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Catholic Charities’ 14th annual Justice for All awards dinner October 11 in Atlantic City

Honoring Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, and five local disciples of mercy

On October 11, 2017, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Camden, will hold its 14th Annual Justice for All Awards Dinner at Resorts Hotel in Atlantic City. At the dinner, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, will be honored as a proponent and protector of the rights and dignity of those who are most in need of his protection – including and especially immigrants, refugees, and the marginalized.

Also being honored at the event are five disciples of mercy. These individuals, and one group, are from parishes around South Jersey who have dedicated themselves to Pope Francis’ call to go out and live the gospel in their daily lives.

This is the first year the Justice for All Dinner will be held in Atlantic City, one of the largest and most diverse areas that receives services from the Catholic Charities.

Cardinal Tobin Receives the Saint John Neumann Award

Reflecting the persona of Pope Francis, Cardinal Tobin is a humble servant to the poor, and a fierce advocate for human rights. He is a true son of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Founder of the Redemptorist congregation of which he is a member, exuding piety and grace.

In November of 2016, Pope Francis named Cardinal Tobin to serve as the Sixth Archbishop of Newark. In assuming this post, he shepherds one of the most diverse regions of the country. It’s a role for which he was well prepared. He has travelled extensively in developing nations and speaks English, Spanish, Italian, French and Portuguese, as well as reads several other languages.

Cardinal Tobin is the personification of Pope Francis’ guidance that the Church should emphasize humility and service to the poor. It should be multicultural, and welcoming all to worship. It should reach out to other faiths and stand up for immigrants and refugees and advocate for a greater role for women in the church.

In short, Cardinal Tobin is just the kind of leader – in the spirit of Francis – who can help the Church in the United Sates grow in mercy, ecumenism and magnanimity.

Fifteen to Receive Disciples of Mercy Awards

Last year Catholic Charities’ Disciples of Mercy Awards were created to recognize individuals or small ministry groups throughout South Jersey who exemplify mercy by reaching out to those who are poor and vulnerable. Nominated by their communities, one individual or small group from the five deaneries of the Catholic Church in South Jersey were selected to receive this award.

Deanery 1: Nancy E. Whatley Griffin, Esq. — Sacred Heart Parish, Camden

Over 10 years ago, Nancy Griffin helped to create the faith-based corporation, Soul of Camden. With a mission to “feed the body, the mind, and the soul of Camden youth,” this non-profit group embodies both the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy through its after-school and summer enrichment programs. Griffin currently directs the REBELS youth program where teens raise capital to employ themselves so that tomorrow they will be entrepreneurs raising capital to employ the village. Through her mentorship of young people over the past 10 years, a number of Camden youth participating in these programs have gone on to college and to the U.S. Air Force. Griffin advocates for youth in court and in school. She is a member of the Sacred Heart Pastoral Council and an active member of the community at large. Griffin is a recently retired JAG (Judge Advocate General’s Corps) officer in the U.S. Air Force.

Deanery 2: Michael Ciccotta — Saint Thomas More Parish, Cherry Hill

Michael Ciccotta is a 19-year-old active parishioner of Saint Thomas More Parish and a sophomore at the College of New Jersey. In 2014, Ciccotta started a program he called “Chapters for Children.” His mission is to collect books to be distributed to children whose schools are located in areas of poverty in Philadelphia and Camden. Since its inception, the organization has donated over 15,000 books. In 2017 alone, 6,000 books have been distributed. Book donations range from kindergarten through college level, fiction and non-fiction. The book delivery is “hands on” – delivered by friends in their own cars. Over the years, Ciccotta has solicited book donations by speaking after all Masses at Saint Thomas More Parish. He has also appealed to bookstores and public libraries with a good deal of success. Through his acts of compassion to enlighten the mind and bring joy to children living in poverty and cultural deprivation, Ciccotta is a model of mercy for both young people and adults in the parish.

