POCASSET, Mass. — The FACE (Foundation to Advance Catholic Education) Summer Gala has been a mainstay in the Fall River Diocese for the last 22 years, helping to raise thousands of dollars each year for scholarships to assist families to provide a Catholic education in one of the diocesan Catholic schools.
For many of those events, Jane Robin, event coordinator of the diocesan Catholic Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts, has been a part of the planning and organizing of the gala. And, as is the norm, shortly following the successful 2019 gala, Robin and her committee were already at work planning the 2020 edition.
Later in the year, Robin asked Pat and Jim Gonet, parishioners of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Pocasset, to be co-chairs of the 23rd Summer Gala, with the enthusiastic urging of pastor Father Thomas Frechette.
“Pat and Jim have long been supporters of the foundation, faithfully attending the Summer Galas and the Winter Brunches,” Robin told The Anchor. “They are wonderful people who hold Catholic education dear to their hearts.”
The Gonets agreed and were immediately involved in the planning of the largest fund-raising event for Catholic education on Cape Cod.
Everything was in full swing, including securing gala favorite, Boston TV personality Billy Costa of NESN’s “Dining Playbook,” as the emcee and making arrangements with the Willowbend Country Club in Mashpee for what always proves to be a great social and successful evening.
Then, shortly after the “Save the Date” cards were mailed for the gala, everyone’s world was turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting shutdowns and shelter-at-home orders.
“COVID-19 derailed all the plans,” Jim Gonet told The Anchor. “Social events were no longer possible and the wonderful long-time supporters of Catholic education would not be able to get together.”
But derailed didn’t mean defeated. “Never once did any of us, Jim, Pat, the committee and the diocesan Catholic Foundation, believe we couldn’t do something in its place,” said Robin. “We immediately shared ideas and suggestions. We had to stop and think and be creative. We had to keep FACE going to help provide a Catholic education, especially now when needs are even greater.”
The brainchild of the dedicated group was the 2020 FACE Summer “Un-Gala,” a virtual event to be held on July 10.
“The word that keeps popping into my mind is hope,” Robin told The Anchor. “We forged ahead with the virtual gala with the hopes that loyal sponsors will join us and new ones will as well; we hope people will submit donations, and it’s our hope that together we can all continue to support Catholic school students much like we have for the past 22 years.”
The Gonets share that hope. “Pat and I joined the FACE team with great hope and excitement,” Jim said. “Despite the changing times we know that what will come shining through is people’s desire to help Catholic education in the diocese.
“Jane, Pat, the committee members, the Catholic Foundation and I have never lost sight of the mission of Catholic education.”
The well-thought out and well-planned virtual event will begin at 7 p.m. with a welcoming message from Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., inviting virtual attendees to support this year’s gala. The Gonets will also welcome online guests.
“Each and every one of our sponsors will be recognized during the virtual event,” added Robin. “And all donors will be entered in a special raffle to win one of three generous gifts: first prize is a $500 Amazon gift card; second and third place are $250 Amazon gift cards.”
The cards were donated by a long-time FACE supporter Maureen Makkay of Centerville. Maureen and her late husband Albert Makkay Sr. embraced the FACE mission and were staunch supporters for many years, with Maureen and her family keeping the tradition, and Al’s memory, alive.
One of the events of the Un-Gala will be the presentation of the Al Makkay Sr. Award to a person who, like the award’s namesake, has also faithfully focused on maintaining the FACE mission.
Also on the docket is a brief video celebrating students attending diocesan schools.
“We are all doing the best we can to make this event a success,” said Jim. “As first-time co-chairs, Pat and I have definitely had a unique introduction into what it’s like to be a FACE Summer Gala chairman.”
With that being said, Gonet also told The Anchor that all efforts are being made to ensure that the virtual event will be easy to use for all those who want to be a part of this special and unique Summer Gala. “We will all make the best of it and we’re setting the stage for next year’s event even through tough times and adversity.”
Jim Gonet told The Anchor that he and Pat are grateful to Jane, the committee members and volunteers. He also expressed gratitude to Mim Sherman, Christina Duggan and Shawna Erickson from the Catholic Foundation of SE Mass., for their guidance and unwaivering support. “Without them this wouldn’t be happening,” he said.
“This is so important for young adults in the diocese,” Jim added. “While things haven’t gone as originally expected, we had to find a way to maintain support to providing assistance to students and their families who want a good, Catholic education.
“I went to Bishop Stang High School and I loved it. Pat and I want to help make sure everyone who wants a Catholic education has that opportunity.”
Isaiah 40:31 reads, “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Even through a world the likes none of us have ever seen.
Formal invitations will be going out soon for the FACE Summer Un-Gala, and the website link is www.face-dfr.org/summer-gala-2020.