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Embracing Faith Through Giving - The History of the Hearts Afire Gala

Updated: Apr 25, 2019

By Katie Beckmann, Communications Manager

This week’s “Embracing Faith” article will focus on Embracing Faith through Giving.

Embracing Faith Through Vocation

On Sunday, April 28th, the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Blauvelt, New York will host their 19th Annual Hearts Afire Gala in Piermont, New York.

During the Hearts Afire Gala, Anthony and Marian D’Ambrosio, Lane and Janet Jorgensen, and Ruth Young (posthumously) will be presented with the Mary Ann Sammon Award for Compassion and Service, for their demonstration of a spirit of faith and deep caring for others.

Past honorees of the Mary Ann Sammon Award for Compassion and Service include: Judy Kydon; Phyllis & Bruce Schweizer; John Nevins; Barbara & David Bender; Sisters of Our Lady of the Christian Doctrine; Robert S. Manzella; Sisters of Saint Dominic of Blauvelt, New York; Michael Ragno; Benedict Versaci; John & Eileen White; Kathleen Gregg; Hector May; Keith R. Taylor; Reverend John F. Dwyer; J. Robert Lunney; Peggy Bell Kalter; James F. Hurley; Monsignor Gerald Ryan; Clifford Lai; Sister Bernadette Kenney, R.S.H.M.; Brother James Kearney, F.M.S.; John Caffrey; Rita & Jim Sullivan; Nancy & Bill Hynes; The Moroney Family; The Cullen Family; FDNY Pipe and Drum Band; and In Memory of Timothy J. Mara.

At the first ever Hearts Afire Gala in June 2001, then Congregation president Sister Mary Ann Collins, OP, honored the memory of Timothy J. Mara by awarding him the inaugural Mary Ann Sammon Award for Compassion and Service.

Charles Foti and Wellington Mara
Charles Foti and Wellington Mara

The Mara family was in attendance at the Gala and Timothy’s son, Wellington Mara accepted the award. The Congregation chose to honor the memory of Timothy J. Mara because of his dedication and contributions to the Congregation starting back in the 1920s. It is not certain how or exactly when he first came in contact with the Sisters of Saint Dominic, but a thank you letter dated in 1921 from Mother Mary Marcella to Mara was found in the Congregational archives.

Over 270 people attended the first ever Hearts Afire Gala and gathered together to share in the Liturgy of the Feast of the Pentecost then enjoyed musical entertainment by the New York City Fire Department Pipe Band.

The 2001 Gala Committee
The 2001 Gala Committee

This award also commemorated the 100th anniversary of the death of the foundress, Mary Ann Sammon.

Mother Mary Ann Sammon emigrated from Terryglass, County Tipperary, Ireland in the mid-1800's. As a young Dominican sister, she was moved by the plight of young children who were living on the streets of New York City. She came to Blauveltville in 1873 to begin a program to care for these children. Since then hundreds of women have continued her legacy of compassion and service to the people of God.

Each year, the Hearts Afire Gala enables the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Blauvelt, New York, to carry on their Dominican mission of preaching the good news of the Gospel wherever they find themselves, as well as foster hope, mercy, justice, and truth in today’s fragile earth and fragmented world.

To learn more about the Hearts Afire Gala, visit or contact Kerrin Kissel, Director of Development, at


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