Local

Spring Celebration raises $1 million for Catholic Charities

byDonis Tracy
6/17/2005

BOSTON — Close to 400 friends and supporters of Catholic Charities came out in style on June 9 for the social service agency’s Spring Celebration. The event, which raised over $1 million for Catholic Charities, was held at the Seaport Hotel in Boston.

"You come here not to be with us," Father J. Bryan Hehir, president of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Boston told the guests, "but because you know what it is that we do."

In a casual, relaxed atmosphere, the guests enjoyed drinks and hors d’oeuvres as they listened to the evening’s presentation. Photographs portraying the many programs run or assisted by Catholic Charities were projected on large screens set on either side of the speaker’s podium.

During his opening remarks, Father Hehir expressed gratitude for the “material support and immaterial support” which Catholic Charities has received from those in attendance. “You have been our cedars of Lebanon for years and years,” he said.

"The faces on the video screen tell the story of Catholic Charities," he said. "They are the reasons you are here tonight."

"At Catholic Charities, we seek to be the divinity of God serving the humanity of the wider community," Father Hehir continued.

After an opening prayer delivered by Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley, two students from the teen center at St. Peter Church in Dorchester spoke of the impact the center has had on their lives.

“Working at the teen center ... I have noticed a perceptible difference in my character,” began Melissa Pires, 17, a councilor-in-training and the president of the Teen Youth Council at St. Peter Church in Dorchester.

Pires attributes her growing self-confidence to the volunteers who have allowed her to broaden her horizons, while at the same time nurturing her and making her feel welcome.

“I love the teen center — it’s like my second home,” she said.

Antonio Ceneio, 17, echoed Pires’ sentiments, recalling that before becoming involved in the teen center, he was often sullen and unmotivated, feeling he did not belong in Dorchester since he was Cape Verdean, not American.

"The teen center has helped me in the discovery and the realization of my potential," began Antonio Ceneio, 17, a high school junior originally from Cape Verde.

“[The center] has made me proud of who I am and of my community,” he said gratefully. “Thank you, and God bless you.”

As Pires and Ceneio concluded their speeches, the crowd responded by giving them a standing ovation.

"We believe in you," Peter Meade, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, said to them. "That's why we are here."

Three long-time supporters of Catholic Charities were also honored during the evening. Rev. Dr. Ray Hammond, chairman and co-founder of the Ten Point Coalition — an ecumenical group of Christian clergy and lay leaders working to mobilize the greater Boston community around issues affecting black youth; Neil Finnegan, director of Citizens Financial Capital; and Don Rodman, president of Rodman Ford in Foxboro, were all recognized for their years of dedication to the social service organization.

One by one, each recipient was presented an award by a fellow supporter of Catholic Charities, after which they delivered a brief acceptance speech.

Speaking to The Pilot at the Spring Celebration, Father Hehir lauded all the generous donors whose contributions helped meet the $1 million goal.

"To me, tonight was a great success financially," he said. "But more important than the financial aspect, Catholic Charities is what we strive to be as Church -- to be a light, to be of service, and to demonstrate our faith in the wider community -- precisely by trying to help those who most need a boost in our wider community."