- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Patrons were generous at this year’s Catholic Charities gala despite the threat of war, continued economic doldrums and a sex-abuse scandal involving Catholic priests that isn’t going away anytime soon.
“We’re so fortunate people are generous even at a time like this,” Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, said at the Washington Hilton Saturday night. “They give because they know their gifts really go to people in need.”
Other philanthropic groups are experiencing major difficulties with annual benefits, but the Catholic Charities event raised an unprecented sum this year.
The gala imbued with patriotic themes and colors and billed as a Salute to America took in at least $900,000 for shelter, day care, substance abuse programs and other endeavors.
“Our donations have jumped 20 percent compared to last year,” said Catholic Charities President Ed Orzechowski.
“I think people give because they appreciate our low overhead,” he noted with evident satisfaction.
Though the gala did well, other sources of revenue are less promising. Catholic Charities, which has 400 employees and almost 10 times as many volunteers, has been told to expect significantly less from United Way which has seen its own donations plummet this year.
“We hope this [fund-raiser] helps offset that some,” Mr. Orzechowski said.
Among the 900 guests were AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and his wife, Maureen (who chaired the event), Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan and Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele.
Mr. Steele praised Catholic Charities’ wide-ranging faith-based services for the poor especially in the District and Maryland, where an estimated 80,000 persons were assisted last year.
“We want to work more closely with Catholic Charities in Maryland,” Mr. Steele said. “They do such great work.”
The evening wasn’t just talk about hard work and no play.
Silky-smooth singer Natalie Cole performed big-band tunes into the late night. (The legendary Ray Charles had been billed as the evening’s headliner but had to cancel because of a scheduling conflict in Australia.)
Cardinal McCarrick, who eschewed the red robes and beretta of a prince of the church for simple clerical attire, provided a stark contrast to the gala-clad patrons as he paused to give his blessing to generous party guests.
“You can’t authentically be a Christian before you take care of the poor,” he said, “but if you can have a good time while you’re helping your neighbor, that’s wonderful.”
Gabriella Boston

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