Fund-raising event to aid refugee ministry

By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer

MRS2logoCatholic Charities of Louisville’s Migration and Refugee Services will host its first fund-raising event called “Celebration of Spirit & Success” to honor refugees and those who assist them June 27.

The celebration, which will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 830 Phillips Lane, will begin with a reception at 5:30 p.m. During this time artists will have works of cultural art on display. Dinner and a program will follow.

While the primary goal of the event is to raise money for efforts to help refugees resettle in the area, it’s also about recognizing how far the refugees have come and what they have accomplished, said Bart Weigel, the director of communications and development for Catholic Charities.

“It’s about being able to say ‘thank you’ to the community and to recognize employment partners and other community partners. We couldn’t do this work without their support,” he said, adding, it’s also  “a way to celebrate individual refugees and to invite the broader community to be a part of our efforts.”

Weigel noted that numerous former refugees, who are now successfully settled here, will sponsor tables as a way to give back.

Three refugees from Bosnia, Sudan and Vietnam will be recognized and will have an opportunity to share their stories during the program. The Migration and Refugee Services office also will recognize two groups that have supported its work — the Jefferson County Public Schools adult education program and Fabricated Metals.

A committee of about 10 people, including MRS staff, community volunteers and refugees have been organizing the event for about six months, Weigel said.

The event will include international music, including a Burmese guitarist, a Somali drummer and a Bosnian pianist.

Weigel noted the MRS group plans to make this an annual event and will serve as a lead-up to its 40th anniversary of helping to resettle refugees in Louisville. That will be in 2015.

“We are already planning for next year,” he said. “We’d love to have four or five food stations that would feature an international dish. That way guests would be able to sample cuisine from
different continents.”

Elisabeth Walker, associate director for communications and development at Catholic Charities, said that about 23 parishes, organizations and individuals have volunteered to be sponsors.

Among them are Bellarmine University, St. Agnes Church and the Houston Casualty Company, which is the event’s presenting sponsor.

Individual tickets are $75. Additionally there are several levels of sponsorships ranging from $1,000 to $7,500. For more information on sponsorship opportunities, visit

Former Congressman Romano Mazzoli will serve as the evening’s key note speaker. He will recognize several individual refugees and share a little about their personal journeys, Weigel said.

The office of Migration and Refugee Services has been aiding in the resettlement of refugees, who have been legally admitted to the United States, in Louisville since 1975. MRS has resettled more than 10,000 refugees from 30 countries.

The agency provides support and assistance to help refugees to become self-sufficient, including helping them find a home, job and transportation.

Mark Bouchard, coordinator for advocacy, education and national programs at Catholic Charities, will serve as the event’s emcee. For ticket information, call 637-9786 or visit

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