The American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan proved to be a venue both vibrant and apropos for the Centennial Gala Benefit of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York.
More than $2 million was raised for New Yorkers in need at the June 12 black tie dinner, hosted by Cardinal Dolan and the Charities’ board of trustees.
“I look forward to this Catholic Charities Gala every year, but this year has a special glee about it since it’s our centennial,” Cardinal Dolan said in remarks to the 500 attendees, who included New York benefactors from the fields of business, philanthropy, culture, fashion, law, media, politics and religion.
He made special mention to Catherine R. Kinney, chair of Charities’ board of trustees, and acknowledged “the people whom we help and the people who help us” at Catholic Charities.
Cardinal Dolan conferred the 2017 Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love) Award upon Robert H. Niehaus of GCP Capital Partners LLC and John G. Stratton of Verizon.
“You can tell the quality of an organization when you’ve got the caliber of people like Bob Niehaus and John Stratton as our honorees, who are happy to help us,” the cardinal said. “You can tell the quality of the organization when you see our board in action. You can tell the quality of Catholic Charities when I look around this glowing room this evening—people who are enthusiastic about the work that Catholic Charities does,” and are “so proud to be a part of it.”
Niehaus, chairman and founder of GCP Capital Partners, said, “As a longtime supporter of Catholic Charities, it is a tremendous honor and a privilege to receive the Deus Caritas Est Award.”
Niehaus noted two Charities-affiliated agencies he and his wife Kate support: POTS (Part of the Solution) and Good Shepherd Services. He then shared the services of each and extolled their leaders.
Those agencies, he said, “are just two of the many Catholic Charities-affiliated organizations that provide such essential services to those New Yorkers on the fringes of society, particularly the recent immigrants.”
“My work with Good Shepherd Services and POTS,” he said, “has been incredibly meaningful and rewarding on a personal basis.”
Stratton, executive vice president and president of customer and product operations at Verizon, said he was honored to accept the award on behalf of those at the company “who care so deeply about Catholic Charities and its mission.”
“At Verizon, we are exceptionally proud of our association with the Catholic Charities of New York and its 90-plus agencies here in the city,” he said.
Verizon and Catholic Charities have worked together “in times of great catastrophe,” Stratton said, noting the aftermath of 9/11 and the recovery effort of Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Their collaboration includes a project to improve the quality of education in several schools in Harlem.
“We are very proud,” Stratton concluded, “to stand with Catholic Charities and to run toward whatever challenges the future may bring...We look forward to the next 100 years of service to the citizens of New York.”
Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities, told attendees: “Because of your generosity and help, tonight we launch the next century of both help and hope: help, so that the poorest and the most vulnerable among us might have some of their pain and some of their hardship reduced…and hope, that their future might be one of greater independence…of greater self-sufficiency.”
He then introduced an engaging video presentation showcasing the work of Charities, and those the agency serves.
Father Eric Cruz, Bronx regional coordinator of Catholic Charities and pastor of St. John Chrysostom parish, the Bronx, delivered the invocation.
“Heavenly Father,” he prayed, “a century ago, a dedicated circle of clergy, religious, lay men and women of good will gave face to a sacred call to welcome the strangers from distant lands, feed the hungry neighbors, clothe, care for the ill, and bring your love and gift of hope and mercy to the most needy.
“Since then,” continued Father Cruz, “You have been showering down graces to form all of us into a spiritual house made of living stones...may all of our labors be a holy work, done for the most needy and done to the glory of your Holy Name.”
Lynda Baquero, consumer reporter for NBC 4 New York, served as mistress of ceremonies. “Tonight, walking these halls, you can’t help but appreciate the passage of time,” she said of the iconic museum located at Central Park West and 79th Street. “In this centennial year at Catholic Charities, we reflect on its impact in our city and we celebrate the lives that have been changed, because of Catholic Charities’ important work,” Ms. Baquero added.
Firefighter William Arce, of FDNY Engine 281, sang “God Bless America.” Special musical performances were provided by Janinah Burnett, a soprano who has performed on Broadway and the Metropolitan Opera stage, and Alvin Crawford, a bass who has performed on Broadway and with the Canadian Opera Company.
Cardinal Dolan concluded the anniversary evening with a word of gratitude. “Thank you for allowing us to help the people that we do, and for being among those who help us.”
Speaking with CNY after the soiree, best-selling novelist Mary Higgins Clark, a Catholic Charities sponsor, summed up the evening as “magnificent.”
That a century has passed since Catholic Charities began is “amazing,” Ms. Clark continued. “And we all know it’s just the beginning of what needs to be done.”