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Archives Catholic Charities’ Caritas Dinner returns

November 9, 2022

By Darcy Fargo

OGDENSBURG – Because of the pandemic, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Ogdensburg had been unable to hold its annual Caritas Dinner since 2019. That streak came to an end Nov. 2, when the celebration returned to the Gran View restaurant.

The event is a celebration honoring the individuals and groups who support Catholic Charities and embody its mission of social justice and supporting the dignity of human life, the value and integrity of the person and the central role of the family in society.

The first group honored at the event was Catholic Charities staff.

“We celebrate tonight the fact that Despite the innumerable obstacles the pandemic threw in their way they found ways – and creative ways – to continue to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give counseling, shelter the homeless and give hope to the hopeless,” said Father Christopher J. Looby, who served as emcee at the dinner.

Five-year longevity awards were given to Shirley Cox and Deb Dorrity of Seaway House, Christine Snyder of the Foster Grandparent Program in Tupper Lake, and Diane and Stefan Dufresne of the Justice and Law Center. A ten-year award was given to Kate Gardner, director of the RSVP Program, and a 20-year award was given to Danielle Caulfield of Seaway House.

After dinner, Bishop Terry R. LaValley presented the Caritas Awards for 2020 and 2022. The 2020 award went to Annette Dame of Malone, and the 2022 award was given to the Loaves and Fishes Program run by St. Peter, St. Mary and St. Hedwig churches in Lowville.

“The Caritas Award was established by the Board of Trustees of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Ogdensburg in 1979,” Father Looby said. “The award acknowledges individuals and organizations in the North Country who promote the mission of Catholic Charities and social justice ministry of the Catholic Church. The individual or group should exemplify the gospel mandates of charity and justice.”

Thomas Semeraro, diocesan director of Youth Ministry, then presented the Legacy Awards.

“The Legacy Award was created by the Board of Trustees of Catholic Charities in 2009 and is given to an individual youth, young adult or group whose commitment and actions reflect the Gospel values of love and compassion. The purpose of the award is to encourage the next generation in their development as contributors to the social mission of the Church,” Father Looby explained.

The 2020 Legacy Award was given to Christian Gratto of St. Alexander’s and St. Joseph’s in Morrisonville and Maria Tartaglia of St. Mary’s in Canton. The 2022 Legacy Award was presented to Sharon Nebbia of St. Vincent of Paul Church in Cape Vincent.

Semeraro said both Gratto and Tartaglia serve on the Diocesan Youth Council (DYC), and both started their terms just before the start of the pandemic.

“They had to deal with the pandemic in both their homes and their schools,” Semeraro said. “And they continue their servant leadership with the DYC.”

Semeraro said Gratto used his video and graphics skills and Tartaglia used her gifts of singing and playing piano, and the pair created digital content for youth. Both teens will graduate from high school and complete their terms on DYC this year.

Nebbia was honored for her work as a youth minister.

“She involves young people and helps them journey with Christ in a relatable way,” Semeraro said. “She also leads groups to the (National Catholic Youth Conference), in doing fundraisers and in weekly events.”

The Catholic Charities President’s Award was bestowed on Michael Tooley, chief financial officer for the Diocese of Ogdensburg, who will be retiring later this year.

“The President’s Award was established by the Catholic Charities Board of Trustees and recognizes an individual or organization who makes significant contribution not only to the organization but to the impact on the field of social services and the social justice mission of the Church,” Father Looby explained. “Recipients have regularly demonstrated a strong dedication and commitment to not only reducing poverty but implementing sustained change in systems that cause it.”

Deacon Patrick Donahue, diocesan director of Catholic Charities, discussed the agency’s impact.

“One in six live in daily poverty,” he said. “The share of Americans living below the poverty line has increased by one percentage point. It’s 11.4 percent.”

Deacon Donahue noted that one percentage point doesn’t sound like a sizable increase.

“One percent is 8 million people,” he said. “And 24 percent of all children in the United States live in poverty.”

Because of the increasing need, Deacon Donahue noted that Catholic Charities works diligently to avoid “dividing the poor into those who are worthy poor and those who aren’t worthy” of assistance.

The director said the agency helps as many individuals and families in need as possible.

“We’re often giving away what we do not have,” Deacon Donahue said. “Our faith informs us that God will provide if we’re willing to do the work.”

Deacon Donahue thanked those in attendance and everyone who supports Catholic Charities as staff, or through donations, volunteering and prayer.

“Thank you for your caritas, your loving support,” he said.

Bishop LaValley also thanked the staff and supporter of Catholic Charities. He noted that while many enjoy luxuries and possessions, and continue to seek them without ever being satisfied, others face dire need.

“There are so many who are in need,” he said. “There’s so much poverty, helplessness, verbal and physical violence, people yearning to be fed, the silent scream of the unborn in his or her mother’s womb, such huge numbers looking for a safe place to call home, and so many addictions.”

While the need is great, Bishop LaValley noted that Catholic Charities’ efforts are also great.

“Our Catholic Charities beats with a compassionate heart and welcomes opportunities to extend a sensitive ear and a ready hand to those in need,” he said, noting the organization does so “with the respect and dignity due absolutely every child of God.”

To learn more about or donate to Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Ogdensburg, visit cathcharities.org.




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