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Fr. Thomas Rosica’s remarks at the Salt + Light “Evening at the Dead Sea” Gala Celebration at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB

October 15, 2009
Your Grace Archbishop Ventura,
Your Grace Archbishop Weisgerber,
Distinguished Guests,
Dear Friends,
You presence speaks volumes and on behalf of our staff, many who are here tonight, and hundreds of thousands of viewers across Canada, I say to you “a million thanks.”
I want to recognize in a special way the Gagliano family. Contrary to popular opinion, Gaetano is not my father! Nevertheless he calls me 4-5 times each day on my cell phone, more than my own father ever did, and our theological conversations rival those taking place at a Vatican Synod. At 92 years old, Gaetano is evergreen- and one of the most vibrant human beings I have ever met. I feel like a son and brother to this family and they are extraordinary people who live in such ordinary ways. The key to their success is God, faith, family and hard work. What an honor and pleasure to be part of the Gagliano family. More than the creators of “Luminato”, Tony Gagliano and his clan are truly “illuminati” by God in so many ways and they are among the treasures of the Church in Canada.
I also wish to thank our Board of Directors: first, our honorary chair, Michael Lee Chin, whose crystal hovers over this museum tonight. Michael was unable to be with us due to several commitments tonight. Tony and John Gagliano, Brian Chapman, John Foresi, Anthony Longo, Warren Spitz and Dean Topolinski. A remarkable, winning team of young Catholic business leaders who are making a huge difference in Canada.
Among us this evening is Dennis Savoie, Deputy Supreme Knight of the world’s largest fraternal order- the Knights of Columbus. Dennis, our bonds of friendship are very deep and your support of Salt + Light from the very beginning has been a great blessing. I ask you to pass on to my good friend and brother, Supreme Knight, Carl Anderson, heartfelt gratitude, esteem and affection from all of us in Canada. Our work for the New Evangelization would not be possible without you. With this evening’s welcome contribution of $500,000.00, the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council has now given $1.475 million dollars to Salt + Light Television since the beginning. And I have been assured by the Supreme Knight that there is more to come as we forge our unique, strategic partnership together.
Archbishop James Weisgerber, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, your presence tonight seals our relationship with the Bishops of Canada. During these two years of your presidency, we have worked closely together on so many projects. You and your brother bishops, the shepherds of the Canadian Church, have found a home at Salt + Light Television and we are at home with you. What an honor and privilege to collaborate with you, in good times and in bad. Thank you for opening for us the doors of the Canadian Church, of every diocese, of hundreds of thousands of homes. We stand with our shepherds, and we love and respect you for your commitment and fidelity, your sacrifice, courage, wisdom and goodness.
Archbishop Thomas Collins was unable to be with us this evening due to a previous commitment. He has been a faithful, loyal and dynamic supporter of our network. He is also one of our on camera personalities through his frequent appearances on our magazine shows and his monthly Lectio Divina Series broadcast across Canada.
There will never be adequate words to properly thank the Pope’s representative in Canada for the past eight years, Archbishop Luigi Ventura, for all he has been and done for us and for me, personally. From the first days of our meeting and work together on World Youth Day back in September 2001, I found in him a brother and friend. He has been our direct link to Pope John Paul II and then to Pope Benedict XVI. He was the springtime for which we longed and he opened so many doors and windows for us to the Universal Church and the Canadian Church. Though we are very sad to see you go to France as the new Apostolic Nuncio to the eldest daughter of the Church, we know that our friendship will last for this lifetime and the next. Excéllence, mille mercis. Bon voyage! Ad multos annos en France!
Now, our Salt + Light team. You have no idea what it means to be surrounded by a staff like we have at Salt + Light Television. Twenty-seven young adults (I am a senior on the staff at 50, along with Gita Hosek, Sr.Marie Noelle, David Knapp, Raymond Richings and a few other oldies and goldies) and they keep me alive, young, faithful and hopeful. We have been blessed to have young interns with us from many countries of the world over the past six years. At present members of our staff come from Italy, Holland, Australia, France, and Hong Kong. I thank you for your dedication, commitment and love of Christ and the Church.
In a few weeks several founding members of our team will be moving on to very important jobs in the Church in Canada and the United States. Salt + Light Television is providing a new generation of leaders to the North American Church. Cardinal Marc Ouellet has appointed Jasmin Lemieux-Lefebvre as the new Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of Quebec City. Jasmin and his wife Justyna will move back home to Quebec to take up their new work in the Archdiocese of Quebec. And Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus in New Haven, has appointed our own David Naglieri and his wife Michele Nuzzo to the Senior Administration and Communications Team of the Knights of Columbus in New Haven.
While we are sad to see these young adults and stars move on, we know that strong bridges exist between Quebec and the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus and Salt + Light Television. We have been flooded with applications for their worthy successors. No need to worry!
Finally, I extend a very special thank you to Gabriella Catolino, our head of marketing and promotion, who organized this amazing evening at the Dead Sea. Gabriella’s expertise, professionalism, unfailing kindness and chutzpah have brought Salt + Light to a whole new level. I will be forever grateful to her for all she has done for us over the past year.
