Norwalker Wins VOTF 'Volunteer of the Year'

By Francis X. Fay Jr
The Hour
March 29, 2009

The Voice of the Faithful in the Bridgeport Diocese announced gifts amounting to $12,500 to eight non-profit organizations during its seventh annual conference Saturday at Fairfield University.

The 100 attendees also saw Joseph F. O'Callaghan, Ph.D., of Norwalk receive the first Saint Anselm Award as the VOTF Volunteer of the Year.

They also heard scholarly lectures on the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist from the noted liturgist John Baldovin, S.J., of the Weston Jesuit School of Theology, and Ann Riggs, Ph.D., associate professor of religious studies at Rivier College.

Recipients of donations from VOTF's Voice of Compassion are the Christian Counseling Center and Manna House of Hospitality (dispenser of 600 meals per day), both in Norwalk; Bridgeport Rescue Mission (dispenser of 35,000 meals per month), Black Rock Food Pantry (dispenser of 3,000 meals per week) and Daughters of the Most Precious Blood, all of Bridgeport; the Sexual Abuse Crisis Center in Stamford, the Dorothy Day Center in Danbury and the Connecticut Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

John Marshall Lee of Bridgeport, immediate past VOFT chairman, noted the chapter's donations are larger this year than last, reflecting the general awareness among members and supporters of the crying need to help the less fortunate. Representatives of the recipient organizations made that very clear.

O'Callaghan, a retired professor of religious history from Fordham University, was given a sustained standing ovation from the assemblage, all appreciative of his extraordinary contribution to the VOTF chapter as a founder seven years ago.

"A man of great courage and integrity, Joe hasn't hesitated to take up the cause of truth by challenging hypocrisy wherever it is found," said Daniel B. Sullivan of New Canaan, VOTF co-chairman, in making the presentation. "He has educated us all through his books, essays and articles that are a powerful exposition of his ideas and beliefs."

Through his connections as a college professor and hard cover author, O'Callaghan has also been responsible for bringing to the VOTF annual conferences a succession of distinguished theologians.

The Rev. Baldovan spoke of the Eucharist as the core of Christianity and how it manifests the Greek ideals of truth, goodness and beauty as the basis of a balanced life. He also derided the continued conservatism of the Roman Catholic Church as evidenced by recent bishopric appointments. In an aside, he singled out the new bishop of South Carolina as an exception "whose enjoyment" of a Manhattan cocktail is an indication of his healthy normality. Riggs noted the history of women in the church and their continued striving to gain equality with the male elite.

Two panels of four people each also reacted to the lectures, namely Catherine F. O'Callaghan, formerly of Norwalk and daughter of the award winner; William Mottolese, formerly of Norwalk and son of Judge William Mottolese of Stamford; Elizabeth Keenan of Stratford, Elizabeth Burns of New Haven, Michael O'Laughlin and Malik Muhammed, both of Yale Divinity School, and Colleen Gibson and Jared Elliott, both of Fairfield University.

They spoke as young devout practitioners of the Roman Catholic faith who are uplifted by the Eucharistic experience that they feel connects them both to humanity and to the ethereal. Two of the women on the panels said they have aspired to the priesthood where they would have had the joy of offering the Eucharist to others.

The daylong program closed with a Mass featuring the liturgy "Healing the Wound in the Body of Christ: A Liturgy of Reconciliation."

Among Norwalkers prominent in the program were Marge Hickey, who led the introductory prayer, and Kathleen Clement, a coordinator of the event.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.