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Long-lost friends reunite at CMA party

rsz_mary_vanderburghIt was a moving reunion for friends who’ve both done some moving – of the relocation kind.

Mary Vanderburgh and Pat Cruise hadn’t been in touch for over half a century, not since their days as close friends and neighbors in a Boston suburb. The emotional meeting after 55 years of separation came Saturday on the grounds of the Athenaeum of Ohio, where they were among more than 200 guests at the annual “Partners” appreciation party for Catholic Ministries Appeal benefactors.

Mary Vanderburgh, Sister Tricia Cruise“This is just so wonderful,” said Mrs. Vanderburgh, who now lives in Dayton, as the two women shared memories at a table under the gathering’s giant picnic tent. (In the photo above, from left, are Mrs. Vanderburgh, Mrs. Cruise, Mrs. Cruise’s husband Frank, and Father Joe Beckman, the archdiocese’s second-oldest living priest. In the photo at left are Mrs. Vanderburgh and the Cruises’ daughter, Sister Patricia A. “Tricia” Cruise, S.C., president and CEO of Healthy Moms & Babes.)

The two Massachusetts friends had fallen out of touch after Mrs. Vanderburgh and her late husband Richard, an astronomer and mathematician, left for Dayton where he took a job at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. During the intervening years, Mrs. Cruise and her husband, Frank, moved first to the Cleveland area, later to Blue Ash.

Then, this June, Mrs. Cruise received a surprise when she picked up her copy of the Sunday Cincinnati Enquirer. Beginning on the front page and extending across a six-page special section, was a profile of Mrs. Vanderburgh’s son Michael, chief development officer for the Archdiocese.

Sr. Tricia Cruise and Michael VanderburghThe article noted how Mrs. Vanderburgh, who survived terrifying wartime experiences growing up in Hungary, had imparted her strong Catholic faith to her children.

“I had tears down my cheeks,” recalled Mrs. Cruise, who immediately set out to re-establish contact. Their reunion was arranged in conjunction with the CMA annual gathering.

“This lady,” Mrs. Cruise said of her long-lost friend, “is one of the strongest, most intelligent women I’ve ever known, and I was educated by women. She’s a bundle of energy and knowledge.

“Her husband was bright but Mary was brighter,” Mrs. Cruise added. “She was a perfect mother.”

Michael Vanderburgh (pictured at right, with Sister Tricia) was among the hosts of Saturday’s CMA Partnership gathering, which featured food, a band, games, and Athenaeum tours.

Athenaeum (2)Those attending included Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr and Father Benedict O’Cinnselaigh, president/rector of the Athenaeum of Ohio and Mount St. Mary’s Seminary’s of the West. Several seminarians including Ugandan missionary Elias Mwesigye were on hand to greet guests.

“This annual event provided the chance to personally thank our generous contributors, and also gives them a first-hand look at where their donations are going and the great work of the CMA ministries,” said David Kissell, CMA director of development operations.

The CMA is a fund drive each February and March for the Archdiocese to raise everyday operating expenses for those ministries. (One Faith, One Hope, One Love, by contrast, is an extraordinary campaign to address long-term needs). This year, CMA achieved its goal of $5 million, with pledges from some 27,000 households.

Mary VanderburghCMA beneficiaries, and percentages of its shares:

Catholic Charities and Social Services (21%)

Campus, hospital, and prison ministries (20%)

Seminary and vocations (27%)

Retired Archdiocesan Priests (19%)

New Evangelization (7%)

St. Rita School for the Deaf (6%)

Ninety cents of every donated dollar goes directly to fund the ministries.

Archbishop Schnurr presided at three Masses of thanksgiving this summer to thank CMA donors for their generous support.

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