By Mary Ellen Mahoney
Two hours before the Christopher Dinner was set to begin at the Water’s Edge Resort, in Westbrook, my staff and I were on location setting up for the event just as we had done for countless other Diocesan events. While the routine was familiar, the venue was new to us and it was my ﬁrst Christopher Dinner as the Executive Director of the Ofﬁce of Development. After the room was set, the microphone and video screen tested, I sat down and remembered my mother telling me on the very ﬁrst day of nursery school, as I sat on the front steps of my house, “Now, Mary Ellen, I want you to sit here and think about how you feel right now and remember this for the rest of your life.” I was 4 at the time, and I have repeated my mom’s words in my head over and over during my life and tried to instill this same “take a minute and be in the present” message to my children as well. The overwhelming feeling that I experienced as I sat there thinking of my mom and her guidance was one of gratitude.
I felt so fortunate to be able to personally thank our Christopher Society donors, those who give $1,000 or more to the Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA), for their extremely generous commitment to the ACA. No matter the difﬁculties, they, their families or the Church may be facing, these donors continue to give with kindness and grace, and in doing so, enable our many ministries and programs to be the hands of Christ to so many in need in our communities, and often, in our very own families. The 2018 Appeal included over 600 Christophers which is an amazing number for which I am very appreciative.
I also thought about all of our other donors, and how thankful I am for their support of the ACA. Personal ﬁnancial issues or crises of faith do not stop these strong Catholics from realizing the extreme need of our ministries and giving whatever they are able. As we open these gifts and see the prayer requests included, I am always so moved by the fact that even though people are facing their own trials and tribulations, they always ﬁnd the means to remember the less fortunate among us and donate to the ACA.
I was also feeling very blessed that I was able to work for such a strong and faith ﬁlled Diocese led by Bishop Cote and served by so many devoted priests and religious, as well as the innumerable lay people who serve their parishes in so many ways. I knew that I was very fortunate to be amongst the hardworking Diocesan directors who spend endless hours leading our ministries, using the money raised by the Appeal in the most positive and impactful manner possible. Later that evening, I would be introducing two such ministry directors, Edward Tessman, Executive Director of Catholic Charities and Daniel O’Sullivan, Executive Director of Outreach to Haiti and in so doing, announcing that each were in the midst of preparing for upcoming fundraising events to be held in April. Catholic Charities’ Hope Anchors the Soul Gala will be held at the Mystic Yachting Center on April 13th at 5pm and Outreach to Haiti will be celebrating its 12th For the Love of A Child Gala on April 27th at 6:30pm at A Villa Louisa in Bolton.
Before I knew it, it was time to get up and greet our guests. The evening was wonderful. Bishop Cote greeted us all, thanking the Christophers for “their unwavering support” noting that, “You truly live your faith each day and because of your generosity, you keep our ministries doing the work of Christ.” Following a delicious dinner, the 2019 ACA video hand in hand with All God’s Children was shown highlighting Ministry to the Sick, FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) and Prison Ministry, three of our ACA supported ministries.
The attention then moved to a fourth ministry, St. Vincent de Paul, Middletown, with the introduction of Lydia Brewster, Assistant Director of Community Services who spoke about the LEAD (Leadership, Empowerment, Advocacy and Development) program and was joined by LEAD speaker Brian Rahrig. Lydia explained the vital role that St. Vincent de Paul plays in the lives of many.
“The soup kitchen is the front door to the social service system for the homeless, low income people throughout the state. We provide food, and counseling and so much more."
Brian Rahrig, a past client of St. Vincent de Paul, shared that the programs at St. Vincent de Paul saved his life, and helped him to “battle down” his own addictions. As a member of the LEAD program, Brian speaks to youth groups, religious groups and the legislature to share his story, educate his audience about homelessness and be a voice “to those who are otherwise invisible.”
The evening concluded with Bishop Cote and Sister Rita Johnson doing their famous “George and Gracie” routine. Everything went smoothly and following my mom’s advice, before my husband and I left for the night, I sat down and took notice of how I felt at that moment. My feeling again, was sheer gratitude. Thanks, Mom!
To view the ACA video or learn more about the 2019 Annual Catholic Appeal and about how you can help support the ministries and programs in the diocese of norwich please visit www.norwichdiocesedevelopment.org and make your pledge, or call the Office of development at 860-886-1928.