by Becky Haworth
Special to The Leaven
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Donnelly College students, supporters, alumni, friends, faculty and staff recently came together for SHINE, an evening of testimonials, fellowship and socializing benefiting student scholarships. The Oct. 10 celebration honoring Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann saw nearly 600 attendees and has already raised more than $200,000.
The ninth annual SHINE, held at the Sheraton Crown Center Exhibit Hall in Kansas City, Missouri, offered a chance for parishes around the archdiocese to learn more about Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas, which is one of only 10 diocesan-sponsored higher education institutions nationwide. Phil and Mary Jo Doherty were the event chairs and formally greeted guests to the evening’s program. Later on, Phil, a 1962 Donnelly College graduate, shared his own recollections of his time at the college and its lasting impact on his life.
In honor of his 40 years as priest and 10 years as archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, Archbishop Naumann received a formal tribute led by Donnelly president Msgr. Stuart Swetland for his service. A book with well-wishes and photos from parishes and ministries around the archdiocese was presented to the archbishop, as well as a St. Louis Cardinals-themed Monopoly set.
“People say, ‘Archbishop, you work hard,’” said the archbishop in his SHINE presentation. “But I tell people I don’t work at all, because I get to spend my life doing what I believe in. I get to spend every moment doing what I really feel is most important. So, in that sense, we don’t work at all.”
“I feel very, very blessed,” continued the archbishop. “The Lord, from the very beginning, has taken mercy on me, and he’s always surrounded me with great people.”
Closing out his remarks, he reminded guests of the importance of serving the whole person — which the college has strived to do throughout its 66-year history.
“[Donnelly] teaches our students to succeed — yes, in academic excellence, but also that the greater happiness comes from helping others, from serving others, from making a difference in the lives of others and, that ultimately, our hearts are built for God,” he said.
Donnelly board chair Dick Flanigan spoke to such transformation — a “sustained change of state,” as he described it — that students undergo at the college. He also noted that while it is Donnelly’s core mission, it is difficult to sustain from a resource perspective.
“I have a proposition for you tonight,” he told the audience. “What we’re doing here at Donnelly in our case for transformation demands investors, not just contributors, to join us in this journey — join us in helping these young people not just finish the year, not just get their associate or their bachelor’s, but to succeed and grow in our community.”
A four-student panel provided the most heartwarming moments of the evening as they described their personal paths to Donnelly and why the college is so special to them. Some are first-generation college students, others are parents, and still others grew up in a different country and now navigate the higher education waters at Donnelly.
“Donnelly has not only made it possible for me to go to school financially, but I’m the first one in my family to ever really consider school,” said student Josh-Lynn Bruce. “Where I come from, they don’t really talk about anything past high school. Most of the people in my area don’t even graduate high school.
“Coming to Donnelly helps me grow not only academically, but spiritually, too, and I’m thankful for that.”
Each student in his or her own way talked about how the atmosphere at Donnelly College feels like a family.
“This just feels like home,” explained student Stephanie Garfio. “This is where you want to be.”
Daniel Tygart, another Donnelly student, spoke to the importance of being a role model for his two children.
“I can’t very well preach to [my kids] about going on to higher education unless I pave the way and show them how it’s done,” he said.
Information Systems student Diego Payan, who began his Donnelly career in the college’s English as a Second Language program, now holds his associate degree from Donnelly and is working toward his bachelor’s.
“They make you feel like you’re a part of their family,” he said. “That’s pretty much why I decided to stay at Donnelly College.
“And I wouldn’t be anywhere else.”