This article was originally published on Detroit Catholic.
DETROIT — Nearly 700 bishops, priests, seminarians and friends of Sacred Heart Major Seminary gathered June 8 to celebrate and support the seminary's mission during the annual Archbishop's Gala at Detroit's Huntington Place.
The largest fundraiser of the year for the seminary, the Archbishop's Gala is crucial to the future of Sacred Heart and its mission to form priests and lay leaders.
“The Archbishop’s Gala is tremendously important for the developing of relationships with Catholics around the archdiocese and sharing the good news,” said Fr. Charles Fox, vice rector and dean of seminarian formation.
He also noted it helps people understand the need for good and holy priests.
The evening, with its theme, "Connect To Christ’s Light, Life, Love," began with Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron welcoming guests at a cocktail reception, which then lead into the ballroom for dinner and a program lead by emcee and recent Catholic revert, Chuck Gaidica, former WDIV Channel 4 anchor. During the program, Gaidica spoke about his personal reconversion story and entertained the audience with comedy.
“I am living proof that it's never too late for you to be who Jesus wants you to be,” Gaidica told the audience.
The evening’s program highlighted the 2023 newly ordained and soon-to-be ordained priests — 16 in all, including those from the Archdiocese of Detroit as well as from the dioceses of Kalamazoo, Lansing, Marquette, the Archdiocese of Hartford, the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle, the Companions of the Cross, and Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT). In addition, 13 new deacons and 70 seminarians were featured in the program’s guide.
Part of the fundraising efforts included a $25,000 cash raffle, sponsored by Weingartz. In addition, Barry Borsenik, state secretary of the Michigan State Council of the Knights of Columbus, presented two checks, totaling more than $215,000 to support the seminary. One of the checks represented each member of the more than 56,000 Knights in Michigan who donated $3 specifically in support of the seminary.
In addition to the Knights and Weingartz, the gala was sponsored by Christian Financial Credit Union, Catholic Funeral & Cemetery Services, Ave Maria Mutual Funds, Lear Corporation, Corporate Travel Services, Dick Genthe Chevrolet, Alpha & Omega, and The John Berry Family.
The evening’s spotlight moment was the seminarian ensemble’s rendition of "One God." Video presentations, including professors at the seminary who guide the work and formation of future priests and other lay ministers, helped inform and inspire those gathered.
In his address, Archbishop Vigneron noted how the seminary works to bring the compassionate heart of Jesus to others, adding lay ministers and catechists are critical to the spiritual development of the faithful.
Sacred Heart's rector, Fr. Stephen Burr, said the seminary “creates more channel for God’s grace.”
Fr. Burr connected the evening’s theme to the Church’s celebration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in June. “When we seek Jesus, he will connect us with his heart and his heart will connect us with what he loves,” Fr. Burr said.
Sacred Heart alumna Allison Accardo, who graduated with her master’s in theology in 2015, said she has attended the event every year since.
Accardo, director of religious education at Christ the Good Shepard in Lincoln Park and a theology teacher at St. John Paul II Classical Catholic School, fondly recalled her experience studying at Sacred Heart, saying it prepared her for ministry.
Accardo said the gala “is a little way of giving back because I got a lot of grants and scholarships while attending. I also like hearing about what the guys are doing in the seminary,” she said.
Delia Rodi-Barczys, a parishioner of St. Anastasia Parish in Troy and an architect who has done work with several local churches, attended the gala with her husband, David, for the first time.
“I came to support the seminarians and the great causes they help bring to our world and to our future,” Rodi-Barczys said.