The Archdiocese of New York’s annual Pierre Toussaint Scholarship Fund Awards Dinner is set for Monday, November 7 at Guastavino’s in Manhattan, the event’s second year back in person due to the pandemic.
In partnership with the Office of Black Catholic Ministry, the event primarily raises funds for the Pierre Toussaint Scholars program, founded in 1983 to assist local Catholic students matriculating to college. It also supports College Pierre Toussaint, a Catholic secondary school in Haiti.
“The PTSF is unique because, in addition to the financial support given to our college student leaders that we refer to as “Scholars,” we make sure to also provide ongoing mentorship and advisement that is spiritual (from our chaplain Fr. [Kareem] Smith) and practical regarding their education and career opportunities,” PTSF associate director Leah Dixon told Catholic World Report earlier this year.
“[We] are currently preparing for the World Youth Day in Portugal in 2023.”
The program’s namesake, Venerable Pierre Toussaint, was a formerly enslaved Haitian-American philanthropist born in 1766 and now known as the de facto founder of Catholic Charities New York. He is one of the six African-American Catholics with an open cause for sainthood and is the only layperson buried in the crypt of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Proceeds from this year’s awards dinner in his honor will also benefit the Pierre Toussaint Scholars Food Pantry Fund, established during the pandemic to assist local Catholic food pantries in addressing food insecurity in the regions of the archdiocese.
At the event, exemplary leaders from New York will also be presented with the Pierre Toussaint Medallion, an award inaugurated in 1978. This year it will go to Auxiliary Bishop Joseph A. Espaillat II, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in the Bronx, and two local entrepreneurs in Nellie and Herbert Thomas Jr.
“The Pierre Toussaint Medallion is presented to distinguished persons in recognition of their demonstrated leadership and special merits in support of life, human rights, social justice, economic advancement, spiritual values and quality education for all the People of God,” the archdiocese said in an announcement.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan will present the medallions to the honorees, who this year also represent major sectors of the Black Catholic community.
Espaillat, appointed to the Archdiocese of New York in January, is the youngest Catholic bishop in the United States and among the youngest in the world, at 45 years old. He is also the nation’s first Afro-Latino Catholic prelate appointed in nearly 50 years. A Bronx native known as “the rapping bishop,” he has made headlines for his ministry’s urban focus and has shown a marked dedication to the Hispanic community and the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.
The Thomases, a husband-and-wife duo who operate McDonald’s franchises in Rockland County, are known for their “Second Change Opportunity” program, which partners with local officials to employ formerly incarcerated persons. They are also supporters of the nation’s Catholic HBCU, Xavier University of Louisiana, where they both attended. Their longtime partnership with the Toussaint Scholars program has included co-chairing the awards dinner in 2014.
The awards dinner, coinciding with Black Catholic History Month (itself founded 32 years ago in NYC), will feature a cocktail hour beginning at 6pm ET and dinner will commence at 7pm. Entertainment will also be provided.
Tickets start at $350 for individual supporters, and sponsorships are also available in single or group options. They can be purchased online via Eventbrite or by contacting Melecia Ming at firstname.lastname@example.org or (646) 794-3271.
Direct donations to the Pierre Toussaint Scholarship Fund can be made on the archdiocese’s website.
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).