Over 600 Celebrate Mardi Gras at SPO's 31st Annual Benefit Banquet

by Liz Falconer, senior at University of St. Thomas

Like many college students on Mardi Gras, I spent Fat Tuesday surrounded by friends, food, and celebration. However, my friends included over 600 Missionaries, students, and supporters of Saint Paul's Outreach (SPO). We shared a glorious feast in downtown St. Paul celebrating the mission of SPO to bring the Catholic faith alive on today's college campuses.

The students and Missionaries in attendance boldly live out their Catholic faith and encourage me to do the same. I can personally attest to the fact that the Lord has done amazing things through the Mission Leaders and Student Missionaries of Saint Paul's Outreach. This community attracts college students who are searching for meaning and purpose by radically living out their faith. It is apparent these people are set apart, because each individual is encased in the truth and joy of a personal relationship with the Lord and encourages others to do the same. For this very reason, I and thousands of other students are drawn to the mission of Saint Paul's Outreach. As a result, it is no surprise that SPO will reach more than 17,000 college students this year alone.

Such success would not be attainable without the support of our generous donors and alumni. Through the donation of time, talent, prayer, and monetary gifts, countless individuals have supported the mission of SPO since its founding in 1985. Being surrounded by 600 of these generous donors was an honor and blessing. Here, I and the other students and Missionaries were given the opportunity to meet these supporters and express our gratitude in person. Throughout the night, I was continuously inspired by the stories of these individuals and their willingness to give so abundantly in faith.

Students and staff of SPO (l-r): Joe Masek, Sean Healy, Andy Kaufer, and Alex Spanton.

Students and staff of SPO (l-r): Joe Masek, Sean Healy, Andy Kaufer, and Alex Spanton.

Students and staff meeting SPO donors.

Students and staff meeting SPO donors.

Each year, the Benefit Banquet honors an individual, couple, or group that embodies the generosity, humility, and spirit of service of the late Bishop Paul Dudley. This year, Monsignor Aloysius Callaghan was selected to receive the Bishop Paul Dudley Servant Leadership Award. Monsignor Callaghan has granted SPO access to the St. Paul Seminary residence halls and chapels for its annual summer conference, the School of the New Evangelization (SNE). This week-long training in August teaches SPO college students how to share the Catholic faith with their fellow classmates. It is through generous and willing servants like Monsignor Callaghan that the mission of Saint Paul's Outreach is made possible. We are so blessed by his support!

Students and staff brought the night to a close by leading the room in a song of worship, "How Great is Our God," by Chris Tomlin. Many joined in, and soon everyone was on their feet, thanking our God for His greatness and abundant blessings. We also thanked all who were in attendance of the banquet and who made the night a success. Without the many hands and hearts investing in Saint Paul's Outreach, this organization would not be where it is today. On behalf of all the SPO students whose lives have been changed, I offer a sincere "thank you!" to everyone who has supported this wonderful organization. 

(l-r): Gordy DeMarais, Monsignor Callaghan, and Bishop Andrew Cozzens.

(l-r): Gordy DeMarais, Monsignor Callaghan, and Bishop Andrew Cozzens.

SPO students and staff lined the stage and led a song of worship at the end of the banquet.

SPO students and staff lined the stage and led a song of worship at the end of the banquet.

Abe gross (left) led a rendition of "Our Lady of Knock" to honor  Msgr. Callaghan (right) after he was awarded the Bishop Paul Dudley Servant Leadership award.

Abe gross (left) led a rendition of "Our Lady of Knock" to honor  Msgr. Callaghan (right) after he was awarded the Bishop Paul Dudley Servant Leadership award.

To see more moments captured from the banquet, click here to view our Flickr album.