Shrine’s Franciscan Dinner Raises Close to $700,000

Brian Cullinane, OFM In the Headlines

Executive director Tom Conway delivers the opening remarks at the

Executive director Tom Conway delivers the opening remarks at the Franciscan Dinner. (Photo courtesy of Julie Ogden)

BOSTON – What a “wicked, wonderful” week it was on Arch Street as the 70-year-old St. Anthony Shrine community prepared for its first Franciscan Dinner.

As we got ready for the Oct. 20 gala to present the first Pope Francis Award and to recognize the Shrine’s many ministries, our media sponsor the Boston Herald published numerous articles about the Shrine. The newspaper featured the varied ministries that the Shrine offers to the people of Boston as well as the faces behind the scene. Some of these stories included:

Featured Ministries
The director of the Franciscan Food Center, Mary Ann Ponti, was one of the main figures featured in these stories via a beautiful video. Ponti, who also leads the Shrine’s Bread on the Common, seems to know the name and much of the history of the homeless men and women who call Boston home.

Every Thursday, we close off a group of offices on the first floor to be used for a women’s “Healthcare For the Homeless” clinic. Women are invited to come in to meet with nurse practitioner Andrea Caputo. No matter what the reason, they are welcome and helped with any mental or physical problem.

The Shrine’s Emmaus Ministry offers grief counseling, parent-to-parent companioning, retreats, monthly Scripture readings and coffee socials to any parent who has lost a child, no matter at what age. This special ministry was started at the Shrine by David Convertino, OFM, and is lead by Diane and Charley Monaghan.

On Wednesday, the Herald  published a fine description of the Lazarus Ministry which included a great picture of Christopher Coccia, OFM, as he was praying over two baby caskets at the cemetery.

About 10 times a year, infants who died at birth or have been abandoned, elderly people who simply outlived all of their family, addicts, the homeless and the mentally ill; will be buried from the Shrine. At each of these funeral Masses the Arch Street Band plays music and these individuals are celebrated.

The article published on Friday calls St. Anthony Shrine “A Beacon of Hope;” and all of the previous articles point to this conclusion.

I truly believe that many people now realize that the “Church on Arch Street” is so much more than a place for Mass and confession. They  understand more than ever that there are roughly 30 outreach ministries flowing from St. Anthony Shrine.

Thomas Conway with

The shrine’s executive director Thomas Conway with Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, Pope Francis Award recipient James O’Connell, and former Boston mayor Raymond Flynn. (Photo courtesy of Julie Ogden)

The Gala
On Thursday night, 350 people gathered at the Seaport Hotel to celebrate the first Franciscan Dinner. The Arch Street Band played in the gathering area where cocktails and hors d’oeuvres were served.

The program began at 7 p.m. with a warm welcome by WCVB television news anchor Mary Saladna. The invocation was presented by Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, OFM, Cap.

After a delicious dinner Thomas Conway, OFM, the executive director of the Shrine, gave some opening remarks and introduced a five-minute video that was produced by the Boston Herald. The video showcased a number of the ministries of the Shrine.

Following the video was a “live auction” which included a “Fund a Need” segment where people donated for the various and needed areas of our outreach programs. Among these were for another freezer for the Food Center, help in buying shoes, socks for the homeless and support for the monthly luncheon for Veterans. Each area received a wonderful response from guests.

The highlight of the evening was the Pope Francis Award presentation. This first-time award was given to James J. O’Connell, president of the Boston Healthcare For the Homeless Program. He is a 1970 graduate of Notre Dame University who holds a master’s degree in theology from Cambridge University.

Hugh Hines,

Hugh Hines, Mary Ann Ponti, and James O’Connell pose for a picture shortly after O’Connell was presented with the Pope Francis Award. (Photo courtesy of Julie Ogden)

Shortly after graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1982, Dr. O’Connell began offering full-time clinical work with the homeless. His organization now serves more than 12,000 homeless people annually. It was through his help and efforts that the Shrine opened the Healthcare For The Homeless Program for women here in the Shrine.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh gave a brief talk on what the Shrine means to him. He has been there many times for Mass and confession with his mother and still comes for a prayerful visit.

“It’s s such an incredible place … bringing together people in faith, seeing prayers in action,” Walsh said. “The person to your right could be someone off the street, and the person to your left could be the president of a bank.”

Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, gave the final talk and thanked guests and friars for all the good things that happen at the Shrine and in Boston because of the friars and their supporters. Kevin served as director of the Shrine from 1990 to 1999.

To end the evening, all the friars present were invited to join with Kevin to bless all those attending with the singing of the Blessing of St. Francis. It truly was a great evening that raised close to $700,000. Final numbers will be announced after all the pledges are received.

Because the shrine is financially autonomous, it depends largely on donors for the $12,000 it takes to operate each day, the Herald explained in an Oct. 21 story.

On Sunday, the Shrine posted on its Facebook page an essay by Raymond Flynn, former mayor of Boston and a former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, titled “Bostonians’ big hearts on display at St. Anthony event” that was published in the Boston Herald.

— Brian has been stationed at St. Anthony Shrine since 2011. He is a member of the HNP Communications Advisory Committee. Information about the history of the “Church on Arch Street” can be found on the St. Anthony Shrine & Ministry Center website

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