Bishop Brennan: ‘It’s Essential To Educate Our Children In The Catholic Faith’
HOWARD BEACH — Thousands of Catholic school students will receive scholarships thanks to donors who attended the 2021 Bishop’s Christmas Luncheon, one of the biggest events of the holiday season in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
The luncheon, held at Russo’s On The Bay on Dec. 7, drew nearly 900 people and raised more than $300,000, according to the Catholic Foundation for Brooklyn and Queens, which sponsored the event. The funds raised will support the bishop’s scholarship fund for Catholic education and youth ministry programs throughout the diocese.
“It takes people like you who love God, who love the Church, and who love Catholic education,” Bishop Robert Brennan said in his welcoming remarks.
Two students from Cathedral Preparatory School and Seminary echoed Bishop Brennan’s enthusiasm.
“Honestly, almost every student in my school relies on scholarships. So basically, it means a lot,” said junior Christopher Costentino.
Jay Fredericks, also a junior, said the event “certainly shows the passion people have for Catholic schools.”
This year’s in-person gathering followed the virtual luncheon prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello, diocesan vicar for development, said tickets to the fundraiser were a hot commodity: “This is the biggest crowd we’ve ever had.”
Bishop Brennan, who hosted the luncheon, told The Tablet beforehand the event was “a great opportunity to meet a lot of people — people who are really supporting our mission.”
“It’s essential to educate our children in the Catholic faith,” he added.
Bishop Brennan’s predecessor in the Diocese of Brooklyn, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, was one of the award recipients. He was presented with the St. John Paul II Distinguished Stewardship Award. Bishop DiMarzio said it meant a great deal to him because of his connection to the late pope.
“I was appointed bishop by him,” Bishop DiMarzio told The Tablet. “It is a wonderful thing to be given this award and to recognize his legacy in the Church, which was one of openness and new evangelization.”
Robert Schirling, chairman of the board of directors at Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy in Douglaston, received the Spirit of Hope Award. He was part of a team that helped to form the academy after the closing of St. Anastasia School in 2009. He recalled his determination to ensure that his community would still have a faith-based school.
“Catholic education is not going to die on my watch,” he said while accepting his award.
Ed Wilkinson, the former editor of The Tablet who retired in 2020 after 50 years with the newspaper, was the recipient of the Emma A. Daniels Benefactor’s Award. It was a special moment for him: “I loved covering our Catholic schools. It was one of my favorite parts of the job.”
In addition to providing scholarships, funds raised at the luncheon will also go toward Catholic youth ministry.
The fact that the luncheon drew people from all walks of life was proof that the Church is vibrant and alive, Bishop Brennan noted.
“The people who are here realize that the Church is a part of your life, not just a small corner of your life,” he said.