The Orange Catholic Foundation’s 2022 Gala was held, in part, to celebrate the contributions of those selfless members of the Diocese of Orange who’ve made it their mission to support the Diocese in extraordinary ways through philanthropy and in-kind contributions.
Titled “A Night of Country Under the Stars,” the April 2 gala at Christ Cathedral sported a country theme, highlighted by a performance from Gary LeVox, former lead singer for the Rascal Flatts.
But before honorees were recognized, the evening opened with a Mass in Christ Cathedral, celebrated by the Very Reverend Christopher Smith, rector of Christ Cathedral.
KTLA meteorologist and Orange County native Henry DiCarlo served as master of ceremonies for the gala.
The foundation’s first ever President’s Award to recognize the Catholic Community Leader of the Year was given to Dr. Vincent D. Nguyen, Board-Certified hospice and palliative care specialist with Hoag Hospitals.
The award recognizes “an outstanding individual Catholic leader or leaders who has given their time and service to Catholic parishioners, parishes, schools and/or ministries in a significant and impactful way.”
Nguyen, who is the palliative program medical director at Hoag, oversees palliative services, trains physicians in the field, has authored several articles in the Journal of Palliative Medicine and co-authored chapters in two books on end-of-life care.
The physician also served on the Orange Catholic Foundation’s board of directors for six years and was a board member for the Supportive Care Coalition, the only Catholic membership organization focusing on advancements in palliative care.
“I’m grateful to my patients and families who have contributed to my learning and growth as a physician and a Catholic,” Nguyen said. “I’m privileged to be invited into my patients’ worlds to preserve the dignity in the midst of their serious illness and journey with them to the end of their earthly lives.”
Nguyen, a graduate of Mater Dei High School, is also member of the Caring for the Whole Person Initiative Leadership Team in the Office of Pastoral Care for Families in All Stage for Diocese of Orange.
GARY LEVOX, FORMER LEAD SINGER FOR THE BAND RASCAL FLATTS, PERFORMS AT THE ORANGE CATHOLIC FOUNDATION 2022 GALA AT CHRIST CATHEDRAL. PHOTO: LISA RENEE
The Chairman’s Award, recognizing the philanthropist of the year, was given to the Walker Family, whose patriarch, C.J. Walker founded Farmers & Merchants Bank in 1907.
Walker’s great-grandsons, Daniel Walker and Henry Walker, serve as CEO and president of the bank respectively.
Through the Farmers & Merchants Bank Foundation, contributions have included grants for individuals and organizations and in-kind donations for charity events.
Farmers & Merchants is the founder and main sponsor of The Orange Catholic Foundation’s Conference on Business & Ethics and has been a presenting partner for all 19 years. The bank also provides banking services to local nonprofits, including the Orangewood Foundation, Orange County School of the Arts and the Samueli Academy. Farmers & Merchants collaborated with the Diocese on the acquisition and renovation of Christ Cathedral in 2011.
“It is important to our family that the Christ Cathedral remain true to its dedication as a house of worship, as we like to refer to it as a kingdoms asset,” Daniel Walker said. “Christ Cathedral will now carry on as a house of worship for Catholics and for all faith traditions in reverence to those who went before the current faithful and for future generations.”
The evening celebratory for sure, but the event also featured an appeal for support from the hundreds in attendance to ensure that the Diocese’s retired priests can enjoy a reasonable quality of life after their years of service to the church and its Reverend Steve Sallot, pastor of Our Lady Queen of Angels in Newport Beach, pointed out that 46 Diocese of Orange priests are retired.
Over the next five years, an additional 30 priests will reach retirement age and, ten years from now, 51 priests currently in active ministry will be at least 70 years of age and therefore eligible to retire. Most retired priests live in rectories,
apartments, trailers and mobile homes, Fr. Sallot said.
“We have to find out own housing,” Fr. Sallot said. “After active ministry, retired priests no longer rely on their parishes for support. They live on social security, a small pension and whatever personal savings they may have.”
The foundation is raising funds to convert rectory space at St. Joseph’s in Placentia to living suites for four priests and searching for other underused properties which can also be converted to living spaces.
“We believe that it could be a model for other sites in our Diocese and other parish communities,” Fr. Sallot said. “It’s our prayer that we wish to make this a great success by building up a community as well as living spaces for retired priests.”
Fr. Sallot cited a survey of priests nearing retirement, which concluded the retirees want to retain independence, while being connected to a community of faith.
“Because that is the source of our lives,” Fr. Sallot said. “That is where we found our juice as parish priests, living and working in a community of believers.”