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UST Center for Irish Studies Reaches New Heights at Record-Breaking Irish Gala

UST Center for Irish Studies Reaches New Heights at Record-Breaking Irish GalaThe “top 10 in the country-rated” University of St. Thomas William J. Flynn Center for Irish Studies reached new heights and broke records at its annual Irish Gala held Nov. 4 at the Houstonian Hotel in Houston.  Over 400 people attended this annual event, which raises scholarships for University of St. Thomas students to study abroad in Ireland and Northern Ireland and funds the Center’s inter-disciplinary academic program.  The Gala raised over $45,000 specifically for study abroad scholarships and over $295,000 in total gross proceeds for the academic program.

The Gala, chaired by Kate and Bob Signorelli, honored the Most Reverend Archbishop Emeritus Joseph A. Fiorenza of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, the Most Reverend Bishop Emeritus John McCarthy of the Diocese of Austin, and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Vincent M. Rizzotto, for their dedication to making the world a better place, first as parish priests, and then in their larger roles of serving the community.

The Gala featured a “big board” of trips around the US and to South Africa, a silent auction, a “Luck of the Irish Wheel” and a Live Auction lunch with five members of the clergy, including Archbishop Emeritus Fiorenza and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Rizzotto, at Piatto’s Italian Ristorante. Members of UST’s University Singers, directed by Dr. Brady Knapp of the University’s Music Department, performed Broadway hit singing and dancing duets and old Irish favorites.  

Irish Gala Special Guests and Participants

Special guests included new Irish Consul-General, the Honorable Aidan Cronin, from Cork, Ireland, and now Chicago, on his first visit to Texas.  Consul-General Cronin was presented by the Honorable John B. Kane, Honorary Consul General of Ireland.  University of St. Thomas Dean of Arts and Sciences, Joseph Pilsner, CSB, delivered the invocation for the evening and ABC affiliate Ch. 13 KTRK newscaster Don Nelson served as master of ceremonies.  University President Dr. Robert Ivany presented the honorees.

In attendance were previous Irish Gala honorees Kathleen and Larry Miggins (2002), Norma and Dr. Joseph McFadden (2005), Sally and Bill Slick (2006), Patrick J. Moran (2007), Alayne and Honorary Consul General of Ireland John B. Kane (2008) and Colleen and George McCullough (2009), as well as Chair of the University of St. Thomas Board of Directors, Michele Malloy.

Other Gala participants included David Harvey, Vice Chair of the University’s Board of Directors, and his wife, Dr. Mikki Hebl, Margo Geddie and Bill LaFuze, Judy and Darby Seré, Tamara Vogt and David Smith, Sue and Jim Power and well-known members of the medical community, including Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Galati, Dr. J. Patrick Herlihy and his wife, Ms. Kathi Abba, Dr. Lisa Kopas and her husband, Brian Lacy, Dr. Sandi Lemming and her husband, Jim Lemmng, Dr. Sue McManus and Dr. Joe McManus, and Dr. and Mrs. Jeff Whitsett.

Additional Underwriters included members of the University’s Board of Directors, the Center’s Advisory Board, the Congregation of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament, The Irish Society, a community-based nonprofit group that helped found the Center, University alumni, and members of the banking, construction, energy, food and beverage, insurance, investment, and shipping industries as well as the accounting, legal and medical professions.

About the Irish Gala’s Honorees

With respect to the honorees, Archbishop Fiorenza is renowned as an advocate of applying Catholic social teaching to alleviate poverty and injustice.  He has dedicated much of his life to social development and world peace.  He has been a proponent of interfaith collaboration for positive change across all social and economic borders. 

When asked about the accomplishments of which he is most proud, he described the fact that he was able to gain sufficient financial and other support for our inner city parish schools to stabilize them and keep them functioning with areas of great need.

Bishop Emeritus John McCarthy is a graduate of the University of St. Thomas, having received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UST.  He is a founding director of the William J. Flynn Center for Irish Studies. 

He has been a leader in ecumenism and missionary consciousness across Texas and the country.  His dedication to parish social ministry and his belief that charity and justice outreach are the responsibilities of the entire parish have spread throughout the nation and to other countries.

When asked of the work of which he is most proud, what came first to mind was his service as a parish priest and his devotion to a place that helps those less fortunate, “Louisa House”, a 48-unit residence for homeless women in Austin, where they can live, upgrade their educational and economic skills while keeping their children in school and get back on their feet.

Our third, but certainly not least, honoree, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Vincent M. Rizzotto, is well-loved for making liturgy the center of parish life and for his pastoral work.  We honor him for the time, energy and expertise he has given to help those in need and for his dedication to bringing people together to make the world a better place. 

When asked about accomplishments of which he is most proud, he described serving as a parish priest and planning the liturgy when Pope John Paul II visited Texas in 1987.

About the William J. Flynn Center for Irish Studies

At the 2010 Irish Gala, the University announced the naming of the Center for Irish Studies after William J. Flynn.   Bill Flynn has been instrumental in the success of the Center and its mission to promote peace and reconciliation around the world. Leaders of the Irish, Northern Irish and British governments also have recognized him for his tireless efforts in fostering peace and economic prosperity in Northern Ireland.  Bill Flynn has promoted reconciliation between Protestants and Catholics through economic development in Northern Ireland.

His active involvement in the peace process began in September of 1992, when, as Chairman of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, Bill Flynn hosted one of the first peace conferences, in Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland, including all groups involved in the civil war.  He demonstrated decisive leadership and daring diplomacy in spurring two cease-fires in Northern Ireland.  Bill reached out to people of all faiths and on all sides of the conflict, inviting them to the table for dialogue in a spirit of mutual respect and cooperation.

He has received recognition from the highest levels of the Irish, Northern Irish and British Governments for his dedication to the peace process.  Former Irish President Mary McAleese described Flynn’s contribution as “simply immense.”  Former Irish An Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen described Flynn as “one of Ireland’s greatest friends,” for both his work on the peace process and economic development.  From the British Government, Her Majesty the Queen awarded Flynn the title of an honorary Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in honor of his exceptional devotion to the peace process.

The University established the Center for Irish Studies in 2003, with the support of The Irish Society, a community-based nonprofit, nonsectarian organization. The Center for Irish Studies’ two primary goals are to promote peace and reconciliation using the democratic model of Northern Ireland, and to preserve Irish heritage and culture.  Irish Studies interdisciplinary academic programs include an undergraduate minor and graduate concentration in the Master in Liberal Arts Program.  Since 2007, under the direction of Lori Gallagher JD, the Center has awarded study abroad scholarships to 56 students and secured study abroad funding in excess of $220,000.  The Center also sponsors monthly cultural events open to the public related to all aspects of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Irish America.

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