HARTFORD – For Governor Dannel P. Malloy and JFK nephew Mark K. Shriver, the 17th annual Archbishop’s St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast was one more opportunity to exchange playful barbs about their respective Catholic alma maters – just as they did four years ago at the same event.
“As a Boston College graduate, I am very happy to be speaking before a Holy Cross graduate,” Gov. Malloy quipped, preceding Mr. Shriver at the podium.
“Governor Malloy, thank you for mentioning Holy Cross,” Mr. Shriver said in his turn. “Sometimes the B.C. guys are a warmup act for the Holy Cross guys.”
Archbishop Leonard P. Blair also warmed up the 900 attendees to the event that raises scholarship money for the Foundation for the Advancement of Catholic Schools (FACS). His traditional recital of Irish jokes prompted emcee Todd Piro, NBC news anchor, to suggest he take the act to Vegas.
All this fun, plus a breakfast enhanced by the archbishop’s dispensation of the Lenten Friday abstinence rule, preceded the more serious message Mr. Shriver and others had to deliver – that Catholic education matters.
Mr. Shriver, president of Save the Children Action Network, which fights to ensure universal access to childhood learning programs, is a son of President John F. Kennedy’s sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver. He also has written about men like Father Edward Flanagan, creator of Boys Town, who was criticized for integrating it with boys of all faiths and ethnicities; and about Pope Francis in his latest book, Pilgrimage: My Search for the Real Pope Francis.
He said Father Flanagan and Pope Francis are celebrated as great Catholic teachers. “They inspire and they challenge us all to fight injustice, to fight discrimination, to reach out to the poor and the powerless, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless.”
He said that nuns, priests and lay Catholic teachers challenge all of us “to live Jesus’ call to faith, humility and mercy, to live Jesus’ call to love the Lord your God with all your soul and all your heart and all your strength and all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself.”
In a nod to Saint Patrick, he said, “What it really means to be Irish is to have faith in God who unites us all, who does not separate us because we are Catholics or Protestants or Hindus or Muslims. To be Irish means to have faith in a just and loving God, and that that faith demands that we commit ourselves to acts of love and mercy every day.”
Catholic teachers, he said, “spur all of us students, and I include myself in that, to make the world a more just, a more humane, a more merciful place. It’s Catholic education that reaches out to rich and poor alike and challenges them to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with our God.”
Mary Wood read portions of an essay she wrote thanking FACS for providing a scholarship to Northwest Catholic High School, where she is a senior. “Northwest Catholic is an environment where I am encouraged to speak about and live out my Catholic faith,” she read. “I am allowed to pray at the beginning of each class, attend Mass at school, and say ‘Merry Christmas.’ These seemingly small details are what make me feel incredibly grateful and blessed to be able to learn at Northwest. They are daily reminders that keep my Catholic faith at the forefront of my mind.”
Archbishop Blair told the Transcript, “Our Catholic schools do a superb job of preparing our young people for life and for faith. But we also know that without a lot of generosity on the part of many people, this is a mission that would not be possible, so I’m very grateful for the support that FACS gives in the form of scholarships and the support the people give to FACS by attending this breakfast today. So I wish everyone a happy St. Patrick’s Day.”
Auxiliary Bishop Peter A. Rosazza, who delivered the closing prayer, told the Transcript that the event is a wonderful opportunity to come together. “It is beautiful because the glorious Saint Patrick is the one who brings us together,” he said.
Referring to FACS before the event, emcee Mr. Piro told the Transcript, “It’s a great organization that provides muchneeded funds to individuals who really want to better their lives but unfortunately whose families cannot necessarily afford the costs of a Catholic school education.”
Cynthia Basil Howard, executive director of FACS, said early tabulations indicate that the event raised about $80,000.