The Diocese of Allentown will launch its annual Catholic Charities program on Sunday, March 3, at 5 p.m. at The DeSales University Center, Center Valley. The theme for the sixth annual gala will be "Caring for Our Communities."

The diocese said the theme was selected to reflect the work of the annual program as a critical safety net throughout the five-county area of the diocese. "We care for our communities every day by providing the services to people who would not receive the help they need without Catholic Charities," said Pam Russo, executive director of the agency and the diocesan secretary for Catholic Human Services.

This year's event will honor the Most Rev. Ronald W. Gainer, Bishop of Lexington, Ky., and a Pottsville native who served for many years in the Diocese of Allentown before being elevated to his current position, and Sister Janice Marie Johnson, RSM, who is well-known throughout the region for her work with the Bishop's Annual Appeal, on behalf of persons with disabilities and for her role in assisting special education.

All proceeds from the gala will support Catholic Charities programs and services in Berks, Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton and Schuylkill counties.

Co-chairpersons for this year's event are Linda Lapos and Paul Wirth, who served in that capacity last year, and Patty and Paul Huck, first-time co-chairpersons.

Other committee members are Bob Ford, John and Alice Freeh, Laurie Gostley-Hackett, Barbara Ludrof, Terry Novatnack, Peter Rautzhan, Debra Walter, Jim Friend, secretary for the diocese's Secretariat for Stewardship and Development, and Russo, secretary for the Secretariat for Human Services and executive director of Catholic Charities.

Entertainment for the event will be provided by the Becahi Jazz Band. The gala will also include a live auction, balloon and necklace raffles and a pledge appeal for Catholic Charities services.

To receive an invitation, to become a gala sponsor or to advertise in the program book, contact Sandra Gaspar, Catholic Charities Director of Advancement, (610) 435-1541, extension 302, or sgaspar@allentowndiocese,org.