(Photo: Kate Scott)
By: Trevor Pyle, Staff Reporter
On Monday, Oct. 9, a group of freshmen welcomed the three Opus finalists in the chapel. Each finalist gave spoke about their organizations and their personal journeys to kick off a week teeming with events at Regis, the Opus prize award ceremony is one of them. The three finalists gave insights into service, faith, purpose, and joy during their brief but impactful speeches.
The first to speak was Sister Marilyn Lacey, founder of Mercy Beyond Borders. Founded in 2008, Mercy Beyond Borders operates in war-torn South Sudan and recently opened a second operation in Haiti.
Sister Marilyn aimed her organization at addressing the needs of women and girls who are often left behind in their communities and viewed as lesser citizens. Through educational, economic, and empowerment opportunities, Sister Marilyn, and her organization remind these women and girls of their mutual humanity and their rights and power.
Sister Marilyn expressed that Sudan was the most war-ravaged place she had ever witnessed and she personally felt called to aid those in need there. She stated, “I was called by God to help those in need in South Sudan.”
I was able to catch up with Sister Marilyn after the talks and asked her to describe a moment in her personal journey when she felt the most discouraged or lost and how she overcame this adversity.
She then described her first experience with service work. She went to a refugee camp located on the Laotian, Thailand border, and served for one year there. After witnessing immense desolation at the camp, she returned to the U.S. to pursue a master's degree in Social Work from U.C. Berkeley. A crisis of faith ensued.
She contended with the luxury experienced by those in her community at Berkeley. After witnessing individuals living off of survival rations and then being surrounded by exorbitant amounts of food and luxury, how does one stay positive and inspired?
Sister Marilyn spoke of a dream that reminded her that there are endless things we can do but none of those things will come to fruition if we are passive or if we blame ourselves for the disparities in the world.
The second Opus finalist performs equally as inspiring work in Ghana. Sister Stan Terese Mumuni founded the Nazareth Home for God’s Children. Her organization aims to raise, protect, and nurture children known as ‘spirit children.’
In some communities in West Africa, children born with neural, behavioral, and/or physical disabilities are considered bad omens by the community and are cast out or even killed. Sister Stan takes in these children and provides them with a loving home.
I proposed the same question I asked Sister Marilyn to Sister Stan. Her response especially shook me and left me speechless:
She recounted an experience where one of her children died in her arms. In a moment like that, she said, disappointment and discouragement grip you and even everyday things such as eating seem pointless. However, she reminds us to hold on to glimmers of hope. The child was saved a disgraceful death and instead passed away in the arms of love.
Our third finalists are Dr. Jason Reinking and Dr. Noha Aboelata. Aboelata was not present at this event but will be present at the awards ceremony.
Dr. Jason and Dr. Noha operate in Oakland, California and their organization, Street Outreach Medical Program (STOMP) provides health services to the homeless. STOMP operates under the umbrella of Roots Community Health Center.
There are around 4,000 people who sleep on the streets in Oakland, and due to associated health outcomes, the average age of death for the homeless is 45 to 50 years old, nearly half that of the nation.
In addition to providing state of the art health services, Jason and his partners mostly try to talk to people; to reach out to people and walk with them toward their goals. For more information about Dr. Jason, read our story on his work here.
These Opus finalists will be on campus all week. This evening at the awards ceremony at 7:00 pm, the winner of the Opus prize will be announced and will be given one million dollars. The two runner-up finalists will each be awarded 100,000 dollars.