By LOU PONSI     5/10/2023

The recently held 2023 Inspirational Catholic Women Servants for Christ Benefit Dinner celebrated women volunteers from throughout Orange County whose service has helped to advance the Church’s mission to assist people in need.

The special event, which took place on April 28 at the Christ Cathedral Arboretum, was hosted by the Catholic Charities Auxiliary, a group that supports Catholic Charities of Orange County through outreach, fundraising and community service.

Each of the 22 honorees was nominated by her respective parishes or churches and each was asked to respond to one question:

“Who or what has inspired you to be a servant for Christ?”

As the honorees gathered on the Arboretum stage, their video-taped responses were projected, one by one, on a large screen.

“After I retired, I started to go to daily Mass, so I can receive Him (Jesus) every day,” said honoree Paka Anderson of St. Kilian Catholic Church in Mission Viejo. “I felt sorry for people who cannot make it to church to receive Him. I gladly joined the homebound ministry so I can bring Jesus to them. When I retired, I (joined) more volunteer ministries so I can satisfy my hunger to serve Jesus.”

Honoree Darlene Boyd of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Irvine said her service to the church has helped her feel closer to Christ.

“I ask the Holy Spirit to reveal more of Christ to me, so that I may be more Christ-like in my efforts and prayer and participation in parish ministries,” Boyd said. “The result is often that I feel that I have more of a love for those in need and also, that I myself have grown in my love for the Lord.”

Honoree Dee Evelo of San Antonio de Padua Catholic Church in Anaheim Hills has always loved working with children and said she was called by God along with her husband to adopt children and serve as a foster parent.

Evelo and her husband have 16 children, four by birth and 12 by adoption.

The couple has also fostered 49 children over the past 25 years.

“Upon reflecting on the meaning  of what a servant of Christ is, I came to realize that God put it on my heart to do fostering and adopting,” Evelo said. “No matter what the challenges and the day-to-day troubles are with the fostering and adopting of children, I absolutely love my life and I now know that I am a true servant of God.”

Bishop Vann said the Servants for Christ theme serves as an inspiration to the many women who find paths in life to “shine brightly for God’s glory.”

“I am grateful to all of you for sharing your God-given talents by your words and examples in your daily lives and your support and witness of Faith to so many,” said Bishop Vann.

The keynote speaker for the event was Amy D’Ambra, founder and CEO of My Saint My Hero, a company that sells handwoven threaded bracelets that she calls “wearable blessings.”

The bracelets are handwoven by women the village of Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

D’Ambra, who is the youngest of five sisters, shared the story of her older sister Judy, who died of ALS in 2021, six months after being diagnosed. As the disease progressed, Judy lost the ability to speak.

D’Ambra recalled being told via a text from her sister to use her voice for God, to keep her heart fixated on spending forever with Him in Heaven.

D’Ambra spoke about feeling the presence of Mary in her heart during a recent visit to Medjugorje.

“I heard in my heart our Blessed Mother saying, ‘I need your help in bringing people to my Son, Jesus. I need your help. Do it with me,’” D’Ambra said. “I just invite you. I encourage you to allow the Holy Spirit to work in your life.”

2023 Inspirational Catholic Women Servants for Christ honorees:
Paka Anderson, St. Kilian Catholic Church; Jean Bauman, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church; Darlene Boyd, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church; Gretchen Dinger, Saint Anne Catholic Church; Mille Estrada, St Edward the Confessor Catholic Church San Felipe de Jesus Chapel; Dee Evelo, San Antonio de Padua Catholic Church; Julie Foy, Servite High School; Dawn Gallagher, St. Irenaeus Catholic Church; Susan Hamar, Servite High School; Cynthia Hyink, Saints Simon & Jude Catholic Church; Cindy Jimenez, St. Pius V Catholic Church; Carol La Vigne, St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church; Carol Meckler, St. Hedwig Catholic Church; Missey Moe-Cook, Holy Trinity Catholic Church; Megan Morris, Holy Family Catholic Church; Dr. Elysabeth Nguyen, Christ Cathedral Parish; Kathy Robinson, Orange County Cursillo; Irma Lourice Saba, St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church; Marge Shillington, St. Anne School; Becky Tamondong, Santa Clara de Asis Catholic Church; Diane Gomez Valenzuela, Cristo Rey Orange County High School; Pat Wong, St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church.