October 31, 2017 – Nell Nolan
More than 500 guests filled the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton Riverside at the invitation of the board of directors of the Catholic Foundation Archdiocese of New Orleans. Many adhered to the “black tie preferred” dress request and hied to the Hilton for the annual Foundation Dinner and the opportunity to congratulate Sharon Ryan Rodi, recipient of the 2017 Saint John Paul II Award. Cocktails started at 6 p.m., followed an hour later by the seated dinner. Once again, Patricia T. “Patsy” Hotard chaired the dinner committee with assistance from Co-Chairwomen Anne Dardis, an award co-recipient with husband Jack in 2015, and Cindy Nolan.
Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond chairs the foundation board, which has Ralph C. Cox Jr. as president and Jamie G. Lassere, August “Gus” Kuntz and James M. Adams as officers.
Foundation executive director Cory J. Howat (attending with wife Molly) opened the program with words of welcome, which were followed by the invocation by the Rev. Ronald L. Calkins, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena, and the Pledge of Allegiance led by the Junior ROTC Color Guard of Brother Martin High School. Attendees then enjoyed a three-course meal of a salad of spring greens, braised boneless short ribs and apple cobbler. Federico’s Family Florist provided impressive basket centerpieces filled with deep red roses accented by purple statice and greenery. A much larger arrangement was placed on the stage.
Among the many breaking bread were Mark Rodi, Sharon’s husband of 52 years, and their daughters, Shannon Rodi Nash and Erin Rodi Rotolo with their respective husbands, Michael and Brian. And, Mary Matalin, Jane Nalty, Archbishop Emeritus Alfred C. Hughes, Stacy and Jim Pellerin, Darlene and Mark Robert, Pat and Gregory Kahn, Betty Lauricella (the 2009 awardee), Sue and Bill Finegan, Bette and Alan Arnold, Connie and Tom Kitchen, and general counsel for the Archdiocese of New Orleans Wendy Vitter and her husband, former U.S. Sen. David Vitter.
A video detailing Catholic Foundation’s communitywide impact premiered at the dinner and featured commentary by Archbishop Aymond, Superintendent of Catholic Schools RaeNell Houston, Ph.D., Project Lazarus Executive Director Steve Rivera and Monsignor Christopher Nalty. The latter, the pastor of Good Shepherd Parish, is the son of the above Jane Nalty and the late Deacon Paul Nalty. In 2001, they received the Saint John Paul II Award. Last year, the honor befell Marilyn Quirk.
In the tribute to Sharon Rodi — whose resume includes former teacher, ACCESS volunteer, former director of Catholic Charities Refugee Social Services program, and retired lawyer — the foundation recognized her lifetime of advocacy for those who cannot advocate for themselves. When she spoke, she expressed gratitude and humility, saying “God wants us to give back. I am very blessed and I feel like I can never do enough.”