The 14th Catholic Charities gala, April 3 at DeSales University, Center Valley, drew nearly 500 people in support of the social services agency.
This year’s honorees were Monsignor Robert Wargo, Pastor Emeritus of St. Joseph the Worker Parish, Orefield, and Frank Ford, President of St. Luke’s University Health Network, Sacred Heart Campus.
Lisa Geosits, Catholic Charities Board Chair, introduced Monsignor Wargo as someone who “taught us to share our good fortune with others.”
Ordained in 1972, Monsignor confessed that he was “puzzled” as to how he would celebrate his 50 years of Priesthood.
When he found that his classmates and brother priests were seated at his table at the gala, Monsignor Wargo realized, “This is a beautiful invitation that God provided for me tonight. Thank you for honoring me and the Class of 1972!”
Monsignor shared the story of Captain Charles Plumb, a former Vietnam War pilot who was shot down and taken prisoner, who years after his release had a chance meeting with the sailor who had packed his parachute. Though the young sailor had saved the pilot’s life, Plumb never even knew his name.
“We help many people whose names we do not know by what we do for Catholic Charities,” said Monsignor Wargo. “Whose parachute will you pack?”
Pam Russo, Secretary for Youth Protection and Catholic Human Services of the Allentown Diocese, introduced Ford, as a “diocesan son” and a “champion of Catholic Charities.” She said he “has a tremendous heart for charity.”
“We have the will and the wherewithal to make a difference,” declared Ford. He named five areas where all should focus: housing, substance abuse, education, employment and chronic disease.
“I thank all of you who are participating with your goodwill,” said Bishop Alfred Schlert told the gathering. “You allow the compassionate face of Christ to be shown day in and day out in our five counties.”
Catholic Charities Executive Director Rob Nicolella introduced a video about Jeff Young, the former Director of Procurement for the Allentown Diocese who passed away in June 2021. A new award, the Jeffrey P. Young Youth Service Awards, was created in his memory.
Young’s widow, Sandy, presented the award to three students who made “outstanding contributions to their college campuses, while exemplifying a Christian lifestyle”: Shea Elliot of DeSales University; Gillian MacDonald of Lafayette College, Easton; and Brianna Maslonka of Lehigh University, Bethlehem.
Present at the gala was U.S. Army veteran Kevin McCloud, whose story was the highlight of a video exploring the work of Catholic Charities. McCloud overcame homelessness to become a Certified Recovery Specialist with the Treatment Trends substance abuse program.
Auctioneer Tony Luna moderated bidding on live auction items. The highpoint was a good-natured bidding war over “The Hoffa Experience,” a soup-to-nuts feast for eight “prepared and served in your own home” by Father Allen Hoffa, pastor of Holy Guardian Angels, Reading.
In addition to the live auction, the gala included a raffle and a “wine pull,” which allowed guests the chance to select a cork from a special display and take home the matching bottle of wine.
The evening concluded with Benediction offered by Monsignor David James, Vicar General.