“Thank God for all of you and those who preceded you,” Bishop Nelson Perez told the nearly 300 people gathered for the annual Deo Gratias celebration on Nov. 18 at the Center for Pastoral Leadership in Wickliffe.
Deo Gratias is Latin for thanks be to God.
The day of recognition began with a Mass of thanksgiving celebrated by Bishop Perez with Bishop emeritus Martin Amos, retired bishop of Davenport, Iowa as concelebrant. Bishop Amos is a native of the Diocese of Cleveland and returned here in retirement.
After Mass, the group moved to the Founder’s Room for brunch and the award ceremony. Bishop Amos presented Michael Shaughnessy with the Archbishop Hoban Award in recognition of his leadership and generous support of the diocesan Rooted in Faith – Forward in Hope campaign and his annual donations to the Bishop’s Discretionary Fund/Catholic Charities.
“Cleveland has a reputation for being one of the most generous cities in the country,” Shaughnessy said. “It’s great to be a part of that and you should be proud to be a part of it,” he told those gathered for the program.
The Archbishop Hoban Award was named after Archbishop Hoban, who served as bishop of Cleveland 1945-1966. He was known as a dramatic leader, a man of vision coupled with action who directed a period of growth and expansion in the diocese that remains unmatched with his impact still being felt in education, religious vocations and charity.
The award was established by the Catholic Charities Corp. in 1961 as a way to honor an individual or a couple who demonstrated exemplary leadership in philanthropy and service in Catholic Charities. Since the early 1990s, the award has developed into the diocese’s highest award of service, recognizing service and support to many areas of ministry.
Shaughnessy is co-founder of Color Matrix, a leading manufacturer of liquid color concentrates for use in industry.
A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Shaughnessy earned a bachelor of science degree from St. Louis University before moving to Cleveland. He is past chairman of the board for the Catholic Community Foundation, which organized the Deo Gratias event. He continues to serve as a foundation board member. Shaughnessy also is an honorary board member and past chairman for Notre Dame College. He is a member of the Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller and Papal Foundation. In addition, he is a trustee for the Western Reserve Land Conservancy and serves on the boards of Greater Cleveland Squash and White North Stables.
Shaughnessy and his wife, Marian, live in Gates Mills. They have two adult daughters and are parishioners at St. Dominic Parish.
Bishop Amos thanked the attendees for bringing the Gospel to life. He said he has known the Shaughnessys and their daughters for many years, recalling that he witnessed their wedding at St. Dominic’s Church. He also shared stories about the family’s generosity, including how they helped immigrant families new to Cleveland and how Shaughnessy stepped up in a leadership role for the Rooted in Faith campaign.
“They (the Shaughnessys) demonstrate remarkable faith and stewardship. They are generous donors to Catholic Charities. It’s one thing to be concerned and another to step up and do something,” Bishop Amos said. “Michael Shaughnessy subscribes to the theory that he didn’t come into the world to be served, but to serve.”
The event also included brief remarks from Eric Milkie, director of the Bishop William Cosgrove Center in downtown Cleveland. The center, a day shelter, provides meals and other services to about 250 homeless guests each day. He encouraged event attendees to think about the opportunities they’ve been given and then to imagine what their lives could be like if they experienced poverty, sexual abuse, human trafficking, incarceration, mental illness, substance abuse and homelessness.
These are some of the challenges facing Bishop Cosgrove Center clients. Many stay at shelters overnight, but must leave and have nowhere to go during the day. The Cosgrove Center fills this need by offering meals, shower facilities, a mailing address for those seeking employment as well as other services and programs.
“Thank you for your generosity, for giving of your time, talent and treasure. It is appreciated,” Milkie said.
The group also heard the story of Renee Hooks, a former Cosgrove Center client who now volunteers at the center. She talked about how her life spiraled downhill after the death of her husband, leading her into depression, alcohol and substance abuse and homelessness. She credits the Cosgrove Center with helping her find her way again.
“I go to the Cosgrove Center at 6:30 a.m. and make coffee. They call me the Coffee Lady and the Sugar Lady,” Hooks said. “I enjoy serving the people there and thank God for what he did in my life. And I thank you for helping the Cosgrove Center.”
Bishop Perez recalled seeing the Cosgrove Center his first day in Cleveland. “We drove past, I saw the name and said I wanted to go there,” he recalled. “I was very moved by what was going on there, the people who are being served and those who are serving.”
He said he decided to stop by again during breakfast on Christmas Eve last year and managed to slip into the building unnoticed and visit with the guests for a few minutes before Milkie spotted him. He described Hooks’ witness saying she saw service at the Cosgrove Center “not as a burden but a privilege to serve the people.”
The Deo Gratias celebration began in 1945 as a way to thank those who share annually with the Church and make the many ministries of the Church and Catholic Charities a reality. Bishop Perez told the gathering that their contributions – their mercy – transforms lives and community, which is the theme for the 2019 Catholic Charities Annual Appeal. He said the 2018 campaign has surpassed its $12.5 million goal.
“For 103 years, the Catholic Charities appeal has provided hope in the midst of despair for those in need and the vulnerable. We do it because we’re Catholic. It’s love in action,” the bishop said.
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland, is one of the largest programs of its kind serving the needs of 400,000 people with diverse programs like the Cosgrove Center and Rose-Mary, which provides family-like housing for those with disabilities.
“This is the work of the Church day in and day out. You make this huge mission of Catholic Charities possible. You make the Gospel come alive,” Bishop Perez said.