WASHINGTON — “The debt I owe to religious women and men is infinite,” said Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde at the annual SOAR! gala dinner Friday. “There is no way I can ever fully repay it.”

At its 30th anniversary gala Nov. 4 in Washington, SOAR! — Support Our Aging Religious — honorees paid tribute to the Sisters, Brothers and Priests who left a mark on their lives. This year, the organization recognized Bishop Loverde, philanthropist Denny Hattler, and Kevin Sexton, the former president and CEO of Holy Cross Health, for their contributions to the Catholic community.

The dinner is a major fundraiser for SOAR!, which provides grants to Catholic religious congregations to meet the immediate needs of their aging members.

“I talk to people so many times and they will speak about how the Sisters, how the Brothers, how the Fathers…were the reason for their success,” said Cardinal Donald Weurl, Archbishop of Washington, in his opening remarks. “There’s a sense in which you hear so much these days about legacy and what will we be remembered for,” he said. “Religious have created a living legacy in our country.”

Honorees

Denny Hattler served as founding chair of the SOAR! board and worked on the board for the Loyola Foundation and FADICA, Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities. She received the Saint Katharine Drexel Award, which honors those who have made significant contributions to the church in the United States.

In her remarks, Mrs. Hattler shared her admiration for women and men who entered religious life. “They soldier on full of love and compassion and it’s visible in everything they do,” she said. “This is why I continue to support SOAR! And I’m so happy to see all of you here doing the same. Thank you.”

Bishop Loverde, who retires this year, received the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Award. He has served as Bishop of Arlington since 1999. The Seton award recognizes individuals for their leadership and generosity in the spirit of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. As someone who was taught by the Sisters of Mercy and Lasallian Brothers, he said he was “grateful for the privilege to have been formed by religious women and men.”

Kevin Sexton, who also received the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Award, is the former president of Holy Cross Health in Silver Spring, Maryland. He retired this year after joining Holy Cross Hospital in 1998. Mr. Sexton thanked the Sisters of the Holy Cross, who entrusted their healthcare ministry to him 18 years ago, for “their support, good will and prayers.”

Grant award

At the dinner, SOAR! president Sister Kathleen Lunsmann, IHM also awarded a $20,000 grant to the School Sisters of Notre Dame to purchase medical equipment and other upgrades to enhance the life of sisters in Baltimore, Connecticut and Illinois.

Sister Regis Krusniewski, SSND, who accepted the grant, encouraged the audience not just to reflect on the religious who changed their life, but to reach out to them. “If there’s a Brother, Priest or Sister who has touched your life in some way, would you consider sending them an email or writing them a card to let them know that you remember them?” she said. “I can’t tell you how much this means to them.”

SOAR! awards grants for necessities to improve the lives of the aging religious, such as automatic door openers, accessibility renovations for bathrooms, or nurse call systems. In 2016, SOAR! provided grants totaling nearly $1 million to 52 congregations of women and men religious.