Over 550 people spent the night on fire with the Holy Spirit, and Fr. Leo Patalinghug’s flaming surprise, at this year’s Catholic Charities Second Annual Ministries of Mercy Celebration of Life Gala and Silent Auction by raising over $400,000!
The Catholic Charities 2nd Annual Ministries of Mercy Celebration of Life Gala and Silent Auction was held at Higgins Hall on the campus of St. Lawrence Catholic Church on Saturday, November 5th. Over 550 guests joined together to celebrate Catholic Charities’ mission and clients. The evening started with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres as guests bid on over 70 silent auction items. During the program they learned about Catholic Charities’ impact in the community, listened to the testimonial from two clients, heard from their Shepherd, Bishop Gregory L. Parkes, and enjoyed a scripture-based cooking demonstration by Fr. Leo Patalinghug, EWTN celebrity chef. The night of celebration finished with a ‘Call to Hope’ to further the mission. The call was met with nearly $420,000 in donations raised!
Catholic Charities Diocese of St. Petersburg’s mission is to serve those in need with charity and compassion to promote the sanctity and dignity of their lives. Catholic Charities does so by providing help directly and in partnership with others. Its services are delivered through three Ministries of Mercy: Shelters of Hope, Friends in Need and Foundations of Life. Maggie Rogers, Catholic Charities Executive Director shared Catholic Charities’ impact over the last year: assisted over 18,000 clients – including the poor, elderly, immigrants, people with no health insurance, the homeless and near-homeless, and women facing unplanned pregnancies. Catholic Charities served over 183,000 meals and delivered 320,000 lbs. of food through its food pantries.
The featured program of the evening was the Tampa Hope homeless shelter, a Shelters of Hope ministry, which Catholic Charities opened on December 13, 2021. The shelter currently houses 125 homeless men and women. Two of these clients, Jimmy and Lisa Hester, were present at this year’s celebration. Their story was told in a video testimonial: after serving in the U.S. Army during Operation Desert Storm, Jimmy was discharged with a severe head injury. Upon returning stateside, he met Lisa and they soon married. After driving a truck for years with Lisa assisting, they found themselves homeless after a land-contract deal went bad and they lost their home. Jimmy said, “It’s a feeling I have never felt in my life–to be homeless.” Cynthia-Jones Northington, Program Director of Tampa Hope, said, “The Hesters came into the program with a desire to change their lives.” Jimmy and Lisa truly wanted to change their lives, with Jimmy saying, “If you don’t put your effort into this program, you aren’t gonna get nothin’, you gotta do your part.” The Hesters did their part and the video concluded with them waiting for their new home. After a standing ovation for the Hesters, Jones-Northington stood and announced to the audience, “Jimmy and Lisa have found housing and they moved yesterday, and they spent their first night in their apartment.” This news was followed again by a loud round of well-earned congratulatory applause!
Jimmy and Lisa weren’t the only special guests to attend this evening. Our featured speaker was Father Leo Patalinghug. Father Leo is a priest member of a community of consecrated life, Voluntas Dei (The Will of God), and is a long-time friend (attended seminary together) of Bishop Parkes. His diverse background as a blackbelt in karate, an award-winning chef, and a radio and TV host, gives him a unique perspective on ministry and family life and the intersection of the family meal and faith. For our gathering, Fr. Leo cooked up a taste of Italy as he shared the message of being of service to our brothers and sisters in need if even through the stomach! One lucky table – St. Timothy’s Catholic Church – won the raffle to add Fr. Leo’s special pasta dish to the main course of the night from Tampa Catering: Basil, Mozzarella and Sun-dried Tomato-Stuffed Roast Pork Tenderloin and Oversized Ravioli stuffed with Goat Cheese, Pine Nut and Spinach. “I am not here to cook for you people, I am here to serve you,…at least Table 17,” teased Fr. Leo. His meals come with a message, and the message of the evening was this, “Why are we here tonight? Are we here because we actually are trying to hear the questions that many unfortunate people, even in this diocese, ask, and that is ‘Does anyone care? Thankfully, Catholic Charities has answered that question—YES! The Catholic Church cares!”
Finally, our Bishop, Most Reverend Gregory L. Parkes, attending the new Celebration of Life format (combines Foundations of Life Gala with Ministries of Mercy Fundraiser) for the first-time, shared his message of support for Catholic Charities. “Of course, the reason that we are here this season is to support the Ministries of Mercy of Catholic Charities and these wouldn’t be possible without your help.” He reminded the audience, “We are the hands and the feet of Jesus Christ to those in need.” And called us to ‘Courageously Live the Gospel’ by “providing hope to those in need.”
A special thank you goes out to all the sponsors of the evening: presenting sponsor Applied Innovation and Diamond Sponsors, Angels Senior Living, Drew and Susan Peloubet and the Crawford Ker Family Trust. The evening was surely spent on fire with the Holy Spirit, yielding a grand total of $418,788 in donations, a record for any Catholic Charities fundraiser! As Rogers said in conclusion, “We cannot help those in need without your help. As much as I enjoy this event, we could not fulfill our mission of helping those in need without your contributions. And in response to the Peloubet’s pledge to fund $100,000 annually towards Tampa Hope made this night, she said, “How do I find the words to bring justice to your generosity?” This sentiment is shared with all Catholic Charities’ generous donors!
Catholic Charities is grateful and thanks everyone for attending, for their generosity, and their continued support. For those unable to join this year’s event, it can be viewed here: www.ccdosp.org/celebration-of-life-2022.
We look forward to seeing you next year! Save-the-date for the Third Annual Ministries of Mercy Celebration of Life Gala and Silent Auction on November 4, 2023.