In a virtual gala on Oct. 28, 2020, the Catholic Business Network of Washington, D.C., honored Father Frederick Close, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Washington, with its 2020 Clergy of the Year Award.

“I am happy to be the recipient of this surprise award because God is all about surprises,” Father Close said as he accepted the distinction.

Justin Silvers, president of the Catholic Business Network, D.C., said in his opening address at the virtual gala that the Catholic Business Network seeks to both build “business among the Catholic community and to raise money for Catholic education which helps students transform their lives.”

“The value of a Catholic education cannot be overstated,” he said, noting how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected many Catholic schools who have had to provide new ways of learning in order to keep their schools and communities safe.

Cardinal-designate Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington, applauded the efforts of the Catholic Business Network to apply teachings of the Catholic faith to businesses in the nation’s capital.

“This is a wonderful tradition to gather as a business community to share in our unity of the Catholic faith and this local Church,” the archbishop said.

Cardinal-designate Gregory also gave a special congratulations to Father Close and to Charlie Wolf of the Payroll Network, who was named Catholic Business Person of the Year.

“Each is recognized this evening for their distinguished service, excellence and commitment to Catholic education,” he said. “Business leaders are important stakeholders in achieving the mission of our Church and our schools. The efforts of the Catholic Business Network of Washington, D.C. to apply the teachings of the Catholic faith in business while also providing support to the Church’s mission is more important than ever.”

The cardinal-designated commended the work of the Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Washington that serve nearly 26,000 students. “Our Catholic schools excel in developing our students as young scholars and young believers,” he said.

In a photo from a November 2019 Thanksgiving Mass at St. Anthony Church in Washington, Archbishop Wilton Gregory, now a cardinal-designate, blesses a student from St. Anthony Catholic School, while Father Fred Close, St. Anthony's pastor, gives Communion to a woman religious. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

Father Close is a native Washingtonian and a product himself of Catholic education, having attended Nativity School in Washington, D.C. as a young boy. In addition to his role as pastor at St. Anthony Parish, Father Close sits on the board of directors of the Consortium of Catholic Academies, a nonprofit organization that supports four Catholic elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Washington: St. Anthony Catholic School, Sacred Heart School, St. Francis Xavier Academy and St. Thomas More Catholic Academy.

Father Frederick Close serves as pastor of St. Anthony Parish and St. Anthony Catholic School in Washington, D.C. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

“Father Fred works closely with the Consortium of Catholic Academy’s leadership and even more so with my staff and me to work to ensure that our school remains vibrant and prepared to serve whomever may come to our door,” Michael Thomasian, principal of St. Anthony Catholic School, said while introducing Father Close. “Over his lifetime and especially over the last 14 years, Father Fred has been a champion for Catholic schools.”

Calling to mind how St. Anthony is one of the only saints often depicted holding the child Jesus, Father Close said that the Consortium of Catholic Academies seeks to do the same with their students.

“That’s what we do at St. Anthony School,” he said. “That’s what the Consortium does. That is what Catholic schools do. It is all about focusing on the beautiful mystery, the surprise of the child made in the image and likeness of God and chosen for His glory. We don’t ever want to lose the focus.”

To support the efforts of the Catholic Business Network of Washington, D.C. in supporting Catholic education, visit https://www.cbndc.org/ .