Program #0376 for Tuesday, September 18, 2012: Celebration of the Priesthood Dinner

September 18, 2012

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Summary of Today’s show: Ann Carter, Joe D’Arrigo, and Fr Michael Medas describe the Celebration of the Priesthood Dinner with Scot and Fr Chris, highlighting this important event where the people of the Archdiocese can say thank you to our clergy.

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr Chris O’Connor

Today’s guest(s): Ann Carter, co-chair of the Celebration of the Priesthood Dinner; Joe D’Arrigo, Executive Director of the Clergy Funds; Fr Michael Medas, Director of Clergy Personnel.

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Today’s topics: The 4th Annual Celebration of the Priesthood Dinner will take place on September 26th starting with a 5pm reception, and dinner starting at 7pm. Tickets and tables are available at ClergyFunds.org.

1st segment: Scot welcomed Fr Chris and asked him about the installation of Msgr Moroney as the new Rector of St John Seminary this week. Cardinal Sean and four or five other bishops and about 35 priests will join the seminarians and their families to welcome Msgr Moroney, who will take the oath of fidelity along with the seminary faculty.

2nd segment: Today’s topic is the Celebration of the Priesthood dinner next Wednesday, Scot said, which helps to support 645 priests both active and retired. Ann explained the invitation to co-chair the dinner was a compelling invitation – priests have taken care of her throughout her life, from parochial school to sacraments for her family and friends. This is an opportunity for her to be there for the priests and say thank you. Fr Medas said that priests are very privileged to be at the bedside of someone who needs anointing or presence, but when you come to a room with more than a thousand people who are appreciating you it feels great as a priest. The priest symbolizes Christ, Fr Chris said, and brings Christ to the people, which is a unique gift.

Joe said the dinner started as a fundraiser when he first came to the clergy funds, as they were losing a lot of money – the first year, they had over 1,400 people at the dinner. This year’s dinner is on track for 1,200 right now, with still a week to go. Joe said what was primarily a fundraiser has turned into a beautiful expression of thanks from the people of the Archdiocese to the clergy. The dinner has allowed them to come out of that hole into a small surplus, an extraordinary turnaround in one of the most difficult economic times. It is the priests and laity who have supported through the Christmas and Easter collections and the dinner. A healthy fund helps priests not worry about things like healthcare, Fr Medas said, and takes a weight off their shoulders and lets priests focus on serving the people of the Archdiocese. Ann added that the dinner is different than most charity dinners – you don’t walk away wondering if your contribution makes a difference. In this dinner, you are actively involved with the people around you and know that your work and contribution have made a difference in the life of people who have made a difference in your life.

Joe spoke about the 265 senior priests (over the age of 75) who have “retired” – not completely retired, but just slowed down a bit. One of the joys of his job Joe said is going to Regina Cleri, the residence for senior priests. Joe said that in many ways the Clergy Funds are in the business of keeping promises. We promised our priests a joyful retirement, Joe said, and as lay people we need to keep that promise. Fr Chris said there are about 50 or senior priests who live at Regina Cleri, but wanted to know where the other priests retire to. Fr Medas replied that many senior priests retire to parishes they love or to family houses. It is important for all senior priests to maintain a dignified (not opulent) living after their years of service.

Scot asked Ann what she and co-chair Neal Finnigan want people to take away from this year’s dinner. Ann replied that when she accepted the invitation to be a co-chair, she didn’t know why she was being asked. She realized that she was getting a gift, not just giving one. Her awareness has been raised exponentially, she continued – people will take away the opportunity to reflect about the importance of clergy in their lives. Ann said that one meeting of the committee was at Regina Cleri, and the chance to talk to the senior priests there about their lives and work was thrilling. Much of Boston was built on parishes and parish priests and how they participated in the communities – in social justice matters, protecting affordable housing, helping new immigrants, and more. There is a calling to us as laypeople, Ann said, to step up in the shadow of that tradition and be inspired to play those roles in our community and fix instead of saying what’s wrong. Fr Michael concluded the segment by saying that the words of thanks to a priest in the moment are so important, but so are collective thank yous like the dinner. Sometimes, negative messages can overwhelm, but events like the Celebration of the Priesthood cancel out that negativity.

3rd segment: Scot asked Joe to describe the program for the dinner. Joe said they are very aware that it is a weeknight and aim to wrap up the event around 9pm. The co-chairs will say a few words before dinner, and a video with five of our priests will be featured after dinner. The keynote speaker is Don Rodman. Scot commented that many listeners may know Don from his various car dealerships and the Rodman Ride. Joe said even though Don is a devout Jew, he is also a successful philanthropist and giver. He has been involved with Catholic Charities for many years and fundraised for the Society of St James after a visit with Joe.

Joe and Ann both agreed that the committee and the work of Boston Catholic Development Services were critical to organizing such a great dinner. The priest committee also understands the value of participation, Joe said. Fr Chris added that the seminarians at St John Seminary are always eager to attend the uplifting evening as well. The dinner provides about 10% of the support for clergy funds, Scot noted. Joe said the goal for this year’s dinner is $1.25 million, and they are already at $1.1 million of pledges as of this morning. The record isn’t a financial record, Joe said – he is more interested in how many attendees can gather to show support and appreciation to the clergy of the Archdiocese. Joe said he invited many media outlets and they are coming – not just working reporters but editors. This is a great opportunity to showcase our priests in a light that the mainstream media often doesn’t see them in.

The 4th Annual Celebration of the Priesthood Dinner will take place on September 26th starting with a 5pm reception, and dinner starting at 7pm.

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