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BOSTON — “Catholic Charities is about people. It is about the people we serve ... [it is] about the people who serve ... [it is] about the people in the Church,” began Father J. Bryan Hehir, president and treasurer of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Boston, in his opening remarks during the 2004 Catholic Charities Spring Celebration.
Nearly 400 people convened at the Seaport Hotel on June 2 in support of Catholic Charities. In a casual atmosphere guests enjoyed drinks and buffet fare as they listened to the evening’s presentations. Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley delivered the keynote address. In addition, Sister Eustace Caggiano, CSJ, director of the Cardinal Cushing Resource Center in the South End of Boston, was honored for her decades of service to Catholic Charities.
Calling it “one of the great miracles of the Catholic Church,” Archbishop O’Malley praised the work done by Catholic Charities throughout the years.
"In our country, the birth of Catholic Charities is tied to the historical process of immigration," the archbishop said during his address. "In many ways we are still an immigrant Church in this archdiocese and throughout the country."
The archbishop went on to cite how Catholic Charities has responded to the “growing number of men and women from Sudan,” providing many services for the immigrants in order that they may become self-sufficient.
Archbishop O’Malley urged Catholic Charities to remain faithful to two “great Biblical themes” — that of the “Good Samaritan,” who strives to help those most in need, and the “prophets of the Old Testament,” who began a tradition of social justice that continues in the Church today.
In addition, Archbishop O’Malley lauded the “constant sensitivity to those that are on the edge of the circle of life,” noting that oftentimes those in need “can be as invisible as Lazarus on the rich man’s porch.”
He also stressed that the “essence of Catholic Charities” is that of service to all those in need.
"We do not ask if you are hungry Catholics, only if you are hungry," he said.
Concluding his remarks, the archbishop noted the recent “escalation of violence in Boston streets.” He then urged those in attendance to offer summer jobs for teens living in the midst of the violence, from places such as Dorchester and Roxbury, in order to provide an escape from the violence.
"I ask you to consider that request very strongly," he stressed.
The archbishop also noted that in the difficulties that the archdiocese is currently undergoing — with the reconfiguration of parishes just getting underway — he stands sure that Catholic Charities will continue to provide for the neediest.
Father Hehir agreed, telling Archbishop O’Malley that “Catholic Charities stands ready to help in any way we can.”
Following the archbishop’s address, Father Hehir turned his attention to the work done by Sister Eustace. For the past 32 years, Sister Eustace has helped countless numbers of needy men and women at the Cardinal Cushing Resource Center. The Resource Center is a place where the homeless, the poor and the immigrants of Boston have always turned to receive food, clothing, furniture and other household goods such as towels and dishes — all given freely.
After her three decades of service, the 90-year-old will retire on June 30.
Father Hehir recalled that when he arrived in Boston to head Catholic Charities, he was asked, “Have you met the ‘Saint of the South End’?”
"It takes a saint to cut through the complexities of life and to give freely to others," he reflected. Calling her "a legacy, an imperative ... and a model," Father Hehir praised Sister Eustace, noting that her selfless work has inspired, and will continue to inspire, many Catholic Charities volunteers.
He then presented her with flowers and a plaque recognizing her years of service.
After accepting her gifts, Sister Eustace thanked the many benefactors who throughout the years have provided the Resource Center with their donations.
"I could not have done that work there had it not been for them," she said.
Speaking after the event, Sister Eustace admitted that receiving such special recognition “was very humbling.”
"I feel as if it should be someone else being honored," she said, adding "to help each other -- that's what we are all called to do and that's all I've done. Nothing spectacular or extraordinary, but I've always done it with love."