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Spotlight on service at Catholic Charities Ball

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Bishop Michael F. Burbidge and more than 900 guests attended the 37th Annual Catholic Charities Ball to celebrate charity at the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner in McLean Feb. 22. 

“The Catholic Charities Ball is obviously a celebration of charity, of loving people that need help and gathering everybody together who has the common interest in serving the poor,” said Art Bennett, president and CEO of diocesan Catholic Charities. “Having Bishop here as the source of unity and leadership for the whole diocese just makes that unity of mission even stronger.” 

Father Donald J. Rooney, pastor of St. Bernadette Church in Springfield, served as master of ceremonies with Bishop Burbidge greeting attendees on and off the stage. The theme for the ball was “God’s Instruments: Renewing Lives, Restoring Hope,” with Kim Aubry and Anne Biedscheid acting as ball chairs; Bill and Mary Noel Page as honorary ball chairs; and Sean and Estelle Ballington as special gifts chairs.

In the opening blessing, Bishop Burbidge gave reasons for his having hope and it included those gathered.

“I look at all of you and I’m filled with hope because of what you are committed to, that in the midst of seeing the needs within our church and communities you believe that you can do something about it so you support Catholic Charities. You support its adoption services, the programs that feed the hungry and that house the homeless, that offer free healthcare and even prenatal care for those who cannot afford it, who welcome the immigrants and refugees and migrants, who visit the inmate, who provide for the sick and who most recently joined my requests to address within our own diocese the opioid crisis and to help so many people afflicted  with addiction as well as their families,” Bishop Burbidge said.  

The doors to the ballroom opened at 7 p.m., the official start of the ball, which began an evening of dining, dancing and pledges of support for Catholic Charities.

“Regardless of your faith or your denomination, the ball is such a fun, wonderful, elegant event with the goal of supporting Catholic Charities in their mission of helping so many in need,” said Mary Beth Carroll, a member of the advisory committee who has been a chair four times previously. “Everyone just thinks it’s Arlington, but Catholic Charities reaches out very far to all 21 counties of Northern Virginia.”

After dinner, John and Christine McLaughlin received the James J. Matthews Legacy Award followed by Bishop Burbidge bestowing the Bishop Paul S. Loverde Legacy Award to the Knights of Columbus serving throughout the diocese.

Bennett acknowledged how both awardees were worthy recipients, noting how the McLaughlins have supported Catholic Charities for decades with the Knights also in sync with their pattern of humble, but crucial service.

“I’ll just be candid as president and CEO, if we didn’t have the partnership with the Knights of Columbus, we would be doing so much less,” Bennett said. “They really are the backbone of so many of our programs by radically sacrificing their free time for those in need.”

Of special significance was the gift of an ultrasound machine earlier this year by the Knights of Columbus to the Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic in Manassas. 

“The Knights are great partners with Catholic Charities in our diocese and I was honored to bless the 1,000th ultrasound machine donated by the Knights of Columbus,” Bishop Burbidge said to the audience.

The Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic is largely volunteer operated, a strength that Sally O’Dwyer, director of volunteers for diocesan Catholic Charities, sees as critical to the success of the ball as well.

“It is really impressive that the committee that runs the ball is all volunteer and it accounts for a significant part of the Catholic Charities budget,” O’Dwyer said. “It is heartwarming to see so many people come out to support the work that we do.”

For current volunteers, this year is also about mentoring young adults active in the ball, the next generation to carry on this work.

“We recognize that they are our future,” said Julie Theobald, who, along with Carroll, served as the 2018 ball chair. “We hope that when we retire from running the ball that hopefully they’ll be in the position to step forward and run it.” 

Later in the evening, Bishop Burbidge broke away from the events in the ballroom to visit a young adult event being held simultaneously in a room below the ballroom. The young adults joined in the fun on the ballroom’s dance floor later in the evening.

Nada Tramonte, who helps coordinate the young adult portion of the ball and has attended six times, is looking forward to staying an active member of leadership in the future.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Tramonte said. “It’s great having Bishop Burbidge there. He makes it a point to engage with us and really support the young adult ministry.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019