The University of Notre Dame sure knows how to pick ’em. Last week, it selected two of the archdiocese’s finest for alumni honors.
Joe Delaney received Notre Dame Alumni Association’s Volunteer of the Year Award for directing the prodigious Bread of Life food drive, which annually collects and distributes some 70,000 food items on Staten Island. Sister Katherine Seibert, S.C., a medical doctor who has long served patients in Sullivan County, took home the association’s Thomas A. Dooley Award for her personal courage, compassion and commitment to advance human and civil rights.
Delaney and I go back many years. He’s always been good enough to keep CNY informed about the Bread of Life drive each spring. And he’s always among our biggest boosters when we do something right.
As far as Bread of Life is concerned, it’s been real easy to stay on board since the drive’s inception in 1991. Delaney’s great sense of promotion and organization work in concert with the fact that it’s a great story involving many Catholic schools and students, as well as a passel of volunteers from labor unions, businesses and, of course, parishes and other Catholic organizations.
The beneficiaries come in need to 25 nonprofit organizations who distribute the food once it is packed up and delivered from Msgr. Farrell High School. That generally happens on the Saturday before Palm Sunday, as the Church is about to enter Holy Week.
Delaney said he knew Bread of Life was on the right track when he received a big thank you from a representative of Project Hospitality on Staten Island many years ago who told him they didn’t often get food donations in the springtime. “I believe the Holy Spirit was at work,” said Delaney, a parishioner of St. Joseph-St. Thomas and St. John Neumann on Staten Island.
Bread of Life is not just a Staten Island project anymore. Since 2014, Bread of Life has worked in conjunction with Lou’s Lads Food Drives, named for former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz and his players. The drives are conducted in 200 cities, allowing the good they do to multiply across the country.
For Delaney, the Bread of Life mission is inspired by his Catholic faith. “Bread of Life signifies the unity of the Eucharist bringing all people together,” he said. “It unites the people who receive the food to the people who give it.”
When we were talking, Delaney shared a secret that really surprised me. It turns out he is not a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, but rather of Seton Hall University. His work with the Bread of Life Drive and with the Notre Dame Alumni Club of Staten Island so identified him with Notre Dame that the university was happy to make an exception.
He’s been involved with Notre Dame causes for so long that some actual Notre Dame graduates say they “thought they remembered me as an undergraduate,” Delaney joked.
Sister Katherine Seibert is definitely a Notre Dame alumna, having received a master’s degree in biology from the university in South Bend, Ind., thanks to a teacher training grant from the National Science Foundation when she was teaching at Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx. She received a doctorate in microbiology, also from Notre Dame, before attending Creighton Medical School in Nebraska.
A Sister of Charity of New York for 65 years, she worked as chief of medical oncology at Bailey Seton Hospital on Staten Island and then Our Mercy Medical Center in the Bronx. In 1991, she was invited to restart an oncology program in Sullivan County and worked at Catskill Regional Hospital by herself for three years and for a total of 15.
“It’s a wonderful privilege to be a doctor, to make a fundamental difference in peoples’ lives in a profession where one’s heart is exercised equally with one’s head,” Sister Katherine said in her acceptance remarks at Notre Dame.
As a physician, she counts as “a privilege to be with people as they take their last breath on earth. It is a moment as full of mystery as the first breath, and you can feel the holy. At the bedside of the dying, I feel that I’m holding one hand and God is holding the other.”
In the past dozen years, Sister Katherine has worked as a part-time internist at Hudson River HealthCare in Monticello.
Ever the teacher, she now trains rescue dogs to be certified therapy dogs who bring happiness and joy to children or to adults in nursing homes.