Click here to watch Bishop Noonan’s homily from the Catholic Charities Mass of Thanksgiving on October 8.
In 1962 Tom Aglio (pictured third from right) began Catholic Charities of Central Florida from his home with little more than a telephone and a typewriter. Fifty years later, on October 8, Aglio joined past and present Catholic Charities staff, volunteers, clients, supporters, and Catholic school students at a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. James Cathedral.
The surprise continued when he was seated next to former U.S. Senator Mel Martinez and Caesar Calvet, two former Cuban refugees who came to Florida through Catholic Charities’ Pedro Pan program in early 1962. When Bishop Noonan introduced Aglio as “the man who started it all” he had a chance to recall his days as director of Camp St. John in Jacksonville where he first met Martinez, Calvet, and sixty other teenage refugees.
“Some are here today. Some have gone on to the Lord’s arms. Some are scattered all across the country. But they are all still mi hijos.”
Aglio attributes his dedication to service to his many years of Jesuit education which formed him to be “a man for others.” A tribute was paid to Aglio and Father Patrick Sheedy, current pastor of Blessed Trinity Catholic Church in Ocala and former head of the Social Development Secretariat, for taking up the cause of the needy and working towards justice for the poor.
A procession of regional and program directors before the Mass began showcased the ways in which Catholic Charities takes up the cause of the needy today.
A statue of the Holy Family represented the work of strengthening families followed by a blanket that was brought forward for the services that prevent homelessness.
A basket of food showed the ways that Catholic Charities helps to alleviates hunger, while a stethoscope represented providing access to healthcare through three free medical clinics, and a key symbolized providing affordable housing to our seniors.
The procession ended with a globe to show the ways in which Catholic Charities welcomes the stranger from around the world and helps families transition to a new culture.
Reflecting on the parable of the Good Samaritan, Bishop Noonan challenged the congregation to follow the example of Catholic Charities by living out their faith in service to their neighbor.
“Over the past 50 years, people who worked or volunteered at Catholic Charities have shown us not only their commitment and loyalty to God but also to our neighbors.” said Bishop Noonan. “They have shown in a special way that the life and faith of a Christian, must not only be committed to the word of God but must also be a lived experience of reaching out to those in need.”
Also in attendance was Jerry Richardville who succeeded Aglio as the second executive director in 2002. As all Catholic Charities staff stood together, the agency’s legacy was visible to those present, offering inspiration to live out our gospel call to serve our neighbor in need.
“It is good to reflect, to look back, to remember, and to retrace our steps,” remarked Aglio. “But I like to think that today is really all about tomorrow and what is coming. What have we been called to do as a community – to reflect the precious face of Good to everybody who needs us.”