The 15th annual Catholic Education dinner will take place on Thursday, Jan. 29, at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. The 2015 dinner will mark Bishop Richard J. Malone's third year celebrating Catholic schools in the Diocese of Buffalo. More than 1,200 guests are expected to attend.
According to Richard C. Suchan, executive director of The Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, this year's dinner is undergoing a branding face-lift.
"The 2015 event will officially debut as 'GALA 22:6'," said Suchan. "The genesis of the new dinner title is rooted in Proverbs 22:6 - 'Train up children in a way they should go, and when they are old, they will not depart from it,' - which references the importance of educational formation in the lives of our young children."
The dinner is the foundation's largest annual fundraiser for Catholic education. Proceeds will be used to fund needs-based tuition assistance for students attending Catholic elementary schools throughout the eight counties of Western New York. To date, nearly $140,000 has been raised from this event.
For the 2014-15 school year, nearly 1,730 students, both Catholic and non-Catholic alike, are attending Catholic schools through this diocesan scholarship assistance effort, with an average grant of $1,100. The dinner raises approximately 35 percent of these funds. While average Catholic school tuition costs have increased by 7 percent, family income has decreased by 7.7 percent. There are currently many families on the waiting list for financial assistance.
The 2015 honorees are: Bishop's Medal recipients Sister Gail Glenn, principal of Catholic Academy of West Buffalo; Canisius College, Christ the King Seminary, D'Youville College, Hilbert College, Niagara University, St. Bonaventure University, Trocaire College and Villa Maria College of Buffalo.
"The bishop has a bronze medal struck, and the bishop can award it, at his discretion, to individuals he would like to recognize as being dedicated to Catholic causes, either through financial support, their personal commitment as a volunteer or lifelong dedication to the Church," Suchan said.
Suchan said Catholic colleges have stepped up to the plate in providing much incentive to graduates from Catholic high schools.
"The reason Catholic colleges are being recognized with the Bishop's Medal is that they have been partnering with the diocese, providing as much financial support as they can to incoming students who are graduates of Catholic high schools," he said.
The Sister Lucille Socciarelli/Father John Sturm Making a Difference recipient is Linda A. Calandrelli, teacher at St. Peter School in Lewiston. The Outstanding Achievement Award goes to Msgr. Kevin O'Neill.
The keynote speaker will be Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta. Chris and Jill Marks of Orchard Park will serve as the chair couple of this year's dinner, and Eugene and Pia O'Connor are the vice chair couple.
"We ask the Western New York community to join us again this year to celebrate our schools - the principals, the teachers, the staff and certainly the students - as they put their best foot forward to strengthen our youth, our Church and our faith," said Chris and Jill Marks. "This event is an evening where we put the value and mission of the dinner, and the students who benefit from the generosity of our many supporters, first and foremost.
"The tuition assistance granted to families across Western New York has opened doors to a high quality, faith-based education for young children throughout the diocese. Without this assistance, many deserving children would not be in our schools, would not be learning in a safe, nurturing environment, and would not have an opportunity to receive a strong grounding in faith and community," said the Marks.
The event will begin with a reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:45 p.m. and a closing prayer at 8:45 p.m.
For more information, to donate or for tickets call Laura DeMizio, special events coordinator of The Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo at 716-847-8370 or visit www.frcdb.org.