Our 20th Anniversary “Joy & Gratitude” dinner on June 9, 2019 was a huge success!
We thank our generous sponsors and donors.
Sal & Marie Gilbertie – Community Partnership Award
On any given day at Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens in Easton, you will find Saint Catherine Academy students or young adults from the Day Program arranging and stacking pots for planting. Gilbertie’s is one of nine local sites where Center students and participants practice their vocational skills in the community.
“Sal and Marie have been welcoming partners with Saint Catherine’s for the past six years,” said Helen Burland, Executive Director of the Center. “The tasks at the farm can accommodate a variety of skill levels. We’re so grateful for the opportunity they provide. Our students and adults love going to Gilbertie’s.”
The fourth-generation, family-owned farm and retail store in Westport has been in operation since 1922, and is the largest herb grower in the U.S., providing certified organic products all over the northeast. Sal has also authored several books on gardening.
The partnership is mutually beneficial. “I don’t have to worry about their work,” Sal said. Participants improve their stamina and fine motor skills and enjoy each other’s company, while stacking as many as 5,000 pots per hour. “I like helping Mr. Gilbertie,” said Lindsy, an Academy student. “I like to be busy walking to get pots and filling the trays.”
“Marie and I are so grateful that they’re here and it works out for them,” said Sal. “When the Saint Catherine’s van pulls up I always say, ‘Here come the angels and saints.’ In these young people you recognize the goodness of God.”
Dian Jennings Mayo – Leadership Award
In 1996, Dian Jennings Mayo approached then- Bishop Edward Egan with an idea to establish a center to serve the developmentally disabled. It was a “long-held dream” of hers to create a diocesan fund earmarked for special education of the adult population. In her letter to the Bishop she wrote, “I suspect many are hungry for the Bread of Life and hope we can team up together to feed these special sheep.”
Now a reality in Saint Catherine Center, Dian’s long-held dream was inspired by her older brother Donald, who has special needs. Proudly Irish and growing up in the Bronx, Dian has always been a passionate advocate for her brother, arranging his care and assuring that he has a life of dignity and happiness since their parents passed away. This care for those who are vulnerable has been a vocation of love for Dian, inspired and supported by her strong Catholic faith.
“God has answered a lot of prayers,” she said.
Dian lives in Redding Ridge in a home that has been in her family for more than 70 years. As an active member of St. Patrick Church, she enjoys the quiet that Redding Ridge offers and the proximity to many locations in Connecticut as well as her beloved New York City.
Dian is a regular at Saint Catherine events, including the annual dinner and Mass Celebrating People with Special Needs.
Jim O’Brien (1927-2015) – Volunteer Service Award
Grounded in faith and family, and known as a guy who “quietly went about getting things done,” Jim O’Brien was one of Saint Catherine Academy’s first Board members, motivated by his family that included both a niece and nephew who had special needs. Jim was particularly moved by the challenges that siblings of individuals with disabilities face.
Jim had a lifelong career in the lumber industry, eventually founding his own company in 1977, Nutmeg Forest Products, with his wife Joan. The family business continues to thrive and now includes a third generation of O’Briens. Jim used his building expertise to help steer the construction of our current facility.
Jim coached golf and swimming for Special Olympics, and facilitated getting swimming to the curriculum at the Academy—a weekly activity that continues to this day in both the Academy and Adult Day Program.
Jim grew up in New York, graduated from City College of New York, and was an active parishioner at St. Pius X Church in Fairfield. He and Joan were married for 60 years, and had three children and 10 grandchildren. “Jim was always there for you,” said Joan.
“Jim was a gentle soul,” commented Helen Burland, Executive Director. “He preferred to make things happen in the background. He had a big heart—which included the children from Saint Catherine Academy.”