PLANTSVILLE – The Forty-Third Annual Connecticut State Council of the Knights of Columbus Venerable Father Michael McGivney Award was presented to Helen Burland, Executive Director of Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs on March 25 at the AquaTurf Club in Plantsville, CT.  

Established in 1975 by the Connecticut Sate Council to honor the ideals of the Order’s founder, Venerable Father McGivney, this award recognizes individuals who throughout their lives have made significant humanitarian, civic and social contributions to their state, church or country. Knights Councils from all over the state were represented at this annual event.

Archbishop Daniel Cronin, Archbishop Emeritus of Hartford, offered the Invocation as Knights and their guests totaling over 400 gathered in fellowship. Steve Bacon, State Deputy introduced Burland as a “champion for people with disabilities” and acknowledged her “leadership in the establishment of Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs and continued growth of Saint Catherine Academy. The need to provide quality programming for the most vulnerable among us is easy to overlook. Helen and her team is committed to this and is a reminder to all of us that this is an important mission. ”

Although Bishop Frank J. Caggiano was unable to attend,  he sent his acknowledgement for Burland.  “I give thanks to God for your long and dedicated service to the individuals that you provide service for and their families,” he said in his message. 

In her acceptance, Burland thanked the Knights for their support of the mission of Saint Catherine Academy and Saint Catherine Center. “You were with us from the start,” she commented. “You set up an endowment scholarship to help in the early years assisting families who wanted their children with disabilities to have access to a faith based education. You serve on our Board; you have led committees; you have been there year after year with proceeds from Tootsie Roll Drives that fund music and art, community activities and service projects. You have painted our halls and classrooms, raked our leaves, cleaned out our gutters; and every year, you have come with a sack full of Christmas Gifts dressed as Santa bringing cheer and hope to our students and families. We have seen the transformative power of service at Saint Catherine’s every day.”

Burland shared comments from Pat Gorman, a current staff member who is also an active Knight in his parish council. “My employment experience at St. Catherine’s has been a journey of accompanying young adults with disabilities. I thought initially that I was going to do for them; but instead I discovered that I am doing with them. I have found this job has given me daily moments of charity. The young people that I serve teach me daily about honesty, patience and love. God has truly blessed this Christian community.”

In her closing comments, Burland invited the audience to “become engaged; consider mentoring a person with a disability in the community; help your parish become welcoming to all; lead your council to adopt an area group home or volunteer with Best Buddies or Special Olympics.” She reminded the audience that “you need no special training; no special talent; all you need is an open mind and heart. We are ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”