This evening’s event is the largest fundraiser yet in support of Salt + Light Television, and we are very grateful for your participation. It is a good opportunity for us to share our dreams and hopes with you as we expand Salt + Light Television, through our television broadcasts in English, French, Italian and Chinese language, new documentaries, our weekly SIRIUS radio programs, daily blogs and teaching texts.
Our programs are being carried by other networks, including Telelatino, EWTN, Catholic TV on the East Coast of the United States, and numerous smaller stations and networks throughout the world. For the second year in a row, we have won the Gabriel Award from the Catholic Academy for Communication Arts Professionals for “Television Station of the Year.” International awards for our documentaries are too numerous to mention.
My good friends, Hilary and Galen Weston invited me to their offices one week ago and informed me that they would be presenting us with one million dollars tonight from the Hilary Weston Foundation for Youth. Hilary’s presence, her wonderful words and presentation earlier this evening are deeply appreciated.
The gift of $500,000.00 from the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus is remarkable, and continues the long tradition of collaboration and cooperation between us.
Earlier this week we received a gift of $50,000.00 from the Desmarais Family and Power Corp in Montreal. And I am told that the proceeds of this evening’s gala will bring to us close to $300,000.00. That means 1.9 million dollars will benefit Salt + Light Television through this wonderful evening at the Dead Sea. What an historic moment especially against the backdrop of a very serious economic recession of the past two years!
Since our birth in 2003, Salt + Light Television has become an important and influential voice of the Church in Canada. With continued support from our viewers and friends, the network looks forward to future development and new and exciting projects and partnerships, especially with the Knights of Columbus and with school boards and dioceses across North America. We hope to break ground for our new broadcast facility in downtown Toronto in the New Year.
Last February, Pope Benedict XVI appointed me a Consultor to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications at the Vatican. This appointment is a clear recognition of the impact of Salt + Light Television in the universal Church, but also a tribute to the young adults who are the real stars of the network.
I will attend my first round of meetings at the Vatican with the Pontifical Council and the Holy Father in two weeks. The Bishops of Canada have also appointed me to their newly constituted Communications Commission of the Bishops’ Conference. I will join the Bishops at their Plenary Meeting in Cornwall beginning next Sunday evening.
It is no coincidence that we chose as the name and mission of our Catholic Television Network “Salt + Light” - one of Jesus’ most graphic and vivid teachings on a Galilean hillside. Salt preserves. Until modern times it provided the principal way to preserve food. In our conscience we associate it with longevity and permanence.
Loyalty and friendship are sealed with salt because its essence does not change. In both Islam and Judaism, salt seals a bargain because it is immutable. In Christianity, salt is associated not only with longevity and permanence but, by extension, with truth and wisdom. Our Church dispenses not only holy water but holy salt, Sal Sapientia, the Salt of Wisdom.
Salt gave flavor and zest to food; it made people thirst for something more. Jesus wanted his disciples to give flavor and zest to the world through his teaching; to preserve the truth as he proclaimed it to the world; to make the world thirst for more.
Jesus also called his followers to be the light of the world. He transfers his light to those who follow him: “You are the light of the world.” To follow the Lord Jesus, to be salt and light for the world, to bring the world the flavor of the Gospel and the light of Christ, is as real as it gets.
While Qumran and its famous scrolls tells the story of an ancient past, frozen in time, Salt + Light Television draws from the past and offers a vision of the New Jerusalem, of living stones, of the youthful Church of Jesus Christ that is “alive and young”, as Pope Benedict XVI said so beautifully at the beginning of his Petrine Ministry nearly five years ago.
The Essenes deliberately built their community in an inaccessible site on the shores of the Dead Sea. They were a somewhat fanatical religious sect, convinced that the leaders and people in Jerusalem had lost their way and had become unfaithful to God. They fled to Qumran to clear their heads and prepare for the coming of the Messiah.
Centuries later, on the shores of Lake Ontario, Salt + Light Television is one of the most accessible, visible, vibrant signs of hope in the Canadian Church. And the Lord is allowing this light to spread far beyond our borders. Rather than fleeing the confusion and ambiguity of our age, and hiding in the nostalgia of a past that is now buried in the heart of God, we have chosen to remain in the city, in the present, in the thick of things, offering the world the unambiguous message of the Gospel, the teaching of the Church, a ray of hope, and a dose of badly needed joy. The world needs Salt + Light Television now more than ever!
Thank you for your generosity, prayerful support and financial assistance to Salt + Light Catholic Television Network. In your gift packages you will find little bottles of salt from the Dead Sea as a renewed pledge of our loyalty and friendship, a sign of the longevity and permanence of our mission, and a symbol and gift of the truth and wisdom found in our programming.
…Thank you for making all of this beauty burn brightly for Canada and for the world. May God bless you with the flavor of the Gospel and the light of Christ!