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Celebration of the Priesthood to be held online Sept. 29

The cover of the invitation to the Celebration of the Priesthood, which will be held as a virtual event on Sept. 29. Pilot photo/courtesy Boston Catholic Development Services

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BRAINTREE -- For the first time in the history of the event, the 2020 Celebration of the Priesthood will be held in a virtual format on Sept. 29.

The annual Celebration of the Priesthood honors the work of diocesan priests and serves as a fundraiser for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust (CHRT). This majority lay-led trust supports the health and well-being of the archdiocese's active and senior priests in good standing.

Traditionally, the celebration consists of a gala dinner and speaking program at the Seaport World Trade Center, drawing about 1,500 guests each year. Holding it virtually means that, this year, anyone in the archdiocese can watch it.

Patricia Bartram, interim secretary for institutional advancement, said it is "very exciting" to have this event in a virtual format for the first time in its 12-year history.

"It's going to be a great night to celebrate the work of our priests," she said in an Aug. 26 interview.

Bartram said the Celebration of the Priesthood dinner is the "signature event" of the CHRT. However, another significant source of fundraising is special in-pew collections. One of those collections typically takes place at Easter, but was not able to happen this year due to the suspension of Masses to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Viewers will be able to make donations during the event, which will consist of a half-hour video program. Bartram said the CHRT hopes to raise $1.4 million that night.

"They are relying all the more heavily on this event to make up what they need," Bartram said.

Joseph D'Arrigo, executive director of the CHRT, shared a letter about the importance of the fundraiser on its website.

"I cannot emphasize enough the impact of your gift in the lives of more than 500 priests, especially our senior priests, who for decades have celebrated our marriages, baptized our children, and blessed our loved ones who have been called home to God," he said.

He pointed out that during the pandemic, priests have had to "work in new and innovative ways to ensure that they can continue bringing the presence of Christ to the world around them."

"Truly, the strength and vibrancy of our communities depend greatly on the health and well-being of our priests who so tirelessly and selflessly dedicate their lives in the service of others," D'Arrigo said.

The theme of this year's celebration is "Mission: Possible." The keynote speaker will be retired General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., who served as the 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation's highest-ranking military officer. There will also be messages from Mark Wahlberg, who was the keynote speaker in 2018, and Brian Boyle of the National Hockey League's Florida Panthers.

Complimentary registration is available at 2020cop.org. Those who register will have opportunities to win prizes, including a virtual Q and A with General Dunford, a virtual talk with Boyle, and a private tour of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

"We think it's going to be a really good program, a real opportunity for people to, perhaps, see our priests working in a way that they're not as familiar with," Bartram said.

The virtual Celebration of the Priesthood will take place on Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. It can be viewed through YouTube, Facebook, or CatholicTV.

More information about the Celebration of the Priesthood and the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust can be found at clergytrust.org/2020-celebration-priesthood.

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