BOSTON -- Over $1 million was raised in support for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston during the organization's 12th annual Spring Celebration, held May 10 at the Boston Park Plaza and attended by nearly 400 people.
The gala event yearly serves as one of Catholic Charities' biggest fundraisers, with proceeds supporting the organization's numerous programs and services that aid thousands of people across Eastern Massachusetts.
Additionally, the event serves as an opportunity to recognize an individual with the Justice and Compassion Award, which each year is presented to a person who embodies "the values of charity, compassion, and service to those in need; and who demonstrate, through actions and words, a shared commitment to building a just and compassionate society rooted in the dignity of all people."
The award was presented this year to Barry Shrage, president of Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP).
"This is an enormously humbling moment," said Shrage upon accepting the award from Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley along with Ed Shapiro and Larry Tobin of The Shapiro Foundation.
Shrage has served as the president of CJP since 1987, working to carry out the organization's mission of embracing diversity, building community, and aiding the neediest in the Greater Boston Area. His leadership has helped to create partnerships between CJP, donors, and recipient organizations, and has led to the formation of numerous initiatives to aid people in crisis. Following the adoption of heightened immigration regulations by the Trump administration, Shrage rallied the Jewish community to support CJP's Legal Aid Fund for Immigrants in partnership with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston.
"I want to be clear that this is not at all about me, not even a little bit," Shrage said in his remarks after accepting the Justice and Compassion Award. "It's just by listening, all of us, to the words of our common God, to the words of the Bible. It's impossible not to hear those words."
He lauded the humanitarian work of Catholic Charities, and decried the Trump administration's immigration regulations, saying that God "especially hears the cry of the oppressed."
"God wants us to do his work in the world, God wants us to hear the cry of the victim, to hear the cry of the oppressed," he said. "God's has infinite patience for almost everything, but not for the hypocrisy and the injustice -- there's no patience for that."
"We need to act quickly so that we can aid them and help them and do the right thing," continued Shrage.
When CJP had the opportunity to aid immigrants in the Boston area, it was an easy decision to partner with Catholic Charities to help them, Shrage said.
"This is our responsibility together." he said. "How much more powerful when Catholics and Jews can work together to make these parables happen?"
The speaking program for the Spring Celebration, which also offered a reception and dinner, included welcoming remarks from Father John Unni, pastor of St. Cecilia Parish in Boston; blessings from Archdiocese of Boston Secretary for Health and Social Services Father J. Bryan Hehir and Rabbi Benjamin J. Samuels of the Congregation Shaarei Tefillah in Newton; remarks from Catholic Charities president Debbie Rambo, and a closing from Cardinal O'Malley.
As in past years, client testimonies were also given during the event. However, the testimonies this year were not given directly by the clients, but instead were given with permission by Catholic Charities attorneys and Marjean Perhot, director of the organization's Refugee and Immigration Services. Without using the clients' real names or locations, the testimonies illustrated the sometimes difficult journeys refugees and immigrants make to come to the U.S., and the hardships they may face after arriving.
In his closing remarks, Cardinal O'Malley congratulated Shrage and thanked Catholic Charities for its humanitarian work, and thanked those gathered for their support of it.
Shrage and the CJP helped us "to do what God wants us to do and what God wants us to do together," said Cardinal O'Malley.
"Our quest, as people, is to discover God," the cardinal continued. In doing so, "we discover who we are, why we're here, what our purpose in life is."
"Catholic Charities is an expression of what that mission is, and we are all so excited and proud and grateful to repair the world together with our Jewish brothers and sisters," he said.
Operating 26 locations in Eastern Massachusetts, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston is able to provide aid to over 180,000 people of all faiths in need. Its many programs and services help the neediest families and individuals find their footing through support that includes providing basic necessities, opportunities for work and education, and safe temporary shelter. Additionally, in its Refugee and Immigration Services, Catholic Charities is able to aid newcomers and those looking for a better life through immigration legal services, refugee resettlement, interpreter services, and ESOL classes.