RIVIERA BEACH | Supporters of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Palm Beach are poised to gather Wednesday, Jan. 25, for the 13th annual Caritas Dei Bishop’s Gala to celebrate the hard work being done to help others in local communities. The black-tie event is set to begin at 7 p.m. at The Breakers in Palm Beach with cocktails, a silent auction, dinner and dancing.
Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito, the evening’s host, will honor three individuals for their contributions to Catholic Charities and those in need. Ellen Wayne, CEO-executive director of Catholic Charities, said the trio of award recipients will be thanked for their work — some tasks that are quiet and less visible and others more public — “to make the world better for others.”
“I’ve only been here a few months,” she said, “and the fact that I know them and know of their work, that suggests to me that we really did identify people who are truly rolling up their sleeves and helping us do some of the important work.”
The award recipients are:
• James Borynack, chairman and CEO of Wally Findlay Galleries International Inc., who will receive a special Bishop’s Charity Award.
• George Kunzman, who will receive the Caritas Spiritus Award.
• Father Peter Truong, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Riviera Beach, who will receive the Caritas Christi Award.
Wayne said Borynack is being recognized for his public and behind-the-scenes work for the agency. “He’s an individual who lends a considerable amount of his talents and connections to support our organization, and for that we’re very grateful,” she said.
“I regularly get emails where he’s sharing tidbits of information that are important to the nonprofit sector and the people we serve,” Wayne said. “So, he’s always got his attention focused on what’s helping us do better. I’m very appreciative of that and I know that it’s not just here in the Palm Beach area. His reach is far. He’s been very generous with the agency in terms of his time and his resources.”
Kunzman, who has worked in Catholic Charities’ Prison Ministry at the Palm Beach County Jail for about 23 years, said the inmates are very appreciative of someone taking the time to visit them.
He said people often talk about doing something to evangelize. “Well, if you want to go to the easiest place, go to a jail because they’re hungry to just talk to anybody, and they’re hungry for some spiritual help, and it’s the easiest place to bring Jesus in there. You’ve got a willing audience.”
Wayne added that Kunzman inspires others with the work he does at the jail. “That’s one of those areas that many people might shy away from and not realize why it’s important,” she said. “But he certainly helps us rise to that level of commitment of ministering to even those who others might consider not worthy.”
Father Truong, Wayne said, is being honored for his dedication to serving at the Catholic Charities headquarters, which is next to his Riviera Beach parish. “God bless him. Part of being a Catholic organization is really embracing our Catholic identity. Father Peter comes over here and ministers to our staff, which helps us be the organization we need to be,” she said.
Father Truong said acts of charity are the best way to demonstrate our Christian identity. “Worshipping God means doing things like Christ the Lord, who gave himself up completely for the sake of people, especially the poor,” he said. “So, in that way, the more you give, the more you become, and the more you share yourself, the more you are like Christ. And the world today needs you to be like that.”
Wayne explained that a committee identifies potential award recipients, who are then vetted and approved by the agency’s board. Bishop Barbarito gives the final nod to each recipient, she said.
“None of this would be possible without the bishop being willing to lend his generous support for the agency and this event. He’s literally one of our greatest champions,” Wayne said.
She credited the gala planning committee, led by event chair Marietta Muiña McNulty, for contributing their generous hearts and tireless energy to make the event a success. The honorary chairs of the gala are Charlene and Richard Johnson.
Money raised through the Caritas Dei Bishop’s Gala helps serve a multitude of needs in the five-county diocese, Wayne said.
“There’s a piece of the evening where we really take the opportunity to share our story so that folks truly understand why we’d be gathering in such a fashion,” she said. “There is excitement and a celebratory nature, but there’s also a very real reason why we have to gather in terms of generating support. We never want to lose focus on that.”
Proceeds from the gala assist in every phase of the organization, Wayne said. The cost of providing services is significant, and the annual gala goes a long way toward supporting critical programs.
Wayne said she is pleased to hold the gala in person after a two-year break because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The opportunity to be together, that’s reason enough for celebrating because you miss that,” she said. “And so much of what we do as an organization is that personal interaction. To be able to get back in the same room and have the conversations and the goodwill, that’s exciting in and of itself.”