Deanery 3: Gardening Angels of Mercy Community Gardeners — Mary, Mother of Mercy Parish, Glassboro

The Gardening Angels of Mercy Community Garden consists of a group of 11 people who, since 2013, have created a garden to grow produce for the poor and needy who frequent the Saint Vincent DePaul Food Pantry at the Pitman location of Mary, Mother of Mercy Parish. Volunteers harvest vegetables in the spring, summer and fall, this year donating 300 pounds of fresh produce to the food pantry. This group accomplishes the Corporal Work of Mercy of feeding the hungry. They see the mercy of God in the garden, in the plants, and even in the insects and animals that inhabit the garden. These “angels of mercy” make a tangible contribution to their community, while accomplishing the Corporal Work of Mercy of feeding the hungry. They recruit for their ministry, and have neighbors who are not parishioners who help.

Deanery 4: Margaret Steadman — Parish of Saint Monica, Atlantic City

Almost two years ago, Margaret Steadman took control of the Christmas and Easter outreach projects at Saint Nicholas Church in the Parish of Saint Monica. She completely transformed them into well-organized, dynamic ministries. Whereas “hand-me-down” toys and baskets of wide-ranging quality were previously distributed, now new toys and uniform baskets are provided at Christmas and Easter, respectively. Each holiday season, parents and children pick up their baskets inside the rectory, where warmth and light refreshments await them. Families are offered free portraits from professional photographers right on the spot. In keeping with the church’s mission of mercy to evangelize, spiritual outreach through Christmas carols, holy cards and Mass schedules is also offered during these events. The program is self-funded through small $5 sponsorships from parishioners and visitors as well as corporate discounts, gifts-in-kind, and monetary donations. Next Christmas, Steadman has plans to offer a live Nativity in addition to the traditional toy distribution.

Deanery 5: Joseph Sosnowsky — Saint Damien Parish, Ocean City

In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis spoke of the church’s primary mission of evangelization, of fulfilling the Spiritual Work of Mercy to bring knowledge of Christ to the modern world. Joe Sosnowsky has been dedicated to this mission for many years, being actively involved in adult faith formation efforts at Saint Damien Parish. Retirement did not slow down his efforts. After his retirement, Sosnowsky returned to school to earn an M.A. in theology to enhance his evangelization work. In January of 2014 he initiated an English language outreach program to the local Spanish speaking community. He has worked tirelessly to bring God’s message of mercy — that all life is sacred — through his many pro-life initiatives as a member of the parish Respect Life Committee, as Knights of Columbus Pro-Life chairman, and as a volunteer for the Camden Diocese Pro-Life advancement.

About Catholic Charities and the Justice For All Dinner

The Justice For All awards dinner has the dual purpose of honoring the extraordinary service performed by the individuals receiving Justice in Action awards, and raising funds that allow Catholic Charities to provide direct assistance to those they serve throughout the diocese. Catholic Charities will serve more than 33,000 individuals within the six southern New Jersey counties that make up the Diocese of Camden with the funds raised by the dinner. Since its inception in 2004, the dinner has raised more than $800,000. Every penny is used to end crises, prevent evictions and utility disconnection (electric, gas and oil), provide food and prescription needs, and create stabilization within families.

The Justice for ALL dinner’s purpose is threefold:

  • To raise funds for direct assistance to clients in the communities we serve, specifically for programs including the Family & Community Services Centers, Refugee Resettlement, Adoptions, and Counseling Services. Funds raised are for the unrestricted use of those programs for distribution directly to individuals and families in need.
  • To promote the “Judicious Growth” of Catholic Charities in our region by identifying, cultivating and engaging individuals who are committed to the Vision and Mission of Catholic Charities and will become partners with us as we fulfill our mission over time.
  • To promote awareness of social justice issues and the needs of the poor in the Diocese of Camden by selecting and honoring people and organizations, who by their actions, have demonstrated their commitment to social justice and the needs of the poor.

The event will be held in Resorts Hotel, 1133 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, NJ 08401, beginning at 5:30 PM, with dinner service at 6:30 PM, and the main program to follow.

For more information about the 2017 Justice for All Awards Dinner and Ceremony, or to buy tickets or sponsorships, visit: www.CatholicCharitiesCamden.org/JFA2017