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2023 Washington DC Awards Gala

The SOAR! Board of Directors cordially invite you to the

37th Annual Washington DC Awards Gala


Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Reception 6:30 pm  Dinner 7:30 pm


Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory

Archdiocese of Washington

Wilton Cardinal Gregory is the seventh Archbishop of The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington (D.C.) and the first African American Cardinal in the Catholic Church. Cardinal Gregory has served in many leading roles in the Catholic Church including as President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) from 2001-2004, where he led the church’s response to its clergy sex abuse crisis, presiding over the adoption of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.” The Charter is a binding national policy of zero-tolerance in addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.  The Charter also includes guidelines for reconciliation, healing, accountability and prevention of future acts of abuse.

Cardinal Gregory is a leading voice in the Catholic Church for racial and social justice, immigration reform, ecumenical and inter-religious affairs, and numerous life issues that challenge our unity in our shared humanity and ability to treat each other with dignity and respect.

Cardinal Gregory currently serves as a Member of The Vatican’s Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life and on the Board of Trustees for the Papal Foundation. Additionally, he is the Catholic Co-Chair of the National Council of Synagogues Consultation for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Cardinal Gregory is Chancellor of The Catholic University of America and Chairman of the Board of Trustees for The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Geoff and Lulu Gonella
Community Leaders

Geoff and Lulu Gonella believe in the power of service, giving back and paying it forward. Motivated by the example of Catholic religious in their own lives, they think that to whom much is given, much is expected.

They are both native Washingtonians. They are 30-year members of Holy Redeemer Parish in Kensington, Maryland, where they have been active volunteers, including serving on the Home and School Association as well as the Athletics Committee. Geoff has also served as a coach for the Catholic Youth Organization.

The Gonellas believe in the benefit of Catholic education, and they support organizations including the Washington Jesuit Academy, Don Bosco Cristo Rey, and the Shepherd Foundation. Catholic religious have played an important role in their lives and positively impacted their family. “We are both grateful and inspired by the dedication and work of the religious leaders in our area to serve the underrepresented, the marginalized and those in need,” they said.

Lulu is a past president of the Christ Child Society and a member of the President’s Council of Catholic Charities. Geoff is a past president of the Catholic Business Network of Montgomery County, where he was named their 2019 Business Person of the Year. He is a member of the Board of Regents for the University System of Maryland, and is a past chair for the Washington Jesuit Academy, Mater Dei School, and the University of Maryland Foundation. He is also a past board member of Suburban Hospital Foundation; has served as an advisor to the leadership of the Archdiocese of Washington for development, communications and marketing; and is a member of the Order of Malta.

Geoff is the president and managing director of Cornerstone, a Washington D.C.-based consulting firm which he helped found. Since 2002, Cornerstone has contributed over $2 million to local and national causes, including SOAR!, and allowed employees to dedicate thousands of hours to giving back to their communities.

Sister Mary Bader, DC
CEO, St. Ann’s Center for Children, Youth and Families

Sister Mary Bader has been a member of the Daughters of Charity for 31 years. Her various ministries have focused on vulnerable children and families. Currently she serves as CEO of St. Ann’s Center for Children, Youth and Families, an agency that provides supportive transitional housing to homeless and vulnerable mothers, children, and pregnant and parenting teenagers. St. Ann’s families benefit from an on-site Early Head Start child care center, education and employment programs, and clinical and social work services in a nurturing environment where they strengthen and journey to self-sufficiency.

Prior to entering the Daughters of Charity, Sister Mary taught at Our Lady Queen of Peace in Washington, DC for seven years. Simultaneously she worked in multiple roles at St. Ann’s, then known as St. Ann’s Infant and Maternity Home, as a teacher, tutor, and summer program coordinator for young foster children in residence. It was at these institutions where Sister Mary was introduced to the Daughters of Charity.

As a Daughter of Charity, Sister Mary has taught in Catholic grade schools in West Virginia, Richmond, and Baltimore. In Baltimore she served as principal of Mother Seton Academy, a Nativity Model, tuition-free middle school for boys and girls. Arriving two years after the school opened, Sister Mary was privileged to be part of an innovative school that had been founded by 6 religious communities who collaborated in bringing a strong holistic education to an underserved community.

Sister Mary holds a BA in Child Study from Tufts University and a M.S. in Education from The Catholic University of America. She has served on the boards of schools, hospitals and other organizations including her alma mater, Georgetown Visitation, St. Anselm’s Abbey School, Loyola Blakefield High School, Providence Hospital, Providence Foundation Board, St. Vincent’s Hospital, SOME and Mission and Ministry, Inc.

For more information, please contact Jennifer Christiano, Director of Special Events at events@soar-usa.org.


November 1, 2023
6:30 pm EDT
Event Category:


Embassy of Italy
3000 Whitehaven Street, NW
Washington, DC United States
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