By Lou Baldwin

Special to The CS&T

PHILADEPHIA – The Cardinal’s Christmas Party for Children, an unbroken tradition since it was begun by then-Archbishop John F. O’Hara 53 years ago, had a new chairman this year – Jacqueline (Jacki) Delaney.

She succeeded long-time co-chairs Dan and Margo Pollett, who “did an absolutely fabulous job,” she said.

Delaney, who has Philadelphia roots, was raised all around the country because her dad was career military.

The former Jacqueline Jester, she and her husband, Jim Delaney, a retired financier, have been members of St. John Baptist Vianney Parish, Gladwyne, for the past decade. The parents of three grown children, James, Maureen and Drew, they were previously members of St. John Neumann Parish, Bryn Mawr.

Delaney, who is a member of the Development Committee of Neumann College and active with other charities, served as a committee member of the Cardinal’s Christmas Party for Children last year at the invitation of Deacon John Hunter, executive director of the archdiocesan Office for Development.

Among her other interests, she is an avid gardener who recently completed a horticultural program at the Barnes Institute and is actively involved with the Philadelphia Flower Show.

Already a committed member of her parish, Delaney felt drawn to becoming more aware her faith, so she enrolled in the Church Ministry Institute at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, graduating in 2006. Most mornings will find Delaney at her parish church. “I do go to daily Mass,” she said. “It guides my day and helps keep me focused. We all have busy lives, but this starts my day on a good footing; I feel the Holy Spirit will guide me.”

She had not previously realized that funds raised in conjunction with the Cardinal’s annual party go far beyond feting 400 or so underprivileged children during the Christmas season – the money helps to underwrite the outreach programs of Catholic Social Services every day throughout the year.

Delaney is aware that fundraising can be difficult in the present precarious economic climate.

“All nonprofits are down and unemployment is rising, goodness knows where we will be in a few months,” she said. “I really hope people will open their pocketbooks and wallets. If we have what we need we should be a little generous.”

Jesus “didn’t go to those who had, He went to those who didn’t have, and that’s what we need to continue to do,” she said.

Delaney found it especially thrilling to see the number of high school students who assisted at the party in some way, perhaps entertaining or serving refreshments or distributing gifts to the children.

“Later in their life, these students may remember the party and the children, and help financially,” she said. “It is a very magical time for the children.”

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.