History of the Dinner

"Give me the youth, and I will give you the future."  Fr. Vincenz Scheffels  1876

Honoring Those who Serve the Catholic School Students of Western New York

In February 2001, during Catholic Schools' Week, the Diocese of Buffalo initiated the Celebrate Catholic Education Dinner. Through the efforts of a dedicated committee, working with the Foundation office, the Dinner attracted an overflow crowd of Western New Yorkers to celebrate their belief in and support of Catholic education. 

Inaugural guest speaker, Tim Russert, told the story of the impact of Catholic education. "I would not be here tonight if it were not for my Catholic education in Western New York." 

At the event, Tim established the Sister Lucille Socciarelli / Father John Sturm Making a Difference Award.  Through a video presentation Tim had given this award each year at the dinner to outstanding teachers for their dedication and service to Catholic education and the students it serves.

In successive years, the Education Dinner continued to draw even larger crowds to celebrate and hear the messages and inspiration of Keynote Speakers such as of Edward Cardinal Egan, Archbishop of New York (2002); renowned Catholic theologian, George Weigel (2003); international maestro, JoAnn Falletta (2004); the Very Rev. David M. O'Connell (2005), 14th President of the Catholic University of America; Rev. Ronald J. Nuzzi, Ph.D., Director of the University of Notre Dame's Catholic Leadership Programs in the Alliance for Catholic Education (2007);  Hall of Fame Sports Commentator and Voice of Notre Dame Football, and Kenmore native and a product of Catholic education, Don Criqui (2008); Patricia O'Hara, Dean & Professor of law, Notre Dame University (2009); Darla Rumfo, President, Children's Scholarship Fund, (2010), and Chris Lowney (2011). The 2009, 2010 & 2011 speeches can be seen through the link in the menu bar.

Expressing the Spirit of WNY

The Making a Difference Dinner - A Celebration of Catholic Schools evolved from the Celebrate Catholic Education Dinner with a dedicated mission of proving needs-based tuition assistance for families across Western New York. The dinner is the expression of the support and spirit of our community. It is the opportunity for foundations, corporations, parishes and educational institutions throughout Western New York to support our children and their schools. It is also the vehicle to honor those organizations, individuals, universities and foundations across Western New York that have lived out the mission of Catholic education and positively impacted this community. 

On January 31, 2013 a record breaking crowd came together for the 13th annual Making A Difference Dinner-A Celebration of Catholic Schools, celebrating the abiding value of a Catholic education in an increasingly complex world - an education based on faith, academic excellence, and a commitment to peace, service and discipline. Above all, it is an investment in our children. 

We are very pleased to have honored the teaching women religious, both past and present, with the Bishop's medal.  Their commitment to Catholic elementary education in our diocese is well known.  The evening was a celebration of their dedication, ingenuity, perseverance and their willingness to answer God's call.

Additionally, we are very proud to have honored The Joy Family Foundation with the Bishop's Medal.  The Joy family is well known throughout Western New York for their generosity both in giving of their time, as well as their financial resources to our community. Their family foundation embodies their values, compassion, and commitment to helping others.

Maureen Orth, Author and Special Correspondent for Vanity Fair magazine graciously served as our Keynote Speaker.  Click here to watch to Maureen's speech.

In addition, the Sr. Lucille Socciarelli/Fr. John Strum Making a Difference Award. award was presented to Mary Jane Liszewski, teacher at Immaculate Conception School in East Aurora.  We are honored to have been able to award her for her service to our Catholic community and the many students who have had her as a teacher. 

100% of funds raised provides needs-based tuition assistance for nearly 1,800 Catholic school students. 

More families than ever before are now able to meet their tuition needs - due to the many who MAKE A DIFFERENCE! We are proud to say that the Making A Difference Dinner - A Celebration Catholic Schools has netted $2.1 million dollars since 2001, with the proceeds from the 2012 dinner, over $322,000, ready to be put work giving tuition assistance to families who wish to send their children to Catholic schools. 

Our goal of closing the waiting list (nearly 700 families) for the 2013/2014 school year has received a strong boost!

Thank you to the many in our community who supported the Making A Difference Dinner - A Celebration of Catholic Schools. 

For more information regarding the dinner, please contact Laura DeMizio at the Foundation office, 716-847-8373.