SOUTHINGTON — The Archdiocese of Hartford’s elementary schools put volunteers in the spotlight on Oct. 16 at the 40th annual HOPES (Help Our Parish Elementary Schools) Dinner celebration, held at the Aqua Turf in Plantsville.
Sponsored by the archdiocesan Office of Education, Evangelization and Catechesis, it brought together school personnel, parishioners, pastors and principals from 38 parishes across the archdiocese.
The dinner was first introduced in 1977 by the late Father James Fanelli, the schools superintendent at the time. It since has become a signature event to honor the efforts of Catholic elementary school volunteers.
Archbishop Leonard P. Blair commended the volunteers for their personal commitment and witness to the Gospel. He described how Christianity has been handed down through the centuries from person to person, as it continues to be. He said that as long as there are good people who are dedicated to the mission of Christ, the gift of Catholic education will continue to flourish.
Referring to the volunteers, Sister Mary Grace Walsh, provost of the Office of Education, Evangelization and Catechesis, said that Catholic elementary schools “stand on the shoulders of giants. … ” She said, “Catholic education is an act of love, and this is what makes Catholic schools so special.”
Seventy-six volunteers received the St. John Newman Award in recognition of the time and talents they have given to support the mission of Catholic education.
The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the St. Elizabeth Seton Award by Archbishop Blair and Michael Griffin, superintendent. The Seton Award recognizes one man or woman who has demonstrated outstanding voluntary achievements over the past year.
This year’s recipient was Marie Gallo-Garabedian of St. Christopher School in East Hartford. Marie has been volunteering for 22 years, organizing pasta dinners, food drives and special collections, among other things, in support of St. Christopher School. She also is on the school’s board.
Gallo-Garabedian described St. Christopher School as a quiet and unassuming gem. “St. Christopher was a Christ-bearer, and pupils at St. Christopher are taught to live as Christ-bearers themselves, as they are educated to love, learn and lead,” she said.
Concurrent with the dinner was the annual HOPES collection at Masses in all of the parishes of the archdiocese. Contributions provide grants to Catholic elementary schools for modern educational technology and innovative resources. Funds also are directed to support the efforts of the Office of Education, Evangelization and Catechesis to effectively promote the faith-based culture of Catholic elementary education in the Archdiocese.