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A Night of Stars – An Evening of Friend-raising

Jenn Colella of “Come From Away,” Kate Baldwin of “Hello Dolly,” Adriana DeBose of “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical,” and Ann Harada of “Avenue Q” performed for attendees of “A Night of Stars,” which raised money for the friars’ care and ministry. (Photos courtesy of Hannah Kong)

NEW YORK — More than 100 people gathered with friars and Broadway performers earlier this month to learn about the Province and to support its work. They attended A Night of Stars – held Oct. 1 in Midtown Manhattan – which raised money for the care and the work of the friars.

The event, held near the Church of St. Francis of Assisi on West 31st Street, raised $475,000, according to David Convertino, OFM, the Province’s executive director of development. Just as importantly, it developed connections for the Province by introducing the friars to people from around the Northeast who are interested in supporting their work.

The attendees enjoyed songs performed by five Broadway stars who donated their time on a Monday evening, entertaining the audience with hit tunes and much emotion.

“The evening was great and the talent was phenomenal,” David said. “It enabled attendees to chat with friars and the performers. Monday is the only day off that these Broadway stars have, so it was very generous of them to participate. They seemed very enthusiastic about the event.”

Thirty friars attended A Night of Stars, greeting and welcoming attendees as they entered the space. Before the musical performances, attendees enjoyed an hour-long reception and a video about the friars.

The three-minute presentation showed scenes of Franciscan direct service programs, emphasizing the impact that the friars have: the Franciscans serve two million people. “We are there when we are needed, and now you are here for us,” according to the video’s narration.

After the video concluded, David introduced the first performer, Ann Harada from “Avenue Q.” The other performers were Kate Baldwin of “Hello Dolly,” Jenn Colella of “Come From Away,” Ariana Debose from “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical,” Mary Testa of “Wicked,” and band leader Grant Sturiale.

An Evening of Friend-raising
The evening allowed for a celebration of community in varied ways, said Ross Chamberland, OFM. “Our Franciscan fraternity welcomed the Franciscan family into a space where good food, and good drink, was expressed in great fellowship… and all of this in order to serve others. What else could anyone ask for?

“The gathering of a diverse community, celebrated in bringing Franciscan values together with Broadway talent, was perhaps my favorite aspect of the Night of Stars event,” added Ross, who is stationed at St. Bonaventure University. “I certainly enjoyed the live performances as well.”

Several attendees commented about becoming more aware of the diversity of ministries run by the Province, according to David.

“Some said that they had no idea that we friars do as much as we do through our many ministries,” he said. “They told me they felt like their eyes had been opened.”

“The Night of Stars was a wonderful opportunity to spend time with these great men and the many people who support them,” said Dennis DePerro, president of St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, N.Y. “Like St. Francis, the spirit of today’s friars is contagious. They are truly instruments of peace and love to so many people. While ‘A Night of Stars’ was a fantastic event and the entertainment was superb, it was clear after viewing the video that the real stars were the friars.”

Meeting Needs
Proceeds of the event will go toward the formation of the friars, helping the poor and caring for senior friars.

“Because the education and the care of elderly friars encloses the work of the friars, we look at this as the bookends of our work – formation and eldercare and in the middle, helping the work that the friars do,” said David.

The event’s program, a 20-page Playbill-style booklet, described not only the performers but the Province and its friars. It explained what Holy Name Province is, what friars do and where the friars work, and why they need financial support.

“I had the blessing of being on the steering committee for this event,” said Ross. “From the very first planning meeting, I witnessed the interest of lay partners in our work. Each of our meetings bore Franciscan fruit that came to a beautiful harvest at the Night of Stars. Attendees grew in relationship with friars and in awareness of our life and work, both in the stories shared and in the video that was shown.”

Supporting Vital Work
Terry O’Leary, who attended with her brother, Dennis Dwyer, and his wife Deborah, said, “We had a great time at Night of the Stars and enjoyed being a part of supporting for the vital work of the Franciscans.”

O’Leary, whose uncle was a friarthe late Cassian Kirk, OFM – said, “We know of the amazing work the friars of Holy Name Province do for the poor and the alienated, the elderly, retired friars and the student seminaries, and we wanted to support their mission. Our family’s connection to the Franciscans goes back to our grandparents, James and Laura Kirk, who were active members of the parish in the little town of Narrowsburg, N.Y.,  on the Delaware River that the friars of HNP staffed for many years. At our family gatherings, there were always friars present.

“We enjoyed the whole evening but a special part was seeing so many friars and hearing stories of their work,” she said. “The friars of HNP live the Gospel. They show us the way.”

The atmosphere at The Night of Stars was friendly and welcoming, said O’Leary.

The event was organized by the Development Office staff, which, David said, “had no specific goal for the event except to break even. We were measuring the event’s success by friend-raising. It was meant to help us with networking. Everyone there was new to our office.”

David served as host for this event and Lonny Price, a friend of the friars, as the director of the performances. Others who played a major role in organizing the event were Fred Dilger, OFM, who planned the décor for the venue, Brian Belanger, OFM, Robert Sandoz, OFM, and members of David’s staff including Bob Baard,  Paul Burke, Ed Chaudron, Adam Grambowski, Hannah Kong, Barbara Sincaglia, and Beddi Torraca.

This was the first time that the Province hosted an event of this type; usually fundraisers are held locally and include members of parishes, said David, a member of the Provincial Council since 2011. He and his team are planning to organize another Night of Stars for fall 2019.

Information about Holy Name Province’s outreach efforts and ways to support the Province can be found on FriarWorks.org.

— Jocelyn Thomas is communications director for Holy Name Province.

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