SALT LAKE CITY — People came early to the Grand America Hotel the evening of Sept. 8, gathering in the courtyard for a social hour prior to the Bishop’s Dinner, the annual fundraiser in support of the preservation of the Cathedral of the Madeleine.
“It’s good to be able to be together once again,” said Fr. Martin Diaz, the cathedral rector, as he sat chatting with others in the balmy weather.
Last year’s event was held online because of the coronavirus pandemic, and “several of the people who I talked to are just so pleased that we are able to meet in person,” he added.
That sentiment was echoed by Msgr. Joseph M. Mayo, a retired priest of the diocese who served as the cathedral rector from 2000 to 2013. Msgr. Mayo founded the Bishop’s Dinner in 2004, and this year served as the master of ceremonies.
“It’s good to get together as family,” he said as he welcomed those present to the dinner.
Among those attending were members of the ALSAM Foundation; the Rev. Rick Lawson, retired dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Mark in Salt Lake City; Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his wife, Susan; Scott and Jesselie Anderson with Zions Bank; and various members of diocesan clergy, including Msgr. Colin F. Bircumshaw, vicar general and Msgr. J. Terrence Fitzgerald, vicar general emeritus.
Those attending the dinner came not only to enjoy each other’s company but also to share “the noble mission of the Cathedral of the Madeleine of extending the love of God, especially to those who are in need,” said the Most Rev. Oscar A. Solis, Bishop of Salt Lake City, in his introductory remarks.
The keynote speaker for the dinner was the Most Rev. Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport, Conn. and chairman of the board of directors for Catholic Relief Services.
Bishop Caggiano suggested that the dinner was not merely a celebration of the cathedral but also “us, and the community we form in the Lord. We come here to celebrate the fact that you and I are sisters and brothers in an unbreakable bond, a bond even greater than the natural bonds of love. A bond which will bring us together into the glory of eternal life. That you and I are here to celebrate the unity which is our destiny and our mission in Jesus Christ. Rich and poor, young and old, educated and not, all of us essential, beloved, loved and belong to each other in Christ and in our mother Church – that symbol reminds us of who we are and that unity we share in him.”
In a world where a common outlook is that everything is “all about me,” in some way “you and I come here to support the Cathedral of the Madeleine so we can show the world a better way; that that philosophy does not lead to the satisfaction and joy that it claims – it leads to loneliness, and division and indifference and worse,” he said.
The dinner was also a chance “to remind ourselves of the path we walk so that we might live that better way each day,” he said, adding that the mission that brings unity is to “lift our neighbor, known and unknown. The Lord taught us that, did he not?”
Bishop Caggiano also took the opportunity to thank those present for their support of Catholic Relief Services, the humanitarian social services agency of the U.S. Catholic Church. CRS works in more than 100 countries worldwide, serving 140 million people, “most of whom have nowhere to turn,” the bishop said.
The Latter-day Saints Charities “have been a strategic and important partner in the work of CRS for over 40 years,” helping to build schools, and responding to famine and drought in various places in the world, Bishop Caggiano said. “That’s the beauty of being in unity, that’s the beauty of sharing mission, that’s the beauty that brings us together to honor our neighbor whoever that is.”
In his closing remarks for the evening, Bishop Solis acknowledged that the past year has been challenging, and uncertainties remain, “but your presence tonight reflects the kind of community we have in Utah. Your spirit of solidarity and support for the maintenance of the Cathedral of the Madeleine sends a strong message of hope and light. It assures our community that the mission of the cathedral will continue to make a difference in the lives of countless people – to those who go to pray, visit, enjoy the arts and culture it offers, and those seeking spiritual refuge and assistance, especially our brothers and sisters in need.”