By Rose O’Connor | Correspondent
For organizations like Catholic Charities Diocese of Trenton, transformation as the fruit of faith and hard work is always the goal.
It has been no different for Lauren Cieloscik, whose tenacity and courage led her from a life of seemingly insurmountable obstacles to the recipient of Catholic Charities’ 2017 Client Achievement Award.
Photo Gallery: Catholic Charities Guardian Angel Dinner Dance
In receiving her award, which was presented Sept. 23 during the annual Guardian Angel Dinner Dance in the Hyatt Regency, Princeton, Cieloscik faced some 400 guests who had risen to their feet with applause for the women who was described as “a smart, capable, hardworking mother of four who courageously faced something that affects one in three women: domestic violence.”
As part of her healing, Cieloscik chose to attend groups at Catholic Charities’ Providence House Domestic Violence Services. Feeling compelled to give back, Cieloscik was instrumental in creating the STOP committee (Survivors, Testimonials, Outreach and Prevention), which advocates for change, raises awareness and mentors other survivors on their journeys.
“Providence House has allowed me to regain my strength, my confidence, my sense of self, my purpose, my abilities and my capabilities, and, in addition, to discover strength that I never knew I had. I am grateful to have completed the program and to have the opportunities to pay it forward,” she said.
Cieloscik, who has been an advocate for change serving with the Social Policy Committee as well as the Consumer Advocacy Panel, was just one of the men, women and organizations honored for assisting Catholic Charities in its mission of offering “mental health, social and crisis services to individuals and families, particularly those impacted by trauma and adversity.”
“Catholic Charities relies on their partners in achieving their life changing work,” Tom Keefe said as he welcomed guests to the event.
Keefe, along with his wife, Judi, are parishioners in St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish, Spring Lake, and served as co-chairs of the event.
Prior to highlighting the accomplishment of the honorees, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., Catholic Charities board of trustees president, offered the invocation, expressing gratitude for the organization’s work and its executive director, Marlene Lao-Collins.
“As Bishop, I thank you, Marlene, and your extraordinary staff and all those who support Catholic Charities,” the Bishop said.
Robert Tanzola, board chairman, also addressed the guests and honorees, referring to them as “modern day Good Samaritans” who “provide helping hands and support to the needy and most vulnerable people in the Diocese.”
Each year, in addition to the Client Achievement Award, an individual from each county in the Diocese is presented with a Light of Hope Award. Additional awards include Corporate Citizen of the Year, and a humanitarian award presented in honor of Richard J. Hughes, former governor and chief justice of the New Jersey State Supreme Court.
In accepting the Burlington County Light of Hope Award, Mary Anne Saville, a member of St. Ann Parish, Browns Mills, was described as a dedicated volunteer of Catholic Charities, serving on the Guardian Angel Dinner Dance committee. She currently serves on the Burlington County board and has provided numerous presentations on Catholic Charities services to community and civic groups. Mary Ann is the co-founder of Occupational Safety Services, Inc., providing workplace safety training, monitoring, and policies for employers.
In Mercer County, Light of Hope Award recipient Daniel L. Haggerty, honored as “a long-time, passionate supporter of Catholic Charities,” is an attorney at Stark and Stark law firm, having been a shareholder of the firm for over 30 years. He was recognized for having provided pro bono legal services to various religious, civic and nonprofit organizations and assisting religious and other nonprofit organizations in real estate development and transactionals. He and his wife have four children and are members of St. Ann Parish, Lawrenceville, where Haggerty is a reader, extraordinary minister of the Eucharist and member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Mary Lou Oliwa, Light of Hope Award recipient in Monmouth County, became involved with Catholic Charities in 1993 after she and her husband joined St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish and witnessed the services Catholic Charities’ staff provided to parishioners. Oliwa also supports Sisters Academy, raising funds for students from disadvantaged families. Recently, Oliwa was invested into the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem by Cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York and Edwin O'Brien, grandmaster of the Holy Sepulchre, in St. Patrick Cathedral. Membership is conferred upon Catholics of exemplary faith and moral conduct who actively support their parish.
John M. Tesoro, who joined the Ocean County board of Catholic Charities in 2013, was honored with the Light of Hope Award in Ocean County.
Tesoro serves on the Catholic Charities board of trustees and chairs the finance committee. Tesoro and his wife, Nancy, are members of St. James Parish, Red Bank, as well as St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Long Beach Township, where Tesoro is a lector. Tesoro was actively involved in establishing the Lunch Break Program in St. Leo the Great Parish, Lincroft, and in the Challenger Youth Sports Program in Monmouth County.
This year’s Corporate Citizen of the Year award went to Amboy Bank. The award was accepted by chief financial officer and Catholic Charities board of trustees member Stanley Koreyva.
Presenting the Richard J. Hughes, Catholic Charities Diocese of Trenton Humanitarian Award to Mercy Sister Rosemary E. Jeffries was John Hughes, the son of the former late governor. Hughes talked about Sister Rosemary’s accomplishments, especially her time as eighth president of Georgian Court College and how she prepared the Lakewood institute’s conversion to a university.
“She led Georgian Court well into the 21st century by establishing a co-educational institution and by achieving university status among many other initiatives,” he said.
Sister Rosemary accepted the award, acknowledging her fellow Sisters of Mercy, “who have dedicated their lives for 200 years to relieve misery and address its causes. They stand here with me. So on their behalf, I say thank you for this honor and I thank you for your support of the wonderful work of Catholic Charities.”
Reflecting back on the notable contributions made by award-winners, and, in particular, the accomplishments of Cieloscik, Lao-Collins said, “It is so great to see we’re making a difference. It makes me want to wake up and thank the Lord! We change lives.”