By Christina Leslie | Correspondent
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton, presented a slate of philanthropic individuals and bade a grateful farewell to another during the May 11 kickoff reception for its 28th annual Guardian Angel Dinner Dance in the Princeton Hyatt Regency.
Amidst a convivial atmosphere of canapes and fellowship, members of the CCDOT board introduced this year’s list of award winners who will be publically feted at the dinner dance scheduled for Sept. 23 also to be held in the Princeton Hyatt Regency.
Marlene Lao-Collins, executive director of Catholic Charities, began the evening with a heartfelt tribute to Daughter of Charity Sister Joanne Dress, diocesan executive director of Catholic social services, who will be leaving New Jersey at the end of June to continue her ministry in St. Louis, Mo.
“Since joining our Diocese in 2011, [Sister Joanne] has worked tirelessly to bring all of us together,” Lao-Collins said of the diocesan agencies Mount Carmel Guild, Catholic Youth Organization, Catholic Charities, St. Francis Community Center, St. Vincent de Paul, Project Paul, Center for FaithJustice, Collier Youth Services, Good Counsel Homes, Mercy Center, Visitation Homes, Visitation Relief Center and the Diocese’s parishes. “She helped us learn so much more about each other and she fostered a collaborative environment where we began working much more effectively together.”
Lao-Collins noted that, by Sister Joanne’s example, they were reminded that “we don’t have to go it alone. We have many partners in our work to help vulnerable and at-risk individuals and families. Most of all, in everything she did, she demonstrated a real heart for those most in need.”
Of her work with Catholic Charities, the director joked, “Many of us suspected she had several clones because wherever you went, there she was… We could not let her leave without taking the opportunity to recognize her for her extraordinary and dedicated service to us as a true champion of our mission to alleviate human suffering.”
Sister Joanne extended her thanks to Lao-Collins and explained that Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., had appointed her to her position because he wished to connect with the social service agencies in the Diocese. “I have had the privilege of going to each one over the course of my six years here,” Sister Joanne said.
The religious was grateful she had experienced “a first-hand opportunity to see and hear the dedication of Catholic Charities” in their work with the disadvantaged, and, in her upcoming assignment in St. Louis, would use their example to “provide a port of service to those in need.”
Lao-Collins presented Sister Joanne with a statue entitled “Homeless Jesus,” which depicts Jesus as a homeless person sleeping on a park bench.
“This is because she serves the most vulnerable,” the executive director said. “Religious women do so much. It’s on their backs that we are here.”
Lao-Collins also recognized a number of retiring members of the Catholic Charities’ board of trustees, including Anthony J. Mingarino, who also serves as chancellor and chief administrative officer of the diocesan Office of Temporal Administration, and who in July will assume the role of counsel to the Bishop. “It’s been a long time, Tony,” she said. “You’ve been our go-to person.”
Tom and Judy Keefe, members of St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish, Spring Lake, and co-chairmen of the dinner dance committee, introduced the award winners to be feted at the Sept. 23 dinner dance:
Mercy Sister Rosemary E. Jeffries will receive the Richard J. Hughes, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton Humanitarian Award. Sister Rosemary has been involved with the Sister-to-Sister program with women religious in sub-Saharan Africa. During her term as Georgian Court College’s eighth president, she prepared the Catholic institute’s conversion to a university, oversaw the completion of six new buildings and saw the university’s conversion to co-educational enrollment.
Mary Ann Saville will receive the Light of Hope Award for Burlington County. The member of St. Ann Parish, Browns Mills, served on the 2013 Catholic Charities Guardian Angel Dinner Dance planning committee. She is a member of the parish council and choir, and has served in prison ministry.
Daniel L. Haggerty will receive the Light of Hope Award for Mercer County. The attorney and Lawrenceville resident is a member of that town’s St. Ann Parish where he serves as a reader and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. He is an attorney.
Mary Lou Oliva will receive the Light of Hope Award for Monmouth County. In November, the St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish, Spring Lake, parishioner was inducted into the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. Membership in the Order is conferred upon Catholics of exemplary faith and moral conduct, who are actively involved in and generously support the activities of their parish and/or diocese, and who are willing to commit themselves to the mission and goals of the Order.
John M. Tesoro will receive the Light of Hope Award for Ocean County. He serves as treasurer of the Catholic Charities Board of Trustees and chair of the finance counsels of St. James Parish, Red Bank, and St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Long Beach Island.
Amboy Bank will be recognized as the Corporate Citizen of the Year. Stanley J. Koreyva, Jr., chief operations officer and executive vice president, will be accepting the award.
Lauren Cieloscik will receive the Client Achievement Award. The mother of four and domestic violence survivor had received assistance from Catholic Charities’ Providence House, and later helped others going through similar traumatic situations. Cieloscik was a co-founder of the STOP program, which stands for service, testimonial, outreach and prevention.
The Guardian Angels Dinner Dance is the agency’s major fundraising event, and this year’s goal is to raise $285,000.