By Andrew Vaccaro
Friday the 24th of August saw 440 guests attend the 20th Knights of the Southern Cross Archbishop’s Dinner for the Priests Support and Education Fund, held at Moonee Valley Racecourse. The Dinner is held annually to raise funds for the education of Victoria’s seminarians, the further education of priests, and those seminarians and priests studying to become chaplains for the Australian Defence Force. Having raised over $1.1 million over the last 19 Dinners, this year’s Dinner raised $75,000, an amount welcomed by the seminarians.
Held 19 years to the day of the first Dinner, the night began with the welcoming of newly installed Melbourne Archbishop Peter A Comensoli by members of the Dinner’s Organising Committee, along with Knights of the Southern Cross Victorian State Chairman Tom Brodie, who ushered him up to the Celebrity Room at Moonee Valley to meet and greet the Dinner’s attendees. Archbishop Comensoli was introduced to those in attendance by KSC Priests Support and Education Fund Chairman Carmine Miranda and Deputy Chairman Norm McArthur, where he was introduced to many of the members of the Knights of the Southern Cross and guests for the first time.
Welcomed by Master of Ceremonies, Melbourne Archdiocese Media and Communications Director Shane Healy, the Dinner gave the opportunity for Catholics across a wide range of ministries and fields a chance to socialise, many for the first time. Along with politicians, the laity and clergy, many of the beneficiaries of the Dinner were in attendance, the Staff and Students of Corpus Christi College Carlton, the Major Seminary for Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, led by Seminary Rector the Very Reverend Fr Denis Stanley, who got to meet and know many of those in attendance. Colin Walsh, President of the International Alliance of Catholic Knights (of whom the KSC is a Member organisation), and also a Member of the Sunbury Branch of Knights of the Southern Cross Victoria, was also in attendance.
Those in attendance heard addresses from the new Archbishop, and the guest speaker for the night, Herald Sun columnist and Sky News host Andrew Bolt. Bolt, the guest speaker at the 2003 Archbishop’s Dinner, was warmly welcomed by those in attendance. While his opinions in the public sphere are debated by many (even he acknowledged not everyone in attendance would be in agreement with him), his speech for the night was a rousing defence of the Catholic Faith in these trying times, where Catholicism is constantly attacked as a bad force in society, in spite of all the good achieved by the Church in modern society. He also praised the seminarians for whom the Dinner is held, that they would be brave enough to follow such a path, in spite of all the hostility towards their vocation in the media. Just as in 2003, Mr Bolt received a standing and rousing applause by the audience. The speech capped a rather tumultuous news day for Mr Bolt, who came straight from hosting a special edition of his Sky News show ‘The Bolt Report’, following the successful challenge and announcement of Scott Morrison as Australia’s new Prime Minister that day.
The $75,000 raised on the night (which was presented to Archbishop Comensoli in the form of a cheque by KSC Victorian State Chairman Tom Brodie) came from the generosity of the sponsors, and from the prizes that were on offer in the silent auction, raffle, and open auction conducted by auctioneer Bryan Cain. Those sponsors who have been there from the beginning, Berwick Toyota, Catholic Development Fund, Dubock Funerals, Grollo Group, Southern Cross Church Supplies, Tobin Brothers Funerals, and Wighton’s Printers, received 20-year plaques for their amazing and continual support of the KSC Priests Support and Education Fund. Also acknowledged were those Organising Committee Members who have been there from the beginning- Norm McArthur, Val Sumner, Gavan Tobin, and Max Potter.
The KSC Priests Support and Education Fund Committee are grateful to all those sponsors, donors and attendees who made the night a success, and hope to see as many people there for next year’s Dinner.
Andrew Vaccaro is the secretary of the Knights of the Southern Cross Priests Support and Education Fund.
Slideshow pictures below: Andrew Vaccaro and Frank Di Blasi.