New York - Baseball superstar Sammy Sosa and businessman-philanthropist Harry
Keefe each received the prestigious Friend of the Legion Award
at the Third Annual Friends of the Legion Benefit Dinner
the evening of October 10.
The dinner raises funds to educate
of some of the Legion of Christ´s 2,500 seminarians around
the world. The two honorees were recognized for their work
in service to the poor as men who rose from
childhood poverty to the pinnacle of success, yet never forgot
their roots. The theme of the evening´s program was "Serving
Christ in the Poor" and featured a variety of presentations
on the Legion of Christ´s entrepreneurial approach to bringing Catholics
together, lay and clergy alike, to empower the poor with
the means of social advancement.
Sosa, who with 64 home runs
this past season has had more seasons with 60-plus homers
than any other player in baseball history, is a native
of the Dominican Republic. At age 16, he was a
skinny, malnourished kid who signed a minor league contract with
the Texas Rangers. Nearly all of his $3500 signing bonus
went back to his family, a pattern of supporting the
poor in the Dominican Republic that lasts to this day.
Legion´s dinner launched an effort that brings together Sosa´s charitable
foundation and Helping Hand Medical Mission, a Legionary apostolate founded
in 1996 that has brought North American medical expertise to
more than 20,000 impoverished patients in Mexico, El Salvador, Venezuela
and Brazil. Lupita Assad RN of Irving, Tex., director of
Helping Hand Medical Mission, announced the group´s first mission to
the Dominican Republic in conjunction with Sosa´s foundation. Roberto Saladin,
from the Dominican Republic to the United States, was on
hand to offer official support for the mission.
Harry Keefe, retired
founder of the Wall Street firm Keefe, Bruyette and Woods,
grew up in Boston and has remained faithful to his
Irish Catholic roots. Now living in Greenwich, Conn., he learned
from his mother the importance of supporting priests and built
in her memory the Catherine Dennis Keefe Queen of the
Clergy Retired Priests´ Residence in Stamford,Conn. It opened in March
Mr. Keefe is also keenly interested in education as a
key supporter of the Boston Latin School, from which he
graduated, as well as Amherst College, Lafayette College, and Wheaton
College. Mr. Keefe was instrumental in founding one of the
longest-running benefit golf tournaments, the Greater Hartford Open, and was
a pioneer in
putting golf on television.
Bishop William Lori of
Bridgeport, Conn., offered his thanks to Mr. Keefe. "I know
your generosity extends far beyond what you have done for
the priests of the Diocese of Bridgeport," Bishop Lori said.
"Please accept my warm congratulations and my prayers that
God will bless you and your loved ones now and
for years to come."
The Legion of Christ went forward
with its Benefit Dinner in the aftermath of the attack
September 11 at the encouragement of many civic and Church
leaders, who stressed the importance of bringing people together and
going on with life as normal. Mr. Keefe´s firm lost
67 people in the World Trade Center, friends to whom
Mr. Keefe paid personal and moving tribute. Former New York
Governor Hugh Carey also spoke about the victims, their families
and the rescue workers, and led the attendees in singing
"God Bless America" and "New York, New York."
Martino, Papal Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See
United Nations, offered the opening invocation. At the previous year´s
dinner, Archbishop Martino received the special Jubilee 2000 Friends of
the Legion Award for his years of service defending human
rights and the dignity of the poor at the UN.
An entertainment highlight of the evening was the performance of
the Highbridge Voices, a choir of adolescents from the impoverished
Highbridge section of the South Bronx. Monsignor Donald Sekana founded
the choir "as a way to show these children that
hard work brings rewards," he said. "It does take hard
work, but the children definitely see the rewards. And we
get them to apply this lesson to their schooling and
other aspects of their life."