What a Wonderful Night

What a Wonderful Night

Fr. Scott, John Chandler Honored at Seminary Salutes Dinner

Mercy Home was well represented by its leadership at this year’s Rerum Novarum Awards, the annual fundraiser for Mundelein Seminary held at the IBEW Local 134.

For the past 30 yeas, the awards have been given to leaders in in labor, business, and government and public service who, as Cardinal Cupich said, “embody the ideals of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical” through their life and work. 

Our very own Fr. Scott Donahue was selected to receive the 2021 honor last fall when it was cancelled for the second straight year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the rescheduled event turned out to be more than a celebration of the past two years’ winners–the new date happened to land on Fr. Scott’s birthday last Tuesday.

“I want to thank the Cardinal for throwing the largest birthday party I’ve ever had,” Fr. Scott joked as he accepted the award, surrounded by family, friends, and coworkers. 

The celebration included corned beef and cabbage (and cupcakes!), as well as a rendition of Happy Birthday in Fr. Scott’s honor, led by Board of Regents member Rich Daniels and his City Lights Orchestra.

After remarks, Cardinal Cupich presented awards to the three 2020 honorees. Among them, Mercy Home Board of Regents member John Chandler, who was recognized for his leadership as President of St. Ignatius College Prep. Chandler’s legacy includes a long list of accomplished alumni at the historic Jesuit institution who have gone on to shape our community in many ways as well as his commitment to advancing the good work of Catholic institutions like Mercy Home.  

When Chandler’s co-honoree, Marilynn Kelly Gardner, President and CEO of Navy Pier, was unable to attend the event, Leader Council member and past Chair Marcy Twardak accepted on her behalf. 

Fr. Scott rounded out the 2021 class with his reflections on the spirit of Rerum Novarum, the 19th century papal encyclical on the dignity of the worker and the rights and duties of capital and labor. It has remained a foundational text of modern Catholic social teaching since its issuance by Pope Leo XIII in 1891. Fr. Scott noted the recent feast day of St. Joseph the worker last Sunday, May 1, before noting how important our life’s work is in enhancing the common good. Offering Mercy Home’s work with the young people in its care as an example, Fr. Scott said he accepted the award on behalf of the mission and “the literally the thousands of young people who have come through its old oak door,” over the course of its 135-year history. 

“priestly ministry, simply put, is my vocation. It’s been a privilege to serve the people of God,”

Fr. Scott, who for 10 years had served as director of vocations for the Chicago Archdiocese, also reflected on the upcoming 40th anniversary of his ordination next week and the role of vocations in contributing to the common good. Before an audience that included the seminary’s candidates for ordination, he said “priestly ministry, simply put, is my vocation. It’s been a privilege to serve the people of God,” referring to his work both at several Chicago-area parishes and the last 32 years at Mercy Home.

“With every single young person we assist, we recognize the inherent potential and uniqueness of their personhood,” he said. 

Fr. Scott left the stage with some advice that he was given by a mentor the day after his ordination 40 years ago, calling it the greatest gift he’d ever received. Fr. Don Ahern, who was pastor at St. Juliana’s, told him: to treat everyone with dignity and respect; to say yes to people whenever possible; to keep a sense of humor; and to remember that the work is not about you, rather it’s in the service of others.

“With every single young person we assist, we recognize the inherent potential and uniqueness of their personhood,”

“My hope and my prayer this evening,” Fr. Scott concluded, “is that the world would embrace this sage wisdom. Can you imagine what a wonderful world this would be?”

As if on cue, but in fact quickly improvised, Daniels led his band in the Louis Armstrong classic “What a Wonderful World” as Fr. Scott walked off under a standing ovation from the audience.

Learn more about Fr. Scott Donahue

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