At the Sept. 30 Spanish Catholic Center Gala celebrating the outreach program’s 50th anniversary, Cardinal Wuerl announces that the center was receiving the Saint Junípero Serra Award for its service to the community. The cardinal was joined on stage by Washington Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville (center) and Msgr. John Enzler, the president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington.
CATHOLIC CHARITIES PHOTO
At the Sept. 30 Spanish Catholic Center Gala celebrating the outreach program’s 50th anniversary, Cardinal Wuerl announces that the center was receiving the Saint Junípero Serra Award for its service to the community. The cardinal was joined on stage by Washington Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville (center) and Msgr. John Enzler, the president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. CATHOLIC CHARITIES PHOTO

At a gala celebrating the golden anniversary of the Spanish Catholic Center of the Archdiocese of Washington, Cardinal Wuerl said every year of the agency’s 50 year history has been a “golden year.”

“This is a recognition of 50 golden years touching with the love and faith of our family, everyone who comes here,” the cardinal said at the Spanish Catholic Center Gala, held Sept. 30 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Washington.

The center, an agency of the archdiocese’s Catholic Charities, began in 1967 in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, D.C.; and now also has locations in Gaithersburg and Silver Spring, Maryland. Last year, the Spanish Catholic Center’s medical and dental clinics served more than 7,000 patients, and it referred more than 2,000 job seekers to stable employment with local businesses. The center’s multicultural staff members speak more than eight different languages as they serve immigrants from around the world who have come to the Washington area.

Also at the gala, Cardinal Wuerl announced that the Spanish Catholic Center was receiving the inaugural Saint Junípero Serra Award in recognition of its service to the community. The cardinal noted how in 2015, Pope Francis – the first pope from the New World – canonized St. Junípero Serra at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in the first canonization ceremony ever held in the United States.

The cardinal noted how the saint – an 18th century Spanish Franciscan missionary who established nine missions along the California coast – “began sharing the faith, and then he began caring for people he met along the way.” The Spanish Catholic Center over these past 50 years has established a similar legacy, the cardinal said, adding, “It’s been caring for people out of that same loving faith.”

That legacy reflects Jesus’s call to his followers – to be his witnesses by being brothers and sisters to each other and caring for one another, Cardinal Wuerl said, adding that Pope Francis has encouraged people to bring Christ’s love to people by encountering them where they are and accompanying them.

The Spanish Catholic Center, he added, gives so much more than just offer medical, legal and employment help to immigrants. “It’s a sign of the care and love of the Lord, manifested in that center to everyone who comes,” he said.

Bishop Mario Dorsonville – who served for 10 years as Catholic Charities’ vice president for mission and as director of the Spanish Catholic Center before being ordained as an auxiliary bishop of Washington in 2015 – also addressed the gala’s guests, saying that in his service at the center, he came to regard it as “this little house of miracles. That was God’s hand, spreading over every corner of the house.”

The bishop also emphasized how a hallmark of Pope Francis’s papacy has been underscoring Jesus’s Gospel call to his disciples to encounter those in need and share God’s love and mercy with them. “(The pope is saying,) Don’t be afraid of human encounters. Face them, embrace them, and have that encounter that’s so powerful. After that, walk with them,” said Bishop Dorsonville.

As the cardinal did, Bishop Dorsonville thanked the 530 guests at the gala, who included supporters from throughout the community, along with staff members and volunteers from the Spanish Catholic Center.

“Everyone in the room is saying, ‘The mission must go on,’” the bishop said.

Msgr. John Enzler, the president and CEO of the archdiocese’s Catholic Charities, said one of his guiding principles as a priest has been to always say “yes” when he can help someone.

“Tonight is a celebration of 50 years of ‘yes,’ 50 years of immigrants coming to our community, and one of the first places they’ve come is to the Spanish Catholic Center,” he said. Noting that the issue of immigration has become a divisive one in the United States, the priest added, “We care about everybody. When they come to our door, we say, ‘Yes.’”

Then Msgr. Enzler announced that the gala had raised a record $1,033,000 for the Spanish Catholic Center.

Afterward, Cardinal Wuerl praised the generosity and unity of the gala’s supporters, noting that the people there came from throughout the archdiocese and from many different backgrounds to help the Spanish Catholic Center continue its outreach. “This was everybody coming together, to be there for everybody else,” he said. “It’s a sign of the beautiful unity of our Church, and our care for the newly arrived.”