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76th Annual Cardinal’s Christmas Luncheon Celebrates Season of Giving

Cardinal's Christmas Luncheon 2021 WIth Children
Cardinal Dolan with students from St. John Chrysostom. Photo: Catholic Charities New York

By Peter Feuerherd

The lighting of the Rockefeller Center tree would happen later that evening, yet friends of Catholic Charities were reminded of the phrase from the late bestselling author and dear friend of Catholic Charities New York, Mary Higgins Clark, that the New York City Christmas season officially begins at the Cardinal’s Christmas Luncheon.

The 76th Cardinal’s Christmas Luncheon took place Dec. 1 at the Midtown Hilton, filling the massive ballroom after a year’s hiatus due to Covid-19. Clark’s phrase was recalled by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, right before the prelate narrated Luke’s Gospel as it was performed by students from St. John Chrysostom and St. Raymond schools in the Bronx.

As the luncheon coincided with Channukah observances, the cardinal noted an interfaith theme that both feasts represent the triumph of light over darkness.

And, he said, citing the work of the beneficiary of the luncheon, “Catholic Charities brings the light” to the struggling poor of New York City through all its varied programs.

Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities New York Cardinal's Christmas Luncheon 2021
Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director, Catholic Charities New York. Photo: Catholic Charities New York

Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities, thanked those who support the agency, noting how vital its work has been during the pandemic crisis, particularly for the city’s youth.

He emphasized how Catholic Charities’ agencies remained open and served the young, including help for the disabled provided by Astor Services and help for students in Harlem through a Kennedy Center program which provided assistance and a learning center for the children of essential workers, during the year of distance learning.

Catholic Charities’ provides, said Msgr. Sullivan, “a sign of Advent hope” at a time when many are still struggling.

Supporters of Catholic Charities New York were honored via awards presented by the Cardinal and Rosanna Scotto, co-host of WNYW’s “Good Day New York,” who served as master of ceremonies.

Joan O’Connor, Angel Award Honoree Cardinal's Christmas Luncheon 2021
Joan O’Connor, Angel Award Honoree, with Cardianl Dolan. Photo: Catholic Charities New York

The Christmas Angel Award was presented to Joan Bruton O’Connor, who was honored for her support of Catholic Charities as well as the international development efforts of Catholic Relief Services.

A member of St. Joseph’s Parish in Bronxville, Mrs. O’Connor built a successful real estate firm with her late husband Jerry. Married for 48 years and the parents of six and grandparents of 24, together they established the O’Connor Family Foundation. She has traveled to and assisted development projects in Ethiopia and Haiti, and is a supporter of after-school programs and community centers in New York City sponsored by Catholic Charities. She has also been a supporter of Lawrence Hospital and Jansen Hospice, College of the Holy Cross, Autism Speaks and the Adaptive Sports Foundation.

In accepting her award, Mrs. O’Connor cited the Gospel imperative often quoted by her late husband: “to whom much is given, much will be required.”

Kathy and John McAvoy with the Cardinal Dolan (Spirit of Saint Nicholas Honorees)
Kathy and John McAvoy, Spirit of Saint Nicholas Honorees, with Cardinal Dolan. Photo: Catholic Charities New York

The Spirit of Saint Nicholas Award was presented to Kathleen and John McAvoy, natives of the Parkchester section of the Bronx.

John McAvoy noted that the couple lived “a classic cashier and stock boy love story,” having met while working at a grocery store when both were college students, he at Manhattan College and her at the College of Mount St. Vincent.

John worked as an engineer and manager for Con Ed, while Kathy taught math at Cardinal Spellman High School, Resurrection Academy and Mahopac High School. The parents of four daughters – Kelly; Maureen, who died of a brain tumor at the age of 19; Siobhan and Jacqueline-  and the grandparents of two, the couple has been involved with charities including Maureen’s Hoops for Hope, Swim Across America and the Terry Fox Run. They credited the spirit of their late daughter for their charitable involvement.

Speakers at the event also included Mary Buckley Teatum, President of the Archdiocese Ladies of Charity, who described that group’s work in assisting residents of the South Bronx, including a widower father of three who was able to celebrate a Christmas with his family thanks to the Ladies of Charity.

Christmas music for the event was provided by the St. Raymond School Choir, as well as soloist Brandie Sutton of the Metropolitan Opera.

Saint Raymond School Chorus Cardinal's Christmas Luncheon 2021
Saint Raymond School Chorus at The Cardinal's Christmas Luncheon. Photo: Catholic Charities New York

 

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