On Saturday, October 25, 2008, ACP celebrates its 15th annual Benefit Dinner, at the Flossmoor Country Club in Flossmoor, Illinois. Driving directions are available online. The Gratiam Dei Award recipient is Father Michael Boland, Executive Director, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago. The honor is being given not only to Father Boland but also to the extensive ministry of Catholic Charities, serving over a million people last year. Father Boland is introduced by President Todd Stroger of Cook County. President Stroger is accompanied at this dinner by his wife, Jeanine (originally from New Orleans), and his two children, Hans and Clair. Under the aegis of President Stroger, people who are needy are served by Stroger Hospital, formerly Cook County Hospital. The hospital is named in memory of John Stroger, the deceased father of Todd. President Stroger explains that about half the people served at the hospital have no insurance and no means of paying for their care; it is, he says, a genuine ministry in itself. He also mentions other services of Cook County, for example, the long term care provided by Oak Forest Hospital.
A reception in honor of Father Boland begins at 6 p.m. About 7 p.m., Bishop Frank Kane says grace before meals; Bishop Joseph Perry says grace after meals. This Benefit Dinner supports the ministry of American Catholic Press, in its service to people who are shut-in. Through the generosity of those involved in this dinner, ACP serves many of the homebound, who cannot get out to Mass. Six times a year, thousands of people across the country receive a Leaflet Missal prayerbook, without cost or obligation.
Master of Ceremonies this evening is Attorney Nick Zagotta, known for his involvement in community concerns. Nick is also a member of the board of directors of American Catholic Press, as well as the president of the Flossmoor Country Club. Nick begins the Benefit in good time and keeps the rest of us on schedule, with humor and grace. One special guest is Father James Presta, the rector of St. Joseph Seminary, of Loyola University in Chicago. He is a classmate of Father Boland.
A highlight of the evening is a striking video, featuring the people served by the new St. Leo Center, on the South Side of Chicago. This 3-minute video is presented on a large-screen TV, so that all present can see it well. After the video, Father Boland speaks extensively of the good work of Catholic Charities, in both Cook and Lake County. The meals-on-wheels program serves thousands of elderly people in Cook County, says Father Boland. In Lake County, he points out, Catholic Charities is the only organization providing such services to senior citizens. Father Boland also brings up the good work of the late Sam Argento, an ACP board member. For example, the new senior citizens' center in Calumet City takes up a square city block. This center was built with the help of Sam Argento and is named after his mother. At this dinner tonight, members of Father Boland's family are seated at his table, including his mother, Irene.
The silent auction is organized by ACP board members Chris Bern, Joan Braden, Rosann Conroy, and Kathy Zagotta. Jerry Bern provides a special display of attractive jewelery. Earlier in the day, Jim Braden set up the large-screen TV and made technical arrangements for its use; during the event, he takes photos with a digital camera, for display on this website.
The dinner itself is coordinated by the new catering manager at Flossmoor Country Club, Michelle Scudieri. She provides kids' meals for two children in the gathering; another three have a great time downstairs in the Grill. The new general manager, Tom Birmingham, is also present this evening, lending encouragement and support.