By Connie Berry
Catholic Charities of Onondaga County recently announced this year’s Brady Award winners. The 39th annual reception will be held Oct. 5 at the Empire Room at the state fairgrounds. The winners include the following: the Msgr. Charles Brady Award goes to Deacon Peter Vanelli for his years of outstanding service to the people of the Syracuse Diocese; Maria Vasquez, Health Start case manager, will be awarded the C. Walter Driscoll Award, given to a Catholic Charities employee who shows strong commitment and loyalty to the mission of the organization; the Marty Cuddy Award will be given to Billy Brill, program supervisor at Toomey Residential and Community Services; and All Saints Church of Syracuse will be presented with the Parish Service Award for its outstanding commitment to the community.
The Msgr. Brady Award is an honor for Deacon Vanelli. He is a member of the second class of deacons ordained for the diocese in 1979. He is quick to say however, the deacons were not “‘second class’ but the second group” to be ordained. Deacon Vanelli has headed up a sandwich-making ministry for the Oxford Street Inn for nearly 30 years. He delivers the sandwiches in person every week. He also makes sure the homeless men there have decent breakfast on Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. He has raised nearly $30,000 over the years for the annual CROP Walk. Currently he is a patient at the Veterans Hospital in Syracuse, battling an infection related to the amputation of his left leg. True to form, Deacon Vanelli said from the hospital, “God is good to me. We’ll work this through and get through it. Right now I’m trying to see what I can do to help the men up here.” The good news is that he will be getting a six-hour pass from the hospital to attend the awards dinner. When Deacon Vanelli got the news that he was the Msgr. Charles Brady Award recipient, he was moved to tears. He has invited a few of the people instrumental to his vocation, including Father Jim Mathews, Father John Hogan and Father Brian Lang, among others.
Billy Brill, winner of the Marty Cuddy Award, has spent the last few award dinners with his young children. He brings them to the dinner so they can experience what it’s like to get dressed up and sit through a special dinner with a large group. This year they’ll have the distinction of clapping loudest for their dad.
“I think it’ll be pretty exciting for the kids this year,” Brill admitted. “They asked me if it was getting close to time for the dinner and then I got the letter the next day telling me about the award.”
Brill is deserving of the honor. He’s spent seven years with the Toomey Residential Program working with emotionally disturbed boys ages 7 to 14. He has watched the program evolve from a punitive-based model to a collaborative model. Brill said the boys who come to the center typically stay a year, sometimes longer. They often have problems associated with parents who are incarcerated or not present for one reason or another. Some have been emotionally, physically or sexually abused.
“They bring a very traumatic history with them so even a little progress is a huge thing,” Brill explained.
Brill never felt he had a strong desire to change kids’ lives, he said, but that’s exactly what he does for the young people at Toomey Residential.
Father Fred Daley and All Saints Parish will celebrate the honor of being recipients of the Parish Service Award on Oct. 5. The newly-formed parish, which combined Our Lady of Solace, St. Therese and St. Andrew’s Parishes, has been busy supporting causes in their own community and beyond. They have offered special collections for a parish family who spent six weeks this summer with Maryknoll in Bolivia and a parish family with a direct connection to Kenya, they support St. Andrew’s sister parish in Nicaragua, they make sandwiches regularly for Assumption Church on the north side of Syracuse and for the men at the Oxford Street Inn. During the summer months, the parish has a garden on site and another large garden through the courtesy of a parishioner. The bounty gets passed along to the food pantry at St. Lucy’s Church.
The parish has several goals in sight, including forming neighborhood communities for evangelization and outreach teams.
“We’re very honored to receive this award,” Father Daley said. “It has been a joy to be in collaboration with Catholic Charities of Onondaga County and we look forward to continuing working together.”