By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Catholic Community Foundation welcomed or honored guests like Tony LaRussa, Derrick Hall and Erma Bombeck at its annual Crozier Gala in the last 30 years.
This year, for the 50th anniversary of the Diocese of Phoenix, the Crozier Gala’s theme is “Remembrance.” The gala, set for Saturday, April 27, at The Phoenician Resort, will celebrate the generations of families, businesses and organizations who live their faith by supporting the ministries that serve the Diocese of Phoenix.
“The Crozier Gala is an opportunity for the Catholics in our community to get together and celebrate all the great work we’re doing,” says chairman Trish Stark.
The Crozier Gala’s proceeds will go toward creating a perpetual endowment to support spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The other half of the gala’s proceeds tend to the foundation’s immediate programmatic needs, including the Crozier Catholic School Scholarship Program for children of Catholic school employees.
“Some teachers in the Catholic school system, who provide a wonderful education, can’t afford to send their own children to Catholic schools,” Stark says.
The Catholic Community Foundation has granted millions of dollars to the Catholic community through its annual grants program. Its annual grants program has awarded more than $2 million in Catholic high school scholarships.
The Catholic Community Foundation manages endowment funds for more than 150 agencies, including over 85 parishes, 41 schools and Catholic agencies.
In 2003, the foundation became a separate 501(c)3 charitable foundation so it could offer additional services to better support Catholics in the Diocese of Phoenix. Today, assets surpass $65 million.
This year, the Crozier Gala will feature a silent auction and a raffle.
“We have some fun things,” she says. “We have about six packages. We’re not doing a large silent auction. We will be selling 200 tickets for $100 a piece, and the recipient will win a trip to Santa Fe that will be led by a local Catholic priest who has deep roots in Santa Fe and Taos.”
The winners will explore their Catholic heritage in Santa Fe, which is important because it houses one of the country’s first missions.
Stark says the keynote speaker will be ASU football coach Herm Edwards.
“Basically, we’re going to recognize the key people in the Diocese who have contributed to its growth over the last 50 years,” she says. “We’re going to be doing a video montage that recognizes these folks.
“We want folks to enjoy the event and we want to get the information out there.”
The evening will wrap with dancing to the tunes of Lucky Devils.
“We want it to be a celebration of all the great work the Catholic Diocese Catholic Community Foundation and all of its agencies have done.”
Scottsdale businessman Jim Bruner has seen the Catholic Community Foundation grow, as he was the foundation’s first board director. He was approached by then-Bishop Thomas O’Brien in 1988 to do so.
“I was taught never to turn the bishop down,” he says with a laugh. “I learned that in religion class.”
The first Crozier Gala was held in 1989, when Cardinal John O’Connor, archbishop of New York, addressed the audience.
“We had a small crowd—200, 250 people—and O’Connor had a powerful speech. You could hear a pin drop. O’Brien said it was quiet because it was boring, and everyone was sleeping. Bishop O’Brien had a great sense of humor,” Bruner says.
Bombeck spoke at the following year’s gala. Bob Newhart and other entertainers followed.
Throughout the 30 years, the mission has stayed the same with the Crozier Gala.
“I’m proud the bishop asked me to get it off the ground,” says Bruner, the trustee emeritus. “We worked very hard over the years to do amazing things.”
What: Catholic Community Foundation’s Crozier Gala
When: 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday, April 27
Where: The Phoenician Resort, 6000 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale
Cost: $125 to $50,000