Bill and Joyce Cummings receive the 2016 Justice and Compassion Award from Cardinal O'Malley, accompanied by Catholic Charities board chair James D. Gallagher and president Deborah Kincade Rambo. Pilot photo/Michael Maloney, Courtesy Catholic Charities
DORCHESTER -- Over 400 guests helped raise more than $1.1 million to fund the many programs and services run by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston at the annual Spring Celebration held May 11 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
"Without the generosity of the people in this great hall, we would be crippled in the work that we do," noted archdiocesan Secretary for Social Services Father Bryan Hehir during the benediction.
Referring to those served by Catholic Charities as "the hidden face of Christ," Father Hehir added, "for the privilege of being part of their lives, we give thanks."
Following the dinner, event co-chair William B. Parent, president and chief executive officer of Blue Hills Bank, introduced Emmanuel Sebit, a Catholic Charities client from Lynn, originally from South Sudan.
"Our client-speaker is a refugee and an immigrant, and that makes him part of a very important group of people -- important for the story of America and the American dream," Parent said.
Sebit recounted how at the age of 9 he, together with his mother and two younger sisters, fled their village in South Sudan.
"I can't say I remember much about what my mom went through. All I can remember is the journey that we traveled --the long walks through the bush -- until we found ourselves in Kenya," Sebit said.
For 11 years, he and his family remained in a refugee camp in Kenya.
"Life wasn't easy in the camp," he said. "Life in the camp was like a prison, but it was safer than going back to South Sudan."
At the age of 18, Sebit was given the opportunity to emigrate to the United States. Alone, he settled in Lynn and initially found many things overwhelming. Sebit recalled how, as fireworks erupted during New Year's Eve First Night celebrations, he heard the explosions and hid under his bed.
He also laughed at the memory of his first winter. "I did not go outside for one month. Not once," he exclaimed.
Things changed for him after he found the Catholic Charities office in Lynn. There, he was instructed in English, attended GED classes, got the necessary aide in order to obtain a green card and enrolled in college.
"I want you people to know that I will never take the blessings for granted," he continued. "My experiences have been tough, but as long as I have these opportunities that Catholic Charities has given me, I know I can do so much."
Following Sebit's talk, Catholic Charities president Deborah Kincade Rambo, presented Bill and Joyce Cummings with the 2016 Justice and Compassion Award for their extensive philanthropic contributions and their support of Catholic Charities' English for Speakers of Other Languages program.
Founders of the Cummings Foundation, one of the largest philanthropic organizations in New England, both Bill and Joyce Cummings remarked how "honored" they felt to receive the award.
"We are truly very thankful and very grateful," Bill Cummings said. He urged those in attendance to "forget about the old idea of 'giving until it hurts' and start giving until it feels good."
The evening concluded with remarks from Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, who noted that Pope Francis often says "we are here on this planet to help one another."
That's the mission of the Church -- we are a field hospital for those in need," he said. "I am so proud of the work that being done by Catholic Charities and by the many people who, like Bill and Joyce are the kind of people who want to help other people."
"This is what Catholic Charities is about -- taking care of each other," the cardinal said.