In October, the diocesan Holy Name Society, part of one of the oldest confraternities in the Catholic Church, will be holding its annual awards banquet to honor clergy, religious and laypeople in the community who have gone above and beyond in service and dedication to the Church, society and the diocesan community as a whole. It will take place Sunday, Oct. 15, at Kiebzak's Restaurant and Beginnings Banquet, 38 Crocker St. in Sloan, with refreshments beginning at 5 p.m. and family style dinner at 6 p.m.
This year, the honorees will be Father Robert W. Zilliox Jr., pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Bowmansville; Father Jeffrey L. Nowak, parochial vicar of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Niagara Falls; and Father Seán Paul Fleming, parochial vicar of St. Amelia Parish in Tonawanda, as well as other men and women who have faithfully served their parish communities and the diocesan Holy Name Society.
Each year at the banquet, a presenter reads a brief biography of each award recipient, which he or she prepares and submits ahead of time. A committee, led by the Holy Name Society's spiritual moderator, is responsible for choosing recipients from a potential pool of clergy, men and women religious or laypeople from parishes or the public sector. According to Raymond W. Zientara, executive director of the Holy Name Society, the awards banquet is a longstanding tradition in the Diocese of Buffalo with a rich history.
"This tradition has been going on since the first spiritual moderator, Msgr. Joseph F. Maguire, served the Diocese of Buffalo," Zientara said. "His personal thoughts for this awards banquet were to honor various individuals in the diocese who have done an exemplary job in providing community services, as well as being supportive in promoting the Holy Name Society by their actions and participation."
Over time, the banquet has been held in a variety of venues, including the Hotel Statler Ballroom in the heart of downtown Buffalo, the former Hearthstone Manor in Depew and Pellamwood House in West Seneca, and various parishes in the diocese. In past years, events drew as many as 600-800 people, but today it tends to be much smaller in terms of attendance. This year's event is limited to 300 guests.
Zientara emphasized that the Holy Name Society is "not a beneficial organization" or a "social club," and is no way connected with civil matters or politics. "Actually, the Holy Name Society is one of the only purely religious societies of the Catholic Church for laypeople. It has to do with the morality of people's lives. It is intended to foster reverence and love for the Most Holy Name of our Blessed Redeemer, and to suppress in others blasphemy, profanity, perjury and obscene speech, and unlawful oaths," he explained.
Father Paul P. Sabo has served as the current spiritual moderator of the diocesan Holy Name Society since 2005, with five other priests holding this position before him. The executive director and spiritual moderator of each society coordinate and approve meetings under the direction of the diocesan bishop. While activities vary, members focus on practicing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
The Holy Name Society dates back to medieval times. Zientara explained in the 13th century, heresy was common and "Christ was not known among many." As a result, a Dominican general, Blessed John of Vercelli, issued instructions to the order and preachers to "carry out the will of the Holy Father with scrupulous diligence and untiring zeal." Dominican churches erected shrines honoring the Holy Name.
In 1432, when a plague was wreaking havoc in Portugual, Bishop Andrea Diaz, a Dominican, "urged all the people to put their trust in power of the name of the Savior and to enroll themselves in a society which should labor to make the name of Jesus loved and honored by all." After he blessed some water in Jesus' name, the Portugese city was saved from the epidemic and the Holy Name Society was born.
"On Jan. 1, the new society of the Holy Name assembled to give thanks to God for their deliverance," Zientara said. "The second Sunday of every month was made the Sunday of the society. It was Pope Pius IV who urged all patriarchs, archbishops, bishops and ordinaries of all places to do all in their power to promote the society in the name of Jesus."
For tickets or more information about the diocesan Holy Name Society, call the Diocesan Union Holy Name Society office at 716-847-2201/2202, from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. This event is limited to 300 people and tables will be available in eight or 10, as well as individual seating.