CNEWA Gala Honors Anti-Trafficking Advocates

Hundreds of friends of CNEWA gathered for the agency’s Healing & Hope Gala Dinner at a private club in Manhattan on 5 December. The event recognized John J. Studzinski, K.S.G., as CNEWA’s Faith & Culture Award recipient, and honored Sister Marie Claude Naddaf, R.G.S., as its special guest.

The evening kicked off with welcome addresses from Amanda Bowman, who again chaired the gala, Msgr. Peter I. Vaccari, CNEWA president, and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York and chair of CNEWA’s board, who spoke to the evening’s focus on combating human trafficking.    

“CNEWA’s work to combat trafficking is part of the Catholic Church’s unwavering and consistent call for the end of all forms of trafficking, slavery, prostitution, inhuman working conditions and any factor violating the dignity of all human persons,” said Ms. Bowman.

Msgr. Peter I. Vaccari, CNEWA president, left, and Amanda Bowman, gala co-chair, speak to the evening’s focus on combatting human trafficking and modern slavery. (photo: Michael Scott)

In his Advent meditation during grace, Cardinal Dolan remembered the survivors and victims of trafficking. “It’s Advent, Lord, when we’re reminded that those victims of human trafficking are immigrants and refugees who are very much like the holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in that first Christmas narrative.”

Cardinal Dolan later presented Mr. Studzinski with CNEWA’s Faith & Culture Award for his advocacy and dedication to combating modern forms of slavery and human trafficking. He cofounded the Arise Foundation, which works with groups on the ground, many of them religious sisters, in fighting trafficking head-on through prevention, care for survivors and forming community-oriented leaders to address trafficking at the local level.

“Remember, this is about saving lives, but most importantly, protecting and cherishing human dignity in the face of Christ,” said Mr. Studzinski in his speech after accepting the award.

Sister Winifred Doherty, R.G.S., expressed gratitude on behalf of Sister Marie Claude, her fellow Good Shepherd Sister who was the gala’s guest of honor in absentia.

Sister Winifred Doherty, R.G.S., right, gave remarks on behalf of Sister Marie Claude Naddaf, R.G.S., who was the gala’s guest of honor. (photo: Michael Scott)

As the coordinator of Wells of Hope, a regional initiative of Talitha Kum, the Rome-based international network of religious sisters dedicated to combating human trafficking, Sister Marie Claude’s anti-trafficking work in the Middle East spanning decades reaches all levels, from education to prevention, rehabilitation and empowerment.

“Marie Claude is a woman of prayer, deep prayer and action,” said Sister Winifred in her remarks. “For her, the dignity of the person is central, and anything that demeans that dignity has to be confronted and the person empowered.”

As the event came to a close, Msgr. Vaccari expressed his profound gratitude to gala attendees and CNEWA supporters. He noted the evening raised $467,000 gross and announced details for next year’s gala to be held in the same location on the same date, 5 December.

Olivia Poust is assistant editor of ONE.

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