2001: The First-Ever Hearts Afire Gala

By Katie Mahon, Communications Manager


The 2001 Gala Committee
The 2001 Gala Committee

In a few days, the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Blauvelt, New York, and their supporters will gather at the View on the Hudson in Piermont for the first time in two years at the 2022 Hearts Afire Gala.


This annual event benefits the ministries and members of the Congregation and honors individuals whose lives have demonstrated a spirit of faith and deep caring for others with the Mary Ann Sammon Award for Compassion and Service.


Nearly 21 years ago, this tradition started as the first-ever Hearts Afire Gala, and it was held on June 2, 2001.


Sr. Mary Ann Collins, OP, who was Prioress of the Congregation then, shared that the Gala “was held on our beautiful tented grounds in front of Rosary Hall. The impetus and inspiration for this event was the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the death of our foundress, Mother Mary Ann Sammon.”


Charlie Foti and Wellington Mara
Charlie Foti and Wellington Mara

She went on to add, “Our Gala that year was one of three events held in honor of Mother Mary Ann’s anniversary under the direction of our Development Office with our deceased Sisters Catherine Howard and Kathleen Tucker spearheading all the events. For the Gala event, the sisters worked with a creative and energetic team led by Lynn Mara.”


The first-ever Gala honoree was the late Timothy Mara, co-founder of the New York Giants. On his behalf, his son, Wellington, accepted the Mother Mary Ann Sammon Award for Compassion and Service.

Wellington Mara accepts the Mother Mary Ann Sammon Award for Timothy Mara
Wellington Mara accepts the Mother Mary Ann Sammon Award for Timothy Mara

When reflecting on Timothy Mara and his relationship with the Congregation, Sr. Mary Ann shared, “There are many stories as to how Timothy Mara became acquainted with our Congregation. It has been said that he was visiting a TB-stricken relative in the vicinity and heard of the challenges of this young Dominican Congregation. It has also been said that he met one of our early sisters when delivering coal and ice, and she insisted that he eat something before unloading the truck. Another story tells of car trouble late one night. The light was still on in our kitchen, and he was welcomed. We’re not sure how the relationship began but have records in our archives of letters of gratitude written to Timothy Mara and other members of the Mara family down through the years.”


After the first successful event, the following several Gala events would follow a similar format as begun in 2001. The day would start with a Liturgy in the Motherhouse Chapel, followed by an outdoor program on our grounds.


Since then, the Sisters of Saint Dominic have gone on to host many successful Gala events and honored worthy women and men who exemplify the compassion and service of Mother Mary Ann and who have supported and encouraged our sisters down through the years.


Due to the success of the Gala, the Sisters eventually had to find larger venues to host this event.


Sr. Mary Ann explained, “As the Gala crowds got larger, we moved off campus and now celebrate in a local catering venue. For me, the Gala shows the incredible partnership of so many whose lives have been touched by our sisters and their ministries. We pray that this valuable partnership may continue into the future.”