in the library’s Steven Smith hall, Dearing made the case for broad-approach faith-based social service agencies. “Because we are faith-based, we are never going to quit. We are never going to stop,” she said.

Dearing said the trend towards setting up charities with narrowly targeted purposes is motivated by the need to see measured results. But, she said, these targeted agencies are set up for the convenience of the managers and contributors. “They want one little thing for more bang for the buck,” she said.

It is not reasonable to ask a poor person to approach different agencies for food, shelter, counseling, job training and other needs, she said. “What they need is an agency like Catholic Charities willing to wrap themselves around a family and say, ‘We are with you from beginning to end.’”

Dearing added, “We are part of the social services strategy. The only one in the Commonwealth who helps more people than us, is the Commonwealth.”

The contributions to Catholic Charities raised at the spring celebration were critical to solve the problem of “the fourth week of the month,” she said. Too many times, the agency only has enough resources to support people for the first three weeks of the month. “For the last 10 days of the month, we have to tell people, ‘I am sorry, I cannot help you,’” she said.

The evening’s program also included a presentation by Bernice Gordon, a former client of the agency, who told the audience she has been one of its employees for 13 years. She spoke after a short video presentation, which featured her and other local people helped by the charity.

Gordon said she is now a direct support counselor at Roxbury’s Nazareth Residence for Women and Children, a shelter for families with at least one member with the HIV virus.

When she first encountered Catholic Charities, Gordon said she was stuck in a vicious drug habit and was in constant legal trouble. Finally the judicial system gave her a choice.

“It was treatment or jail,” she said.

Gordon said she and her daughter moved into Dorchester’s St. Ambrose Residence and the agency helped her to stop using drugs and become an independent adult.

“Using drugs stunted my growth. When it stopped, I had to start over again. It was like learning how to walk,” she said.

With the help of her Catholic Charities advocate, Gordon said she surrendered to the court system to resolve her legal cases and eventually secured her own apartment in Duxbury. “I remember the woman giving me the tour of the apartment apologized that there was no dishwasher. I told her, ‘I don’t need a dishwasher, I have a teenager.’”