By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published April 29, 2010
More than $1 million was raised at the 21st American Cardinals Dinner held in Atlanta to bolster student scholarships at The Catholic University of America.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory and Vincentian Father David M. O’Connell, president of the university, served as co-hosts for the event at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta on Friday, April 23. It was the first time Atlanta had hosted the $1,000 a plate fundraiser.
Each year a different diocese or archdiocese hosts the black-tie event. Since its inception, this annual event has raised more than $25 million to support scholarships for Catholic University students.
The financial support makes it possible for students like New Jersey native Michelle Cappuccio to attend the 6,700-student university. She said she received some $7,500 a year in financial aid to be a student there.
“It stresses service. It’s a learning environment that really pushes you to be the best you can be. I don’t think I would have gotten that anyplace else,” said Cappuccio, 21, who volunteers at a homeless outreach program on campus. She plans to attend law school in the fall.
The dinner was attended by three cardinals, Cardinal Francis E. George, archbishop of Chicago; Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, archbishop of Boston; and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston. Two retired cardinals also attended, Cardinal Adam J. Maida of Detroit and Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York. Four American archbishops attended, including Archbishop Gregory, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit and Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C. Archbishop Wuerl is the chancellor of the university, and Archbishop Vigneron is the chairman of the CUA board of trustees, on which Archbishop Gregory also serves.
The apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, attended the event, as well as Archbishop-emeritus John F. Donoghue of Atlanta.
Prior to the dinner, Archbishop Gregory celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the King. Some two dozen Atlanta priests and several deacons, along with the cardinals and archbishops, attended the 4 p.m. Mass. A large crowd of Catholics filled the pews of the Peachtree Road church.
Father O’Connell, who is stepping down as the university president after a dozen years, gave the homily during the Mass. Music was provided by the Cathedral Choir of Christ the King, with choirmaster Kevin Culver, organist Tim Wissler and director of music Hamilton Smith.
During the Mass, the congregation prayed for the university that “all its endeavors be illuminated by the light of God.”
In his homily, Father O’Connell noted how the conversion of St. Paul and the “knock down, drag out fight” sparked by Jesus’ teaching show how “strong teachings stir controversy.”
“Change is never, ever easy. Change is the only constant in our lives,” Father O’Connell said. People of faith need to remember Jesus’ words and his resurrection in order to care for his people as they live in a world with conflict, he said.
Most conversions will likely be less dramatic than Paul’s experience, more of a lived experience than a single moment, he said. Father O’Connell called it a “journey of pilgrimage.”
“Jesus Christ himself is the food that nourishes us on the journey,” he said. The Eucharist should open people’s eyes to see Jesus’ face in the world and spur them to bring his compassion to places where there is hostility, he said.
Archbishop Gregory, in his remarks, welcomed the visitors to Atlanta and spoke about the importance of the university to the church.
“This exceptionally fine institution has provided scholarships and research opportunities for so many different areas of church life. Its goal is to strengthen ecclesial life in our country by educating men and women for positions of leadership and public service always in conformity with our Catholic faith,” he said.
The Catholic University of America, located in Washington, D.C., is the national university of the Catholic Church in America. Founded in 1887 and chartered by Congress, the university opened as a graduate research institution and introduced undergraduate programs in 1904. Today the private university has approximately 6,700 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in 12 schools of study.