Catholic Charities employees in the Diocese of Cleveland participated in the 19th annual St. Elizabeth of Hungary celebration on Nov. 30 at Sagrada Familia Church in Cleveland, followed by a reception at St. Augustine Manor.
Sister Corita Ambro, CSJ who recently retired after 48 years with Catholic Charities, received the St. Elizabeth of Hungary Award. The servant leader award was presented to Lynn Wrice-Head, director of St. Elizabeth Center in Lorain. Mission and value awards were given to Sara Adler, nurse-practitioner, St. Augustine Health Campus; Andrew Davis, clinical supervisor, Catholic Charities Community Services, Summit County; Roszella McCoy-Parrish, central billing manager, Central Billing; and Jackie Pelty, program manager for Rose-Mary.
Bishop Nelson Perez was the main celebrant of the Mass. Several Catholic Charities employees assisted with the liturgy as music ministers, lectors and servers.
During his homily, the bishop asked for a show of hands for various lengths of service to Catholic Charities. When he asked who had 30 years or more of service, several hands popped up.
“That’s as long as I’ve been a priest,” he said. Employees at the Mass served Catholic Charities from 30-plus years to just a few weeks.
“You made a choice to work for Catholic Charities and like the disciples, you had to leave something behind,” the bishop said. “Many of you probably could have made much more money working elsewhere, but you chose to work here.”
He talked about life, pointing out that 58 years ago he was in his mother’s womb, safe, warm, fed and able to move around. But as he grew, life had to change and he had to leave that behind. “Sometimes that’s painful,” he added, referring to the birth process.
“We have to leave things behind. Today is the feast of St. Andrew. He and his brother had to leave their boats and nets behind to follow Jesus. Bartimaeus left his cloak behind. I invite you to reflect on your initial call to work in the ministry of charity. Why did you do it? Why do you remain?” he asked.
The bishop said Pope Benedict spoke extensively about charity, pointing out it’s essential.
“If someone asked me what are the two major things the Church of Cleveland does, I would tell them the first is that we gather around the altar for the Eucharist. Thousands of Catholics gather daily for Mass,” he said.
“The second thing is the work of charity.” Bishop Perez pointed out there are more people working for Catholic Charities – involved in the ministry of charity – than in any other area of the diocese.
“At the table you set you serve more than 400,000 people every year. And what you do, you don’t do alone,” he added.
Sometimes the work can seem overwhelming and those in the ministry of charity may feel the burden of need and frustration at their own limitations, which can tempt them to become discouraged.
“Remember that we alone are not personally responsible for building a better world,” he said.
After Mass, Patrick Gareau, president and CEO of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland, recognized those who were nominated for the annual awards. “It is an honor to be nominated,” he told them.
This year’s nominees were Sara Adler, Kimberly Ausel, Jeff Campbell, Andrew Davis, Jacqui Dodds, Karnese McKenzie, Ramanita Rodriguez-Johnson, Connie Shields, Jerry Smith, Charles Williams, Lynn Wrice-Head, Sister Corita Ambro, CSJ, Shelli Brooks, Nancy Castle, Nadine Grenig, Roszella McCoy-Parrish, Jackie Petty, Mattie Scott, Angelique Shy, Sheryl Villegas, Ashley Worthy and Kathy Yager.
Sister Corita received a statue of St. Elizabeth of Hungary from Gareau and Bishop Perez.
“St. Elizabeth is my patronal saint,” Sister Corita said, explaining that her baptismal name is Elizabeth. “The work that I do is a blessing and an inspiration to me.”
She began her ministry with Catholic Charities’ Disability Services office 48 years ago, devoting herself to the blind, deaf, hard-of-hearing and those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She developed religious education centers throughout the diocese, a youth retreat program, a home visitation program and an emergency response program for those with disabilities. She also founded the first deaf choir in the country, as well as organizing a home for youth with special needs, taking in more than 55 young people over the years.
Sister also helped establish St. Augustine Rainbow Camp, introduced the LINKS program for persons with mental illness onto the St. Augustine campus and more. In addition, she also reached out to the poor and homeless, establishing the St. Augustine Hunger Center and associated services.
“It is wonderful to have so many of you (employees) here today and wonderful to have so many of our board members here. We are thankful for their support,” Gareau said. “I am also thankful that Bishop Perez always shares the good news of our work whenever he gets the opportunity.”
Gareau explained that the major award, which is named after St. Elizabeth of Hungary, is a nod to her extensive work with the poor. She was born into royalty and married royalty, but used her wealth to aid those in need whenever she could.
“These people show what charity is,” Bishop Perez said, gesturing to the honorees and nominees.