The Christmas season and the spirit of charity were celebrated at the Catholic Charities of East Tennessee inaugural 360° of Hope Holiday Luncheon on Dec. 10. The event, held at the Knoxville Marriott, focused on the mission and impact of Catholic Charities. The luncheon’s featured speaker was Joan Cronan, University of Tennessee Women’s Athletic Director Emeritus.
The event was titled 360° of Hope to reflect Catholic Charities’ efforts to provide 360° of service, from the unborn and at risk children to young parents, the homeless, and the elderly.
Sister Mary Christine Cremin, R.S.M., L.C.S.W., executive director of Catholic Charities of East Tennessee, welcomed the approximately 200 attendees. Bishop Richard F. Stika spoke on the value of Catholic Charities and gave the invocation.
He said, “As Christians, it is our mission to be the voice and the face and the hands of the person of Jesus Christ, but especially his heart, and that’s what Catholic Charities does.” He added that 95% of the people served by Catholic Charities are not Catholic, yet the organization’s focus is to serve all people in need.
Kim Ciukowski, a former board president of Catholic Charities, addressed how people could donate and volunteer to Catholic Charities. Frank Murphy emceed the event and introduced Ms. Cronan.
“So what does Catholic Charities do?” Ms. Cronan asked. “They nurture. They encourage. They teach people to take these lessons to make a difference for all time.”
Ms. Cronan spoke about what makes a winning sports team: goals, focus, passion. These traits also make a successful organization. She spoke about Catholic Charities’ efforts to make a difference in people’s lives.
“I think the lessons you learn in sports help you in business and in life,” she said. “And when I think about Catholic Charities, I think of their focus. They know what they want to do. They want to empower these people, to help them do better.” To her, Catholic Charities has all the elements of a championship team.
A key component of Catholic Charities’ success is its volunteers. Ms. Cronan did not forget to thank the people who freely donate their time and talents. She said, “You know, whether you have orange on or not, volunteers are pretty, pretty special, so I thank you.”
During the holiday season, Ms. Cronan added, it is important to remember to be thankful for what we have and the people who are willing to help others. She said, “We are blessed to live in East Tennessee, where we have so many people who care. And that’s what today is about. It’s about making a difference.”
Attendees received autographed copies of Joan Cronan’s book Sports is Life with the Volume Turned Up, her behind-the-scenes look at UT’s women’s athletics program.