Harvest of Hope

Dr. Mark Kubala and his late wife, Betty

The 13th annual Harvest of Hope will be special for many reasons. Not only is the event a major fundraiser for the Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas, but this year the honoree is neurosurgeon Mark J. Kubala. The program will also be in memory of his late wife, Betty Fertitta Kubala, who passed away two years ago.

Harvest of Hope is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 12, at the MCM Eleganté Hotel Ballroom beginning at 6 p.m. with cocktails and musical entertainment, followed by dinner and the program at 7 p.m.

Single individual tickets start at $125 and go up to $2,500 at the Grand Benefactor level. Table reservations for eight are $1,000 – $20,000.

Catholic Charities is a faith-based nonprofit organization providing social services to residents in nine counties: Chambers, Hardin, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Newton, Orange, Polk and Tyler. People of all faiths and backgrounds are welcome and served through seven diverse programs addressing a variety of needs. And the contributions of people like Dr. Mark J. Kubala have made those needs easier to meet.

“Dr. Kubala is such a spectacular human being,” said Catholic Charities Board Member Linda Domino. “He is the most humble person you will ever meet, and what’s even more special is he wanted this year’s Harvest of Hope to focus on his late wife, Betty. He exemplifies the quality of a servant leader, and is a very kind and compassionate person.”

Mark Kubala was born in East Bernard in Wharton County, southwest of Houston. He graduated from the University of Texas in Austin where he was a Phi Beta Kappa scholar and elected into the Alpha Epsilon Delta Premedical Society.

He was then accepted to University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, where later he was honored with the Ashbel Smith Distinguish Alumnus of the Year, and was named Intern of the Year at Hermann Hospital Houston.

His neurological surgery residency was at Baylor University College of Medicine in Houston and he completed a fellowship in neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. He also served in the U.S. Air Force at Wilford Hall Hospital San Antonio for two years and was certified by the American Board of Neurologic Surgeons in 1968.

Kubala received several high honors by his peers, including the Distinguished Service Award from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons in 1998 and the highest honor from the American Medical Association in 2012, the Medal of Valor for Distinguished Service in Medicine. Locally, he was given the Julie Rogers Distinguished Service Award from the Beaumont Mental Health Association 2005, and the “Spirit of Love” Award from the Gift of Life Breast and Prostate Cancer Prevention Program in 2012.

“I have received a lot of honors in my life, but if my name and my wife’s name is going to help Catholic Charities, then I’m willing to be honored,” said Kubala. “It’s been two years since my wife has passed away, and she was well liked, and her memory is still very strong.”

Kubala and his wife, Betty, were married for 55 years and were very active in the Catholic Church. Betty was born in Galveston in 1935 and graduated from Lamar Tech, which is now Lamar University, in 1957. She and Mark were married Feb. 15, 1958, at St. Patrick’s Church, in Galveston, and she worked as a medical technologist for the first eight years of their marriage, supporting Mark while in his training and at the same time having four children.

Betty was an active PTA member, served as the chief Frito pie cook at West End Little League and was the first president of the reorganized Kelly High School Foundation and was a treasurer for Some Other Place. She was active in both St. Anne’s and St. Jude’s Ladies Clubs; served as chair for the St. Anthony Bishop’s Faith Appeal; Lady of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher; and much more.

Betty is best remembered for the manner in which she handled multiple illnesses and health challenges yet never complained or let it diminish her positive attitude, always using her experiences to comfort others.

“When it came time to be finished with the Air Force, I had offers throughout the state of Texas, but my wife’s family lived in Beaumont,” said Kubala. “I said, ‘What’s important in life? Make a lot of money or make your family happy? I knew my wife would be happy to be around lots of relatives and I knew I would be working and would be gone a lot, and we would get plenty of family support. I never regretted the choice of coming to Beaumont. It’s been a great place to raise children and a wonderful medical community. We have some really sharp doctors here.”

Kubala said that years ago, he noticed that doctors in the big city had a lot of money but were divorced and miserable, and that wasn’t his lifestyle. Dr. Kubala opened a private practice in Beaumont in 1966, though he now practices at Golden Triangle Neurocare.

“I told my children, if you have a failure, don’t be down on yourself; you are not that bad. But if you have some success, don’t get the big head; you’re not that good. Every blessing comes from God,” Kubala said. “I noticed a lot of those doctors in Houston really thought they were something better than everyone else. They forgot it’s not their gift. You have to keep that perspective.”

The mission of Catholic Charities

In keeping with the mission of Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas to provide services that address targeted human needs and contribute to human dignity, the programs of Catholic Charities are available to all without regard to race, gender, religion, age, or national origin.

Asset Building Case Management combines financial education with long-term case management, helping low-to-moderate income families repair their credit and commit to increasing their savings. Clients identify appropriate financial goals and receive case management support to make progress towards home ownership or continued education opportunities.

Counseling Services offers individual, couple, family and grief counseling according to a sliding-fee scale, making the service more affordable to those with limited capacity to pay for professional mental health support.

Disaster Response offers supportive case management and financial assistance to those in distress due to personal tragedies, as well as natural or man-made disasters. The program also coordinates emergency relief in cases of disaster and provides preparedness training to equip volunteers with skills needed to mobilize for future regional disasters.

Elijah’s Place gives peer and adult support to children ages 5-18 who are grieving the death of a parent or sibling.

The Hospitality Center is a food service site at 3959 Gulfway Drive in Port Arthur serving a hearty midday meal every day of the year to the homeless, unemployed, elderly, disabled or others who may lack access to sufficient food. The soup kitchen serves an average of 120 people every day, and 44,146 meals were served in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015

Immigration Services provides legal services according to a sliding-fee scale to help immigrants access affordable legal advocacy, which can provide them the legal protections afforded them under the law.

Parish Social Ministry lends support and training resources to local church leaders and members attempting to organize local social justice ministries and community services.

These programs supported by Catholic Charities, which help the most vulnerable and needy among us, are consistent with Dr. Kubala’s personal philosophy.

“You come in the world with nothing and you leave the world with nothing,” Kubala said. “When you face God, he’s not going to ask how much money you made or what honors you get, but did you take care of people? We all want to be in that angelic choir. I don’t mind sitting in the back, as long as you let me in.”

Jo Beth Jenkins and Gerri Christopher are co-chairing this year’s Harvest of Hope and recommend that those who want to attend purchase their tickets early by calling (409) 924-4411.