‘Faithful Citizens’ honored by UST Center for Faith and Culture

October 14, 2014

HOUSTON — Ten prominent Catholic Houstonians received a Faithful Citizenship Award from the University of St. Thomas' Center for Faith and Culture (CFC) during the CFC's Fourth Annual Faithful Citizenship Dinner held Oct. 2 at the Houston Country Club.

The center, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, recognized Maureen Bacchi, LMSW; Rosie Carrabba, Jan Duncan, Roz Hill, Sr. Mary Adeline O’Donoghue, CCVI; Cynthia Sapio, Raye G. White, Dr. Elizabeth Woolfolk, Ginger Niemann, Judy Seré, and Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, DD for demonstrating faithful “dual citizenship” by participating in both “God’s reign of love and the civic life of our democratic republic.” 

"Tonight's honorees include women who, individually, have had an enormous impact in untold ways on Houston in its cultural and faith-life," said CFC founder and director Father Donald Nesti.

"These ‘belles' continue to ring out the joy and beauty of the Gospel in harmony and rhythms that reflect their very diverse personalities under the direction of the Holy Spirit. They are effective carriers of the Catholic Christian view of the world in the ways that they influence the institutions that embody our American way of life."

Founded in 1994, the CFC "seeks to understand and affect the relationship between the Gospel and the American way of life in relation to God's ongoing encounter with humanity in the light of faith." Recognized by the Roman Curia Pontifical Council for Culture, the CFC has facilitated hundreds of conferences, symposia, and inter-religious dialogue and parish outreach programs over the last two decades, and now offers both a certification program and a Master of Arts in Faith and Culture. 

"The mission of the University of St. Thomas is to form leaders of faith and character," noted UST President Dr. Robert Ivany, speaking to nearly 300 dinner attendees in the glittering club dining room, "and there is no better organization that understands that [goal] than the Center for Faith and Culture."

Honoree and center staff member Bacchi, whose extensive career as a clinical social worker and psychotherapist has drawn accolades throughout the Archdiocese, said she supports the Center for Faith and Culture because Scripture reminds the faithful that "God so loved the world."

"For us, as American citizens, that means this United States," Bacchi said, "and so taking care of it and helping it become the most loving, just society it can be is our responsibility and our [way of] participating in the fulfillment of God's dream for our little part of the world." 

Honoree and renowned Houston philanthropist White, a CFC advisory board member, said she is "just so honored to be a small part of the Center," and commended Father Nesti "for all the wonderful things that he's doing not only for the university but for everybody else."

Honoree Sister O'Donoghue, CCVI, spiritual director and founder of the Ruah Center at Houston's Villa de Matel, said she was filled with gratitude by the evening, which saw "people gathered in faith across all kinds of differences and enriched beyond any imagining."

"This event reminded me of God's amazing way of connecting people," she said, "and of the importance of everybody's discovering their own gift and acting in faith to give their best to the community as a whole."

To a standing ovation, Father Nesti praised honoree Archishop Fiorenza, who is celebrating his 60th anniversary in the priesthood. As a "bridge builder" and "unifier," Archbishop Fiorenza "is someone who has boldly walked the faith" and "inspires others to walk as well," Father Nesti said.

"He reminds us to use our voice as citizens," Father Nesti said, and has "helped us to overcome our anxiety, our bias and our reluctance to change when change is clearly needed." 

Honoree and Archdiocesan Director of Development Hill said the evening was "filled with joy," and called the CFC "exemplary."
"For all who were honored, is was a humbling experience and a testament to our commitment to what the Center for Faith and Culture stands for," Hill said. "Hats off to Father Nesti for his vision 20 years ago."

Proceeds from the annual dinner fund CFC scholarships and initiatives in the Houston community. Past recipients of the Faithful Citizenship Award include Joe Tortorice, Jr., CEO of Jason's Deli; Carl and Lois Davis, and Mark and Louise Zwick of Casa Juan Diego. Multiple awardees were selected this year in honor of the Center's 20th anniversary.