The annual Archbishop’s gala went virtual this year. Held on June 26th, Sacred Heart Major Seminary Rector and President Msgr. Todd Lajiness welcomed everyone to the gala, saying, “We are privileged to come together and celebrate what, by divine providence, has happened here in the last century and lean in, by faith, to where the Sacred Heart of Jesus will lead us in the days and years to come.”
Referencing the online format, the rector said these unusual circumstances “reminds us of an important truth about our last 100 years as a seminary. No matter what occurred – changes in our city, in our nation or in our world – the Lord Jesus was always with us, leading us Forward in Hope.”
Archbishop Allen H. Vignernon, a former rector of Sacred Heart and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, thanked benefactors for their generous and unfailing support. “There are many blessings that God has bestowed on our seminary over its 100 years of mission and ministry. This gala is an important occasion to be gathered together to give God praise and thanks for those many gifts. It is an opportunity to be rededicated to the mission of the seminary.”
Serving as the gala’s Master of Ceremonies, Fr. Mario Amore, Pastor of St. Aloysius and Our Lady of the Rosary, reflected, “It is remarkable to be reminded of what has happened over a century and to thank God for all of his blessings and recognize that it is the Sacred Heart of Jesus that animates everything that we do.” Though held online, the gala’s usual engaging format continued with Fr. Amore guiding guests throughout the evening from an inspiring video, which chronicled the seminary’s first 100 years, to hosting a playful centennial trivia contest with former gala masters of ceremonies.
The free and virtual format enabled new guests to participate and cameo appearances from out-of-town alumni and supporters, including by Metropolitan Archbishop of Agana, Gaum, His Excellency Michael Byrnes. He said, “I’m grateful for the 14 years I had at Sacred Heart as a seminarian, professor and vice rector, those years have been essential to forming and equipping me to proclaim Jesus Christ even to the ends of the earth.”
Among the gala’s virtual guests was Msgr. Robert Monticello, the oldest living alumnus of Sacred Heart, who entered the seminary 80 years ago in 1940. He shared a heart-filled message, noting that he spent part of his priesthood as a member of the faculty. Monsignor said, “Every time I enter the chapel, I am very much at home again surrounded with memories of those who have gone before us.”
Annual gala entertainment is provided by the seminary’s choir, this year with some additions. Joining the seminarians were a number of priests, including Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Robert Fisher, to perform a moving rendition of the song, “You Raise Me Up,” a fitting reminder in the midst of the pandemic that God our Father always lifts us up.
Msgr. Lajiness expressed gratitude to Sacred Heart’s many benefactors and to the Gala’s Exclusive Sponsors, all of whom maintained their support this year. These sponsors were joined by advertisers, annual gala guests, and many first-time contributors. “We could never fulfill the mission entrusted to us without each of you. Please know that we pray for our friends and benefactors and we thank God for you,” he said.
One of the gala’s highlights is the $25,000 cash raffle, which was again sponsored by the Weingartz family. Through God’s providence and the generosity of many, including the Michigan Knights of Columbus councils who regularly send tickets to their members to purchase or sell, the seminary achieved a raffle record raising nearly $190,000!
The Knights have been a strong supporter of vocations and a generous and loyal friend to the seminary for years. Michigan State Deputy William Chassé presented a check to Msgr. Lajiness for $150,000, for the second year, as part of the state councils’ commitment to raise $1 million for seminarian scholarships at Sacred Heart. Supreme Knight Carl Anderson underscored the Knights’ continued commitment to the formation of our Church’s priests, stating that he is “proud of all that my brother Knights of Columbus in Michigan have done to support Sacred Heart Major Seminary. In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis tells us we must have priests filled with the joy of the Gospel, who are missionary disciples, are close to the people they serve and who are evangelizers. There is no more important work in our Church today than the renewal of our clergy in this way. There is no one doing a better job in this work than Sacred Heart Major Seminary.”
Lora Adam and her husband Mike, who joined the Knights in 2019, joined the gala for the first time this year, becoming new donors in support of the seminary’s mission. “While watching the gala,” Lora said, “I sensed the love of the Lord in the priests and seminarians and how the Holy Spirit is alive in them. It was fun to see the camaraderie among the men.”
Msgr. Lajiness introduced the 12 men who were recently or will soon be ordained to the priesthood. Expressing gratitude to the sponsoring bishops, he said, “The fruit of our labor is seen right here in these new priests. We can collectively give thanks to God for this great gift.” The rector hosted a brief video-conversation with the five newly-ordained priests for the Archdiocese of Detroit to learn “how Jesus our High Priest and Good Shepherd is at work here at the seminary and how he calls his priests to a life of heroic witness.”
In his closing remarks, Archbishop Vigneron said: “Sacred Heart is an essential part of our efforts as a local Church to be renewed in our missionary identity and to take up again our call from Jesus to share his Gospel. The seminary spends itself preparing future priests, deacons, and lay leaders in order to have the work of evangelization go forward. We give God praise and thanks that he takes us into this future confident that he will support us. A year ago, we had no idea of what March, April, May and June of 2020 would look like, but God has taken us through these months, and he has sustained us, and he will sustain us in the future. So, we move forward confidently in the great mission of the seminary.”
Reflecting on the gala’s success, Emily Berschback, Director of Alumni Relations and Events said, “I am feeling beyond blessed for the hard work of many who made the virtual gala possible. Through prayer and collaboration, we were able to offer a way for our donors, sponsors and seminary family to be united around Christ’s heart and to recognize 100 years of blessings! Now that’s the providence of God!”
Please pray for an increase in priestly vocations. If you weren’t able to watch the gala live, please click here to join the fun. And, if you have the means, please consider making a donation to support your future priests.