In a large ballroom at the Hilton Downtown Tampa, 500 of the faithful of the Diocese of St. Petersburg gathered to bring ministry to life with their presence, prayers and generosity.
Long viewed as the signature event of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, the 16th Annual Catholic Foundation Gala on February 1, 2020 inspired attendees with faith-filled speakers, scholarship presentations and musical performances. The event culminated with a live auction and a special appeal to raise funds for tuition assistance as well as another focus this year – our mutually shared vision of Courageously Living the Gospel.
“Our Catholic schools present an evangelizing environment for all who are involved, from administration and staff to families, and tuition assistance remains at the top of our list for this event. But now, I ask you to journey with us as we push past our limits. Let’s stretch the limits of what we can accomplish,” said Bishop Gregory Parkes during his remarks.
The President of the Catholic Foundation’s Board of Trustees, Chris Schellman, expressed hope and confidence that the added focus on Courageously Living the Gospel, would enable the Gala to have an even greater impact on the lives of people in our Diocese.
“We are working to build legacies. Proceeds from this event have helped thousands of students afford a Catholic school education. Tonight, our Board is excited to expand our focus and help forge new legacies for our Church,” said Schellman.
The emcee for the evening was former NewsChannel 8 anchor Yolanda Fernandez, an icon in our community. Fernandez is active in her faith and attended local Catholic schools. She invited the audience to seize the moment and change lives with their support.
“We have a chance to make a difference to those seeking a Catholic education. We can serve the poor through affordable housing efforts, support our youth and young adults throughout our five-county diocese and support efforts that spread the Good News,” said Fernandez.
Mike and Malissa Guarino were Silver Sponsors of the Gala and also placed bids during the live auction to raise funds for the ministries of the Diocese and Catholic education. He is passionate about Catholic education and believes it’s necessary to have strong youth ministry programs in our parishes and schools.
“Hearing at the gala about the Bishop’s continued support of youth ministry continues to warm our heart,” said Mike.
During the event, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School gave a musical performance showcasing the school’s highly regarded violin program. Also, Catholic astronaut, Dr. Thomas Jones spoke about his faith and his stellar career, participating in four space shuttle missions to Earth’s orbit and leading 3 spacewalks, Also, Dr. Jones is among the first Catholic astronauts to receive Holy Communion in space.
“My faith in God gave me the courage to succeed in space,” said Dr. Jones.
Dr. Jeffrey Senese, president of Saint Leo University, presented scholarships to three students who wrote winning essays on “What a Catholic Education Means to Me.”
The first-place winner, Emersen Torres of Mother Teresa Catholic School in Lutz, received a $10,000 scholarship to attend the diocesan high school of her choice. This is one way the Catholic Foundation Gala is changing lives and bringing ministry to life.
Father John McEvoy, pastor of St. Anne Parish in Ruskin, has attended the Gala every year since its inception, including this year. He attended Catholic school throughout his childhood and taught Catholic high school for 25 years. He is passionate about passing on this legacy to future generations.
“We must keep Catholic education accessible and affordable, especially for young families today,” said Father McEvoy
The Catholic Foundation Gala’s Platinum Sponsor was BayCare and the Presenting Sponsor was Dex Imaging.
To learn more about the Catholic Foundation and how you can leave a legacy that brings ministry to life visit: https://catholicfoundation.org/