By Katherine Long
Though Msgr. Joseph Champlin is gone, he is certainly not forgotten, and his legacy lives on through the work he began with the Guardian Angel Society.
As rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse, Msgr. Champlin had a special relationship with Cathedral School. He was concerned by low high school graduation rates for Cathedral students and was determined to help them succeed. Msgr. Champlin founded the Guardian Angel Society in 1997 as a way to provide Cathedral students in need with tuition assistance and mentoring and tutoring support.
There have been changes over the years — Cathedral School merged with Our Lady of Pompei School to become Cathedral Academy at Pompei, and beloved founder Msgr. Champlin passed away in 2008 — but the organization’s focus has remained the same: help students succeed.
To date, close to 300 students have been helped by the Guardian Angel Society, according to Executive Director Kathy Fedrizzi. And beyond the number of students served, it’s important to note how long those students have been served: The organization will invest in a child with financial barriers from kindergarten to get them to graduate from high school, Fedrizzi explained. “We invest in a child for 12 years, if they choose to continue on [to a Catholic high school],” she said.
As tuition rates and student need grow, the Guardian Angel Society is able to supply those years of investment through the support of generous donors and signature fundraising events, including Sweet Cabaret. This year marks the event’s 15th anniversary. The Christian Brothers of CBA will be honored at the event on February 6.
“When we launched Guardian Angel Society, there was a lot of leg work to lay the foundation of how we were going to operate,” Fedrizzi said. “I remember Father Champlin reaching out to the Christian Brothers and discussing what he was looking to do, and they jumped on board with what we were doing. Our values, principles, missions, are in alignment — serving the poor, education a priority.”
Two of the Guardian Angel Society’s first scholars went on to CBA and great success, Fedrizzi noted. One of those scholars, Melanie George, will speak at Sweet Cabaret.
The Guardian Angel Society’s work is also supported in part by grants. The organization recently received a $2,500 grant from the Rotary Club of Syracuse and a $3,500 grant from the Good News Foundation. Both will be used to expand the summer and school year mentoring programs for students in grades 6 through 9. The grants will be key in “allowing us to provide one-on-one help for kids that so need it,” Fedrizzi said.
For more information on the Guardian Angel Society and its work, visit GuardianAngelSoc.org. The 15th annual Sweet Cabaret will be held at Drumlins Country Club, 800 Nottingham Rd., Syracuse, on Feb. 6 from 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. with entertainment by the DeSantis Orchestra and featured vocalists Ronnie Leigh, Isreal Hagan, Keith
Condon, Gary Branch, Michael Ranalli and Maria DeSantis. To purchase tickets or for information about sponsorship opportunities, visit the same website or call (315) 422-7218.