Saturday evening, September 25, saw two major Catholic events in San Diego. At one end of town, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in La Jolla, 180 supporters of New Catholic University gathered for the proposed school's gala dinner. At the same time, at St. Peter's Chaldean Catholic Church in Rancho San Diego, 650 people met to support the Culture of Life Family Services.
The New Catholic University event was marked by a warmth and conviviality which was most apparent in the face of Derry Connolly, the proposed institution's founder. During his address, he inspired his listeners with his vision for the future school and its students. He began by speaking of his experience as a young man fresh from Ireland at one of the most prestigious technical schools in the world, Caltech. He contrasted the "excellent school" of Caltech with "excellent Catholic schools" such as Thomas Aquinas College and the Franciscan University of Steubenville. While visiting his daughter, who attends Steubenville, Connolly said he was struck not only by the academic excellence, but also by the fervor of their students. "I watched hundreds of students flock to Friday mass," he said. "I wouldn't have done that at their age. They were kids on fire for their faith."
Connolly went on to explain that it was during that visit to Steubenville that the desire took root in him to found a college that fostered the same kind of faith, but with an academic focus on business, technology, and media, a school dedicated to the making of strong Catholic businessmen and women," Connolly said. "Having strong voices in the media and in communications is imperative for the evangelization of the Catholic faith in our country."
The planned opening of the school is the fall of 2005. Connolly said that the only contingency at this point is money, ending his speech with a reminder that the best thing for supporters of the school to do is to spread the word to others.
After the fact, Connolly is still smiling. He says the event exceeded expectations. "It raised a great level of interest among those who attended. Many people came away very excited. It was wonderfully successful."
The Culture of Life Family Services event, the other highlight of the evening for San Diego Catholics, entertained hundreds of pro-lifers at St. Peter's. Culture of Life Board member Margi Pearson was impressed with the number of young people present, remarking that there were close to 200 high school and college age attendees. Keynote speakers were Father Mitch Pacwa, host of EWTN Live, and Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life. "Fr. Pavone," Pearson recalled, "was unequivocal and crystal clear on the duty of Catholics in helping promote the culture of life through community, family, and politics. And he put in no uncertain terms what those duties are."
Pearson mentioned how gratified guests Fr. Pavone and actress Christine Hicks (of the television show "Seventh Heaven") were by the turnout and level of support. "They both came not quite knowing what was entailed and were very impressed."
Pearson said besides feeling grateful toward those who came to St. Peter's for the event, she and Dr. Nicolas and Marya Jauregui, Culture of Life's founders, were touched by the enthusiasm of the Chaldean parishioners. "Together with the Iraqi Chaldean community we promoted life. They are very generous and very pro-life."
As well as being spiritually encouraging, the event was a monetary success. Though she declined to give a figure, Pearson said, "Enough money was raised to cover four to six months of medical malpractice insurance."
The proceeds will also help launch the clinic, which the organization hope to open at Mercy Hospital in December. "It was a shot in the arm for the pro-life community here to have such an event to celebrate" said Pearson.
Although the New Catholic University and Culture of Life Family Services events were successful, Connolly and Pearson both stressed the continued need for support from the San Diego Catholic community.