“Between Ragan and Frank, I’m exhausted!” said Bishop Richard Stika as he opened his remarks last night at the 27th Annual Catholic Charities Dinner. Bishop Stika’s comment followed Fr. Ragan Schriver’s inspirational speech and a live auction, which I conducted again this year.
In his address, Fr. Ragan compared Catholic Charities of East Tennessee to a sports franchise. The owners are the Bishop and the Diocese; the coaches are the members of the board of trustees; the trainers are the local councils; the managers are the staff members; the players are the clients served by the agency; the referee is the Council on Accreditation; the groundskeepers are the priests and sisters of the diocese; and the cheerleaders are “you all.” He talked about picking a name and mascot for the hypothetical team. In typical Fr. Ragan style, there were three options: Braves, because bravery represents the intersection of fear and love; Flutes because they have to empty themselves in order to let beautiful music flow through them; and Volunteers because of their willingness to get involved.
There were three items up for bids: a basket with $2,000 worth of gift cards; a week at a luxury condo in Hilton Head; and dinner for ten people with celebrity guests Fr. Ragan, Dane Bradshaw, Bruce Pearl and Dr. Jerry Punch. The dinner will be held at Connor’s Steak & Seafood, which is slightly ironic since Fr. Ragan is a vegetarian. The date of the soirée is undetermined but I joked that with Fr. Ragan and Bruce Pearl in attendance, it was certain that the dinner would not take place on Good Friday or Yom Kippur. I asked the potential bidders to imagine themselves talking basketball with Bradshaw and Pearl, NASCAR with Dr. Punch and tennis with Fr. Ragan. Then I asked Fr. Ragan if he could name any NASCAR drivers. He knew there was one named Ragan. Or did he mean one named Regan?
The three auction items brought in almost $7,000 for the cause. I was extremely impressed by the generosity of the donors and the bidders. Even though the prices were out of range for most people, we all have something we can give. Pastors often ask parishioners to donate their time, treasure or talent. While the attendees gave some of their treasure, I gave some of my time and talent. In this instance, my talent happens to be the willingness to stand up in front of everyone and risk failure in the hope of getting laughter and applause.
There is something odd about comedians and other performers who are compelled to overcome the fear of public speaking just so they can feel normal. I think of my condition as a “deficiency of Vitamin Applause.” I need approval like a sailor with scurvy needs oranges. Even though I was completely drained after the auction, it was worth it for the money it raised and for the nice compliments I received.