(Photo: Frances Meng-Frecker)
By: Sally Andarge & Marley Weaver-Gabel
“That is my spirit, to go where the need is.”
Sister Marilyn Lacey one of the three finalists, couldn’t have put it into better words. The 2017 Opus Prize ceremony was the epitome of that one statement: the urgency to help those in need.
After a year of work and a busy week of events, Opus came to a close with the final award ceremony on October 11 at the Hyatt in Denver. The event was attended by Regis students and faculty as well as administration, special guests from the board of the Opus Prize Foundation, and administrative members of Regis University. Guests gathered in anticipation to hear the announcement of the winner of this year's Opus Prize.
Sister Marilyn Lacey, Founder and Executive Director of Mercy Beyond Borders, is the 2017 Opus Prize winner of the $1 million award! Dr. Reinking and Dr. Aboelata, and Sister Stan Terese Mumuni and their respective organizations will receive the runner-up awards of $100,000.
Each year, the selection process becomes more difficult because the finalists are so deeply aligned with the values of the Opus Prize Foundation. This year’s Opus Prize finalists undoubtedly embodied the Jesuit value of Magis by striving to do more for the communities that they could reach, starting with Sister Marilyn Lacey.
The student scholars that participated in site visits during March and May of 2017 introduced the 2017 Opus Prize Finalists. Christopher Lew, third-year student in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, along with Marley Weaver-Gabel, third-year student in the undergraduate program for International Business and Communication, presented the first finalist: Sister Marilyn Lacey.
Sister Marilyn founded Mercy Beyond Borders in 2008 after visiting South Sudan and finding that it was the most grief-stricken place she had ever been. Sister Marilyn and Mercy Beyond Borders offers support to young women by providing education and opportunities for empowerment for the female communities in Haiti and South Sudan. Sister Marilyn called students in attendance to be “plugged in,” which simply means to be connecting our talent and energy to passion and purpose.
Junior Bailey Gent, majoring in Peace & Justice Studies and Business, and Junior Katie Skowronski, majoring in Psychology and Neuroscience, welcomed the second finalist to the stage: Sister Stan Terese Mumuni.
Sister Stan Terese Mumuni, Founder and Executive Director of Nazareth Home for God’s Children in Ghana is another example of one of the finalists manifesting inspirational work every day. Her organization works to help and save “spirit children.” In some communities, it is a common belief that children who are born with deformities or disabilities are cursed or are bad omens and must be ostracized and sometimes even killed. Every day they demonstrate the Magis by dedicating themselves to spread God’s love and improve a child’s well-being. Sister Stan concluded her speech with a call to care, urging us, as students, to find the ways we can also share the goodness of God and touch the lives of others.
The last Opus finalists were introduced by Amy Kennedy, a graduate student in the Masters of Nonprofit Management program at Regis, and David Mooney, an undergraduate student in Philosophy and Economics.
Concluding the evening, we honored Dr. Jason Reinking and Dr. Noha Aboelata the Roots Community Health Clinic based in Oakland, California. As a team, they work to bring health care to low-income populations and most specifically the homeless community of Oakland. Not only do they offer “flexible medical services” but they also cultivate relationships with the communities that they serve, which makes them unique on an interpersonal level. The way that Doctors Reinking and Aboelata strive for more for these marginalized communities, exemplifies the Magis in a whole new way. As Dr. Aboelata concluded the finalist speeches, she painted an image of years in the future in which one of us, students, takes a place on a stage like Opus in honor of the heartfelt work we are bound to achieve.
Overall, we end up back at the beginning: the insatiable need to serve those who need it most. All three of the selected finalists pour themselves into this critical and selfless work every day. This is not something unique to our finalists, but this is something that we can all learn and draw from.
Fr. Fitzgibbons started the evening with warm remarks and transitioned speakers to the podium during the ceremony. Through the night, we heard from Opus Juror Susan Kramer, each finalist and the student delegates of each location. The ceremony emotionally moved the audience through words of inspiration and messages of faith.
As the honored finalists depart from Denver and return to their places of work, they take with them memories of Regis and Opus. As we reflect on their time with us, we are all left with more hope for the future.
Best of luck to each finalist in the next step of their journey, and thank you, for sharing one with us!