Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Ana Rodriguez Soto - Florida Catholic newspaper
MIAMI | Clara Gesni waited 18-and-a-half years for her future husband, Roberto, while he languished as a political prisoner in Cuba.
When he was freed, they married, then made their way to Miami and settled near St. Michael the Archangel Church. That was 43 years ago, and they have been there ever since, helping in every way possible.
“What don’t they do?” said St. Michael’s pastor, Father Elvis González, after the Gesnis were honored with the 2022 One in Faith award from the Archdiocese of Miami.
“Aside from being very committed parishioners, they help me a lot with catechesis, especially RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults), marriage preparation, sacristans, they clean the church. And of course, without fail, they bring me Cuban coffee every Sunday,” added Father Gonzalez.
Kidding aside, he said, “they have prepared many generations for marriage, in catechesis, and truly they are a couple worthy of admiration and of following their example.”
The Gesnis were one of three couples recognized this year at the annual Thanks-for-Giving Mass hosted by the archdiocesan Office of Development. The Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Thomas Wenski the Saturday before Thanksgiving, also the feast of Christ the King, Nov. 19, 2022, at St. Mary Cathedral.
While honoring faithful contributors to the annual Archbishop’s Charities and Development campaign, better known as ABCD, the Mass also honors three individuals or families with awards that align with the ABCD slogan: One in Faith, One in Hope and One in Charity.
In addition to the Gesnis, George and Milka Gutierrez from St. John XXIII Parish in Miramar were honored with the One in Hope Award; and Joseph and Winifred Amaturo from St. John the Baptist Parish in Fort Lauderdale were honored with the One in Charity Award.
All three couples said they were surprised by the honor.
“I was saying, but who am I? What did we do?” said Roberto Gesni.
George Gutierrez thought the same thing. He said the archdiocese wanted to honor him and his wife last year, but a previous commitment kept the couple from attending the ceremony. When asked again this year, he thought, “I must still be doing something right.”
That “something” includes being a Knight of Columbus who rides with the Knights on Bikes. He and his wife also are involved in Emmaus retreats. She serves as the Respect Life representative in their parish and hosts a program, “Amor a la Vida” (Love for Life), on Radio Maria (91.9 FM).
The Amaturos are well-known and longtime contributors to archdiocesan, charitable and artistic causes throughout South Florida via their Amaturo Family Foundation. They are staunch advocates for Catholic education, especially through their financial support of Accelerated Reader and Math programs for children in Catholic schools. The couple also donated the funds to build the Chapel of St. Anthony on the campus of St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens.
“Nobody deserves this award more than you and your lovely wife,” Msgr. Franklyn Casale told them after the Mass. Msgr. Casale served as president of St. Thomas University from 1994 to 2018.
“As archbishop, I am grateful to you because through your support of the ABCD, we as a Catholic community in South Florida are truly ‘one in faith, one in hope, and one in charity,’” Archbishop Wenski told those gathered for the Mass. “Your support remains critical; through the many works of tenderness, compassion and mercy made possible by you through the ABCD, you make present Christ’s kingdom.”
The ABCD campaign begins in earnest each year toward the end of January. Donations to ABCD come in the form of pledges paid in installments, beginning in March and concluding in February of the following year. The money funds archdiocesan ministries such as Catholic Charities, Respect Life and Evangelization, provides subsidies to financially struggling schools and parishes, and supports the education of priests and deacons.
Also recognized during the Mass were those newly inducted into the Archbishop Coleman Carroll Legacy Society, which is named after Miami’s first bishop. They are individuals or families who have notified the Office of Planned Giving that they have included the Catholic Church in their estate and financial plans, or who have made planned gifts to the archdiocese, its parishes, schools or entities, “thereby ensuring the future of our archdiocese.”
All but two of the 20 individuals inducted this year were deceased.
For more information about this year’s honorees and the ABCD, go to https://adomdevelopment.org/donorhonorroll/.