On September 8, 2018, at the Dallas Country Club in Highland Park, members and supporters of the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land gathered to recognize the service of outstanding members and raise money for foundation efforts. It was a black tie event that included beautiful music from the Versa String Trio during the reception, and harpist Mary Margaret Jones during dinner. Three hundred and fifty six guests attended the event, including Master of Ceremonies, Descon Kenneth E. Reisor of St. Thomas Aquinas Church. Honored guests were also in attendance and included Most Reverend Archbishop Bernardito C. Auza, Most Reverend Gregory Kelly, and the Reverend Peter F. Vasko. The dinner and reception featured an award ceremony, keynote speech, and new video presentation.
President of the FHHL, Father Peter Vasko, OFM, presented Susan Stanzel an award in appreciation of all her efforts in chairing the event. This was followed by Father Vasko presenting the “City of David Award”. This honor went to Vice President of the FHHL, Denise Scalzo, for her dedicated work during the last twenty four years to the people in the Holy Land. The highest award given by the FHHL, the Guardian of the Holy Land Award, was then presented to Joe C. (Jodie) Thompson Jr. This award is described as “recognition given to individuals who have not only demonstrated an outstanding love of God in their personal lives, but have upheld the truth, the reality, the faith, and the hopes of the Holy Land…individuals who have placed themselves in the hands of god and have allowed their gifts and their energies to be consumed for those in need.” Thompson, a well deserving recipient, noted in his speech that “Faith is our greatest gift,” and “The opportunity to take my whole family to the Holy Land was a life-changing blessing for all of us.”
After dinner Archbishop Bernardito C. Auza delivered a keynote speech about the importance of Christianity in the Holy Land and the obstacles that have historically led Christianity to be on the verge of distinction in 2018. Archbishop Auza’s address, entitled “Unimaginable: a Middle East without Christians”, urged those listening to go beyond what efforts might be considered surface level stating, “We must also address the root causes, not only of the open persecution, but also of various forms of discrimination in the juridical, political, economic, and cultural and social aspects of life that stoke violence.” Offering help, not only to Christians but other minorities in terms of race and religious belief, will help individuals remain in their birth land with dignity and respect. Auza added, “We thank all those who work so hard to restore a sense of normalcy to the lives of the Christians in the wider Middle East.”
A new video was presented during the dinner that was directed and produced by Denise Scalzo, OFS. The video opened with Father Peter Vasko and spoke to the importance of FFHL’s mission and values. The film also showed four past recipients of FHHL scholarships. Each one thanked his or her sponsor for allowing them the opportunity to attend University. The video entitled “Bearing Fruit”, ended with Very Reverend Francesco Patton and each of the Franciscan members of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land Board of Directors in Jerusalem expressing their appreciation.
The event was successful in raising enough money to pay for eight full University Scholarships thanks to the hosting committee and donors. Reverend Monsignor Donald F. Zimmerman, Pastor of Christ the King Church ended the evening with the closing Benediction.
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