HARTFORD – Mark Kennedy Shriver told 900 people on March 15 that his father, Peace Corps founder Sargent Shriver, was wrong to call Mark and his siblings "the lucky seven." Reflecting on his Catholic education and the examples set by his father, Mr. Shriver said, "We were the blessed seven."
His remarks came during the 13th annual Archbishop’s St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast, sponsored by the Foundation for the Advancement of Catholic Schools (FACS) to raise money for tuition scholarships. The event was held at the Connecticut Convention Center.
Mr. Shriver, senior vice president of Save the Children’s U.S. programs, is author of a recent memoir about his father, A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver, which was a New York Times and Washington Post best-seller. Sargent Shriver, in addition to founding the Peace Corps, was also the architect of President Johnson’s War on Poverty. The book was available for purchase at the event.
Mr. Shriver’s mother was Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a sister of President John F. Kennedy and Senators Robert F. Kennedy and Edward Kennedy. The Kennedy family is famously Irish, and Mr. Shriver noted that St. Patrick’s Day is a chance to "let our non-Irish friends pretend they are Irish for a day."
But, he added, "What I have learned from my mom and dad and from my uncles and aunts is what it really means to be Irish – to have faith in God, the God who unites us all, the God who does not separate us because we are Christian or Jew or Catholic or Protestant or Muslim. To be Irish means to have faith that there’s a just and loving God, and that that faith demands that we commit to acts of hope and love every day of our lives."
He concluded, "I’m blessed to be here with all of you this morning, with people who see that Catholic education teaches us to be contemplatives in action, to pray but also to act; to Catholic education that spurs people to make the world a more just, a more humane place; to Catholic education that reaches out to rich and poor and challenges them to act justly, to love tenderly, to walk humbly with your God. Thank you for supporting such important work."
Archbishop Mansell warmed the crowd with Irish jokes and stories and then thanked God for the newly elected Pope Francis, "a man of the faithful" and "a man of the universe," who has a sense of humor and the humility to pay for his own hotel bill. The archbishop also praised Catholic schools, which he said serve more than the children they educate.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy congratulated the archbishop for having three schools honored as National Blue Ribbon schools for 2012 by the U.S. Department of Education. They are Our Lady of Mercy in Madison, St. Dominic in Southington and Corpus Christi in Wethersfield.
Gov. Malloy added, "I’d like to recognize specifically the willingness to make scholarships [available] to Catholics and non-Catholics alike, to give people the opportunity, children the opportunity to participate in Catholic education and receive a great education." He thanked the archdiocese for its commitment to Catholic education and extended congratulations to all for the system’s success.
Maureen E. Kerrigan, FACS board of trustees president, said that FACS annually raises and distributes funds to many of the more than 15,000 students in the archdiocese’s 63 Catholic schools. "In the 2012-2013 school year alone, FACS awarded over $280,000 in scholarship funds," she said.
"What we do at FACS is not just about the giving. It is about improving the communities in which we live and work, making sure that we provide the best education for all of our children," she said.
She said that $130,000 was raised by the guests at the breakfast.
One of those guests was Our Lady of Mercy School principal Sister Carol Sansone, a member of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who said this was her first St. Patrick’s Day breakfast. "I’m here to support the archbishop in his efforts," she said.
Msgr. Gerard G. Schmitz, president-rector of St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, said, "I’m really pleased to be here. It supports Catholic schools, Catholic education. I’ve received a Catholic education from grade school through ordination. I’ve had great experiences, and I know the FACS Foundation with the support of Archbishop Mansell does so much good work and allows students to have this Catholic education which I had. It’s a wonderful cause to support."
Sister of Mercy Judith Carey, former vice president of mission integration at St. Francis Hospital, said, "I’ve been to every one of these.… It’s a tremendous spirit and it’s a wonderful support of the schools. I’m just so happy that so many organizations and groups sponsored and supported it."
Cynthia Basil Howard, executive director of FACS, said, "People are excited to be here. You can see by looking around that there are so many people in the Hartford area who support Catholic education, and that’s important. That’s why we’re here today."