Mission Week: “Thank you for your service and for saving us.”
By April Beane and Becky Dubin Jenkins
“When you’re asking help for someone else, see how the Lord honors you.”
Monsignor Richard Albert recounted a story Thursday, February 7, about a young boy he came across at a city garbage dump in Jamaica. The boy was asking for help, not for himself but for his brother who was injured. So the monsignor helped. Some time passed, and the boy returned to visit the monsignor. While there, he was noticed and recruited by a talent scout, who helped him pursue a modeling career.
Monsignor Albert was not alone during this, Mission Week’s culminating event, a keynote roundtable, in sharing success stories about how his organization has helped some of the world’s most marginalized. He and the seven other living recipients of the Opus Prize for faith-based social entrepreneurship and the two representatives of the deceased recipients shared glimpses of their life’s journey — including the events that inspired them to find their calling.
St. Augustine said, “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage. Anger that things are the way they are. Courage to make them the way they ought to be.”
That kind of unwavering hope and courage kept Sister Beatrice Chipeta, RS, on her feet as she walked every day from village to village in Malawi to help care for the country’s more than 1 million orphans. According to Peter Daino, who gave her rides during her journeys and is now her deputy, she lived by the words of renowned American folk artist Anna Mary Robertson, also known as Grandma Moses: “Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living.”
Marguerite “Maggy” Barankitse says they call her the “crazy woman” because despite the horrors she has lived through, she fights for what she believes is right. During the Burundian civil war between the Tutsis, like herself, and the Hutus, she adopted a Hutu child. Because of her strong will, infectious smile and the foundation she started, Maison Shalom, she has helped erase prejudice from the hearts of thousands in Rwanda, including a child soldier she convinced — while at gunpoint — to become her driver rather than kill her.
The image of a women’s baby being pulled from his mother’s breast to be given away for adoption left a searing picture in the mind of Aïcha Ech Channa. So she started her revolt against injustice in Morocco, where single mothers were left no choice but to abandon their babies or be abandoned themselves. Her organization, the Association Solidarité Féminine, operates several businesses, and more than 50 women receive training each year in cooking, baking, sewing and accounting.
All of the Opus Prize recipients and representatives discussed how they felt privileged to serve. I can say it is the Marquette community that feels privileged for having been graced by their presence and inspired by their actions.
They challenged us and prayed for us to continue our service work and to live our mission. Which is something health sciences sophomore Rachel Pietrzar was ready to do as she passionately talked with her friend before the keynote about a new service trip she wanted to start: setting up water treatment facilities in third-world countries.
Ambassador Mark Dybul, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria and moderator for the evening, said it best in closing, “Thank you for your service and for saving us.”
After the keynote event, guests were invited to spend time with the Opus Prize recipients and representatives before a special dinner celebrating their contributions to the Marquette community and the world.
Other stories from Mission Week:
With his funding drying up last year, Rev. Richard Frechette, C.P. faced a choice: He could scale back his humanitarian efforts in Haiti and lay off half his staff, or he could start spending the six-week cash reserve he’d built up in case of emergency
Rev. Trevor Miranda, S.J., feels the hope alive on Marquette's campus. The 2005 Opus Prize recipient and founder of the Reach Education Action Programme in India delivered the homily of Wednesday’s Mission Week Mass.