The annual Washington, D.C. awards dinner benefiting SOAR! drew more than 300 guests to support aging Catholic sisters, brothers and priests and raised more than $350,000.
The gala, held Nov. 6 at the Embassy of Italy, is a major fundraiser for SOAR! — Support Our Aging Religious — which provides grants to religious congregations to meet the immediate needs of their retired and infirm members.
Each year at the dinner, SOAR! recognizes organizations and individuals for their leadership and contributions to the Catholic community. This year’s honorees were Bishop William Curlin, Patricia McGuire and John Treseler.
Bishop Curlin, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Charlotte, received the Saint Katharine Drexel Award. The award honors leaders who demonstrate outstanding charity and civic responsibility and whose generosity encourages philanthropic leadership in others. As a retired bishop, he continues to work to provide spiritual support to God’s people.
When he spoke about SOAR!’s mission, Bishop Curlin recalled the words of now Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. When he worked with her in India, she told him to try to see people with his heart — not just his eyes. “When you look at the religious, don’t just see…what they put in front of you,” he said. “They were Jesus to us. They brought us closer to Jesus Christ.”
Ms. McGuire, who received the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Award, has been the president of Trinity Washington University since 1989, and Sister Patricia O’Brien, SND, who introduced her, called Ms. McGuire “a tireless and steadfast advocate for the university and the students it serves.” The award recognizes individuals for their leadership and generosity in the spirit of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.
John Treseler, who also received the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Award, is a principal with John C. Grimberg Company, a local engineering and contracting firm. An active volunteer in his community, his parish and his children’s schools, he serves on numerous advisory boards and committees.
Mr. Treseler said that he was inspired by SOAR!’s work when he thought about his own mother. As she aged, his brothers and sisters came together to ensure she received the support she needed. Like family, he told the audience it is their responsibility to care for the religious. “Through your support you are now a member of the family of the aging religious,” he said. “May God be praised.”
“We are here tonight because we believe that the vow of poverty should not mean an elder life of hardship (for the religious),” Ms. McGuire said.
At the dinner, Sister Mary Kathryn Dougherty, OSF, the congregational minister for the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, accepted a $25,000 grant from SOAR! for renovations at Assisi House, their retirement home.
The Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia received a number of grants from SOAR! over the years, which have helped with projects such as replacing a nurse call system, installing new windows and renovating the gathering room. The changes helped make the Assisi House safer, more energy efficient and more beautiful, Sister Doughtery said, but most importantly, they allowed the congregation “to provide a better quality to (their) Sisters.”
SOAR! was founded nearly 30 years ago in 1986 by a committed group of lay people to raise funds and awareness of the needs of aging and retired religious. It awards grants for necessities to improve the lives of the aging religious, such as automatic door openers, renovations to bathrooms to make them handicap accessible, or upgrades to fire alarms. In 2015, SOAR! provided 61 grants totaling $1.1 million.