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Catholic Charities Celebrates Champions of Mercy

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By Michelle Dushensky

Acts of mercy occur every day—and are often overlooked. But when sharing God’s mercy becomes a way of life rather than an occasional occurrence, it’s impossible not to take notice.

Since 2016, Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio (CCSWO) has recognized individuals and groups in the greater Cincinnati area whose acts of mercy have made an incredible impact on the local community. At a special awards dinner on Nov. 7, the organization honored five more Champions of Mercy who truly live the greatest commandment: love your neighbor as yourself.

“My parents raised me to be a giving and compassionate person who is concerned for all people and their needs,” said Zoey Hartig, a senior at Mount Notre Dame High School and one of this year’s honorees. “I am humbled to be receiving this [award]. I never thought I was doing anything extraordinary by serving others.”

Hartig has been a remarkable servant leader within the Mount Notre Dame community throughout her high school career. She currently serves on the school’s service board, teaches ESL classes to immigrants in Lower Price Hill, leads the school’s food drive, delivers Christmas trees to families in need and volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House—among many other acts of service.

Another 2019 Champion of Mercy is Sister Ann Gorman, RSM, who has been an outstanding teacher, tutor and administrator for over 50 years.

“I’m not sure they have the right person for this award,” Sister Gorman humbly said. “I spend a lot of time helping those in need – that’s my job.”

Sister Gorman is currently ministering at St. Boniface Catholic School in Northside, where she assists struggling students. Very often, families and individuals contact her for financial help, food, rent or a car. Sister Gorman always does what she can to be a conduit of God’s mercy, treating those in need with dignity and compassion.

Ann Millacci of St. Columban Church in Loveland also received the Champions of Mercy award for her service-oriented heart.

“There are many other people who are more deserving of this,” said Millacci, “but I do appreciate it. I really enjoy spending my time helping others, and I hope the work I do is making some type of difference in people’s lives.”

Millacci leads the annual Giving Tree program at her parish. She generates the gift list, creates the giving tree, and collects 2,000 gifts for families in need. She also spearheads the Backpack Ministry program, working with five schools and organizations in the area to determine their school supply needs and coordinating donations from parishioners.

Two groups in the Greater Cincinnati area also received the Champion of Mercy award: the Jewish Community Relations Council (the public affairs arm) of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, and the Peace and Justice Committee of St. Anthony Church in Madisonville.

“It was totally unexpected,” said Jackie Congedo, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). “We’re just so grateful not only for the award but for the partnership and what the award represents, which is the beautiful relationship that has formed not only between Catholic Charities and JCRC but between our Jewish community and immigrant communities. We’re all in this together, making our community a more vibrant place for everyone.”

The JCRC addresses issues of justice and builds bridges between the Jewish and non-Jewish communities. The group also promotes education and advocacy, working for justice for all people and fighting hate in all forms – anti-Semitism in particular. For several years, the JCRC has partnered with Catholic Charities to host a community-wide World Refugee Day event and has responded to the needs of the immigrant community.

For over 30 years, the Peace and Justice Committee of St. Anthony Church has provided food, clothing and rent money to local families in need. The group sponsors programs on immigration and ecology in the Madisonville community, and also supports Bread for the World, Catholic Campaign for Human Development and Catholic Relief Services.

“I’m really thrilled that the committee is getting this recognition,” says Mary Ann Bressle, pastoral associate at St. Anthony Church. “The people on this committee are tireless workers for peace and justice. It’s a small committee, but they create an atmosphere in the parish that people really support and appreciate.”

CCSWO received more than 16 nominations for this year’s Champions of Mercy award. The five 2019 winners were selected for exemplifying one or more spiritual or corporal works of mercy and their ability to inspire others to go and do likewise.

“I think the best part about Champions of Mercy,” said David Taylor, director of marketing and communications at Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio, “is really finding out about all these different individuals that do good work within the Greater Cincinnati community. It’s really great that there are individuals who embody God’s mercy through giving back.”

Champions of Mercy honorees with Catholic Charities Southwestern CEO Ted Bergh.


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