The Catholic Charities Gala Benefit dinner, in its seventh year, is fast becoming an evening that New Yorkers are embracing generously because of the important mission at the heart of the gathering.
The latest incarnation of the black-tie event brought more than 600 guests to the Grand Ballroom at the Waldorf Astoria March 9 and raised more than $2.6 million for the good works supported by archdiocesan Catholic Charities that bring help and hope to New Yorkers in need.
Cardinal Dolan, in remarks near the end of the night, noted the Jubilee Year of Mercy convened by Pope Francis, which is now under way. He then recited the Corporal Works of Mercy at the year’s heart, ticking them off one after another: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, heal the sick, console the troubled, welcome the stranger and visit the imprisoned.
The cardinal asked the assembled guests if the works sounded familiar and then remarked that they should because “that happens to be the mission of our beloved Catholic Charities.”
Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities, explained that “the true bigness” of Catholic Charities is not “about big numbers but about big successes, one person at a time.”
Inspiring words were also heard from the honorees, Stephen C. Freidheim, chief investment officer, founder and managing partner of Cyrus Capital Partners, and J. Tomilson Hill, vice chairman of the Blackstone Group and president and chief executive officer of Blackstone Alternative Asset Management.
Each man received the Deus Caritas Est Award.
Freidheim, in his remarks, offered sincere thanks to Cardinal Dolan and Msgr. Sullivan, for what they are able to accomplish through Catholic Charities agencies “for so many in need in the city…It’s nothing less than extraordinary.”
His Catholic faith, Freidheim explained, is best exemplified “in really helping others.” He also cited the importance of passing on that faith to “the next generation,” which for him and his wife means their three children.
Hill, likewise, gave a personal speech that was, by turn, humorous and poignant. A convert to Catholicism as an adult, he said his wife’s life and faith offer him daily inspiration.
A board member at Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem, he recognized the school’s principal, Joanne Walsh, who was in attendance. The Catholic elementary school hosted Pope Francis during his visit to New York last September.
Reflecting on the challenges posed to him by his late mother, Hill asked guests at the gala to consider “how we are making the world a better place.”
“How will we keep the spirit of helping others alive long after tonight?” he said.
Broadway actress and singer Stephanie Block drew applause for her musical performance and was well-received for the shout-out she gave to Sister Sarah Shrewsbury, her principal at St. Angela Merici School in Brea, Calif.
“She got me singing first,” said Ms. Block, who is well known for a career that has included starring roles in shows such as “Little Miss Sunshine,” “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” and “Anything Goes.”