Everyone received thanks – the staff, the volunteers, the donors, the promoters. The bishop even gave a special blessing for the cooks. As Catholic Charities closed out its centennial celebration, the leaders made sure everyone knew of their gratitude for their service over the past 100 years.
A special Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral and a luncheon took place Sunday, Oct. 29 at Seneca One Tower in downtown Buffalo to honor those who support the most comprehensive human service provider in Western New York.
Bishop Michael W. Fisher remarked on the great love and generosity he has seen in the people of the area in his nearly three years as bishop.
“There’s a pride here in Western New York, a healthy pride that I feel very blessed to be a part of,” he said.
“These are, as we know, challenging times,” he continued, “for our Church, for our nation, and for our world. That shows even more the importance of the work and the mission of Catholic Charities, as we reach out and help those who are most in need.”
WGRZ-TV’s “2 On Your Side” anchor and reporter, Mary Alice Demler, emceed the festivities.
“For the past 100 years, Catholic Charities has been unwavering in its commitment to serving the needs of our community,” she said. “Our mission, rooted in the values of faith, hope and love, has gotten us through decades of transformation and challenges. From humble beginnings as an outreach joining 16 institutions, serving those who were poor and vulnerable, we grew into a beacon of hope and support for countless individuals and families.”
Catholic Charities helped 140,000 people last year alone through behavioral health programs, family safety & stabilization programs, basic needs programs, education & workforce training programs, and older adult support programs.
“These programs and initiatives address critical needs in our community,” explained Deacon Steve Schumer, current president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Buffalo. “Through these services, we have been able to glorify the light that is our spirit. None of these achievements would have been possible without the dedication and selflessness of our families, volunteers and donors. Your continued efforts have made the difference in the lives of countless individuals. Today, we extend our sincerest gratitude to each and every one of these exceptional individuals who have played a vital role in the success of Catholic Charities.”
Over the past 100 years, the Catholic Charities Appeal has raised nearly $500 million.
“As we look to the future, we know what challenges lie ahead,” Deacon Schumer said. “There will always be challenges. The needs of our community continue to evolve. And as our ability to adapt and to respond accordingly, we face obstacles both expected and unseen. But we also see the potential for growth and new ways to serve. We are committed to building upon our strong foundation and standing our ground to ensure that no one is left behind without the support and assistance we need.”
The guest speaker for the day was Kerry Alys Robinson, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA.
“I am truly honored to be here to celebrate 100 years of Catholic Charities in Buffalo. On behalf of all of my colleagues at Catholic Charities USA, I offer our deepest gratitude to the many people gathered here who have made this evening possible. The life-changing work of this outstanding agency,” Robinson said.
Referencing the recent shooting in Maine and the Buffalo shooting last year, Robinson reminded her audience that our world can be a dark, cynical and tragic place.
“It’s at particularly catastrophic times like this, acts of hate and terrorism, natural disasters, and global health crises, when it is most obvious how acutely our society relies on people to put the needs of others before their own,” she said. “But it’s not just when things are in the headlines. Every day of every year, in every community around the country, we desperately need people who are devoted to service. We desperately need people like all of you.”
Centennial Awards were presented to those who go above and beyond their role to help others.
James Campbell, outreach specialist, and Alexa Williamson, behavioral health specialist, received the Employee Awards. The Volunteer Award went to Rick Cronin, appeal chair 2020 and 2021. The Community Partner Award went to Mental Health Advocates of Western New York. The Service Award went to Christine Zaky, who has been with Catholic Charities for 46 years.
Zaky was hired straight from Villa Maria High School and is now a senior administrative assistant.
“I think what keeps me there is the people I work with. I’ve always been lucky to have really good supervisors and people who I work with. I’ve been lucky with that. They’ve been lifelong friends. It was the atmosphere. It’s just like a family. They took care of you.”
Karen Klocke Dehais, president and director of Catholic Charities of Rochester, attended the celebration. She and the seven other Catholic Charities directors from New York state meet regularly to learn how needs are changing across the state and how to grow the Catholic Charities network to meet those needs.
“Throughout my lifetime I have admired how Catholic Charities is committed to the community, connected to the community, and serving the community,” she said. “I will say that leaders like Dennis Walczyk, former Catholic Charities president, and leaders like Deacon Steve Schumer are inspirations to all of us across New York state.”
The Buffalo native knows the City of Good Neighbors has a “deep faith tradition and deep service tradition.”
Listen to Michael Mroziak reporting on the Catholic Charities Mass with Bishop Michael W. Fisher.