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Virtual Gala Celebrates Catholic Charities of New York Pandemic Work, Honors Business Philanthropist Frank J. Bisignano

CCNY 2021 Gala Frank J. Bisignano, Cardinal Dolan and Msgr. Sullivan
L-R: Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Susan Salice, Frank Bisignano, Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan, Maria Morris, Eugene McQuade
Photo: Catholic Charities of New York

By Peter Feuerherd

A celebration of helping the needy amid Covid-19, as well as honors to businessman and philanthropist Frank J. Bisignano, highlighted the 12th Annual Gala for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York June 14.

The event, held online, was hosted by Lynda Baquero, reporter for WNBC-TV News.

His Eminence, Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, in presenting the Deus Caritas Est Award to Bisignano, described the Fiserv CEO as a force in assisting the poor via Catholic Charities and other Archdiocesan projects.

“Frank is the kind of guy who asks, ‘what do you need?’ and ‘what can I do for you?’ Frank Bisignano is the kind of guy you go to when you need help,” said the cardinal.

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Bisignano is a trustee of St. Patrick Cathedral. The Brooklyn native is a leader in global finance and serves on the boards of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, the Mount Sinai Health System, and The Battery Conservancy. He is also President, Chief Executive Officer, and Board Member of the Board of Directors, Fiserv, Inc.

The Gala also featured video tributes to the work of Catholic Charities’ agencies in combating poverty and despair.

Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, reported from the Alianza Learning Center in Washington Heights, where a Charities’ project provides space and support for neighborhood school children and their families.

He noted that the long-term impact of Covid-19 will require such efforts as people emerge from isolation. “In hundreds of sites, help is being provided, hope is being provided,” he said.

Also highlighted was Part of the Solution (POTS) in the Bronx, which distributed 1.3 million meals in 2020, a portion of the total of 8.3 million meals by Catholic Charities New York agencies.

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Stephanie Caban, volunteer coordinator at POTS, said the agency was able to continue its work despite Covid-19 restrictions. Workers and volunteers, she said, could communicate despite the requirements of physical distancing.

“We can smile under our masks even if we have to maintain distance,” she said in a video tribute to the work of the agency

Christina Hanson, Executive Director of POTS, said Covid-19 challenged the agency to be welcoming to a new set of clients who emerged as the pandemic shut down huge sectors of the economy.

“It can be very hard to ask for help, especially in the pandemic, many people were in need for the first time,” she said.

Food assistance is a central focus of Catholic Charities’ work, a prime reason why Catholic Renewal raised more than a million dollars for those efforts, said Deirdre O’Connor, Managing Director, Epiq Global, representing the organization of under-40 business and community leaders who support the work of Archdiocesan Catholic Charities.

“We are here to raise money for families in need,” she said. “It keeps Catholic Renewal’s focus streamlined.”

Another Catholic Charities agency, Encore Community Services, works with the senior population out of the Theatre District in Manhattan.

Encore’s mission, said Jeremy Kaplan, Executive Director, is to convey the message that “seniors are just as much a part of our city’s future as they are the past.”  Its work addresses what he described as “a pandemic of loneliness and social isolation,” particularly among the 700,000 senior New Yorkers who live alone. “We are giving back to the seniors who essentially created our city,” he said.

Encore, said Kaplan, remains “Broadway’s longest running act of love and caring.” 

Eddie Silverio, Director of Youth Programs, Alianza Division, Catholic Charities Community Services, based in Washington Heights, said his agency “is helping kids succeed.” During the Covid-19 pandemic, agency workers provided thousands of wellness checks, phone calls to families in need conveying the message to those in quarantine that they were not alone, providing help to address their problems.

Housing in New York was another concern highlighted at the Gala. The Second Farms apartments in the Bronx, a Catholic Charities sponsored effort, provided 319 affordable housing units this year, an addition to 2,700 Catholic Charities-sponsored units throughout the Archdiocese.

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Pictured in the gleaming new lobby of the building, Nelly Perez, a resident at Second Farms, said that she feels herself and her children are now safe at home, thanks to the security and support offered at Second Farms. “It’s totally new for me. I like it,” she said.

Supporting youth faced with physical and mental health challenges is a focus at Astor Services for Children and Families, noted another video tribute.

Natalie Rhoden, case manager at Astor, said that her agency’s outreach to children in trouble is essential. “You have to help them. You are going to need them in 20 years,” she said.

Anaya Concepcion, a client of Astor Services, noted that she has suffered through difficult issues, and that she has emerged stronger and more confident. “I am proud of myself and I stuck to the program. They really do help you,” she said.

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Video of the Gala can be seen at https://catholiccharitiesgala2021.org/

 

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