Knights of Columbus make six-figure contribution to the seminary, gift Archbishop Vigneron icon of Our Lady Help of Christians

DETROIT — With Fr. Joe Horn and Fr. Stephen Pullis entertaining the crowd at the Cobo Center, there were bound to be laughs at the 2019 Archbishop’s Gala.

Some could say it was “providential.”

“Providence” was the theme of the annual Archbishop's Gala, a night of laughter, prayer, giving and vision held every year for the benefit of Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

Fr. Pullis and Fr. Horn served as emcees for the night, offering bits of humor and gratitude to an estimated 1,000 seminary donors and supporters in Cobo’s second-floor ballroom.

“God is working in us through our lives with all that is happening now,” Fr. Pullis said. “In 1920, a spring campaign was launched to build Sacred Heart Seminary. According to Bishop Michael Gallagher at the time, ‘It’s God’s work, and He’s willing it into being.’ We’re looking forward to a great event.

“You may be asking why there are two emcees for this year’s gala,” Fr. Pullis added. “Well, we knew we needed two emcees when we have 1,000 people here tonight.”

Archbishop Vigneron and Fr. Stephen Pullis, one of the emcees at the gala, set up to do a “fist bump” on stage.

Fr. Pullis and Fr. Horn traded comedic jabs with one another before Sacred Heart Major Seminary rector and president Msgr. Todd Lajiness took to the podium to thank the donors present and to introduce William Chassé, the Michigan state deputy for the Knights of Columbus.

Chassé presented Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron with a check for $150,256.58 in support of scholarships for seminarians studying at Sacred Heart. In addition, Knights of Columbus councils, with matching support from the Knights' national council in New Haven, Conn., contributed an additional $31,000.

After accepting the gift, Archbishop Vigneron took to the podium, where Chassé had another gift for the archbishop – a large icon of Our Lady Help of Christians, a devotion near and dear to the Knights of Columbus.

William Chassé, state deputy of the Knights of Columbus, gifts Archbishop Vigneron with a six-figure donation to the seminary on behalf of the Knights.

“This icon is a representation of the commitment the Knights have for defending persecuted Christians, especially in the Middle East,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “Here in southeast Michigan, it’s so important for us to remember the many who came here, fleeing persecution, to celebrate the faith.”

Dinner was served, and after the gifts and a few raffle prizes and an original song written and performed by the seminarians Archbishop Vigneron again took to the podium to formally address the gala.

The Archbishop laid out the history of the seminary, how Bishop Gallagher commissioned its construction in the 1910s, when Detroit was economically booming and there was “money to burn.”

Archbishop Vigneron noted how the seminary experienced a sharp decline in enrollment in the 1960s and '70s, before Cardinal Edmund C. Szoka re-established the seminary.

“By God’s providence, Cardinal Szoka re-established Sacred Heart as one of the premiere seminaries of North America, a catalyst, a center of the new evangelization. Sacred Heart has been a major part of my life, since I was 14 years old when I arrived at the high school as a seminarian.”

Archbishop Vigneron addressed Sacred Heart Major Seminary donors and supports at the 2019 Archbishop’s Gala. The archbishop conveyed his gratitude for all the support donors give to the seminary to allow the school to fulfill the mission to be a “catalyst for the new evangelization.”

The gala plays a major role in covering the operational costs of the seminary, Msgr. Lajiness explained to Detroit Catholic, but the night is more focused on showing gratitude than asking for money.

“The Archbishop’s Gala is an opportunity for us to celebrate the mission entrusted to us as a seminary to thank the Lord for all of His grace and His divine providence over the seminary,” Msgr. Lajiness said. “This night is about thanking our donors, and really a chance to celebrate as a community.”

Msgr. Lajiness said months of preparation from the school’s advancement and marketing teams, along with contributions of time and talent from seminary faculty and staff, make the gala a possibility every year.

“The whole point of the gala is to celebrate and be thankful for that kind of generosity, and without that kind of generosity, we could never begin to accomplish the mission entrusted to us,” Msgr. Lajiness said. “Our donors’ generosity is essential to our mission, and this evening is a wonderful way to say thank you and to celebrate.”

Msgr. Lajiness told Detroit Catholic that God’s providence was an appropriate theme for the gala, as it is by God’s divine providence that the donors fund the mandate of Sacred Heart in order to be a cornerstone of evangelization in southeast Michigan.

“We need the event to raise money, yes, but we want the event to be focused on celebration and sharing a vision,” Msgr. Lajiness said. “If you were to ask donors when walking away if they had a wonderful night of prayer, song, mission and vision, and that was what they were thinking when they walked away, I would say that is a successful evening.

“Tonight, is my opportunity to communicate my greatest gratitude to the seminary’s administration council, the faculty we have, to God, first and foremost,” Msgr. Lajiness continued. “Tonight is our chance to thank the community and our supporters, and there are never enough words to say how grateful we are.”

Near the end of Msgr. Lajiness’ address to the gala, he shared more of the seminary’s vision and the role each donor has in that vision.

“Because of you, your support, you help us in our mission to train men and women to have ‘eyes fixed on Jesus,’” Msgr. Lajiness said, a reference to Archbishop Vigneron’s episcopal motto.

The rest of the evening was filled with dancing and fellowship at the Cobo Center, as the seminary community prepares to celebrate 100 years as a center for learning about the faith in the heart of Detroit.

Near the end of his address, Archbishop Vigneron conveyed his gratitude to the donors, staff and faculty who make it possible for the God-ordained mission of Sacred Heart to continue.

“I’m convinced Sacred Heart is blessed by God’s providence, and I confirm to you, friends of Sacred Heart, that each of you are part of God’s providential plan to bring the world back to Christ.

“Thank you for all the ways you have been loyal friends, loyal supporters of Sacred Heart Major Seminary,” Archbishop Vigneron continued. “I know you are committed to the Gospel. And I give God thanks for the providence that brought you here to support the mission. And I give God thanks, as Fr. Solanus said, ahead of time for the support you give.”