Priest featured in SouthtownStar Haiti series wins $1 million prize
By DONNA VICKROY firstname.lastname@example.org November 9, 2012 4:52PM
The Rev. Rick Frechette from Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos St. Damien Children's Hospital carries bodies from the city morgue to their graves at Titanyen, outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 12, 2012 6:33AM
The Rev. Rick Frechette, of Haiti, has won the prestigious Opus Award.
The $1 million humanitarian award, one of the world’s largest faith-based awards for social innovation, was presented to the Connecticut-born Passionist priest and doctor Thursday night at St. Catherine’s University in St. Paul, Minn.
“It’s like manna from heaven,” Frechette said. “It will fill in for the decline in fundraising, which is down because of the financial crisis in so many countries. This will help us to keep our programs going.”
In February, the SouthtownStar traveled to Haiti to report on how Southland contributions of clothing, supplies and medical goods are impacting the earthquake-ravaged nation. While there, we interviewed Frechette (southtownstar.suntimes.com/news/HaitiTwoYearsLater/index.html).
As regional director of the non-profit Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos, Caribbean, Frechette oversees a network of child care facilities that includes an orphanage, a pediatric hospital and several community outreach posts. He also runs the St. Luke Foundation, which provides 450 jobs, outreach and health care to more than 120,000 patients each year.
Frechette said he expects the bulk of the prize to go toward keeping the St. Luke Hospital running smoothly.
“This is just a big relief, because everything is so tight right now,” he said. In addition, he said, it brings “affirmation for all the hard work that the whole team does with humility and vigor.”
According to the Opus Prize Foundation website, “Opus Prize winners combine an entrepreneurial spirit with an abiding faith to combat seemingly intractable global issues like poverty, illiteracy, hunger, disease and injustice. Opus Prize winners demonstrate that change is possible, empowering and inspiring all of us.” The prize, first awarded in 2004, is meant to be a “cannon-shot” of recognition and support.
In addition to Frechette’s award, Segundo Velasquez of Mano a Mano International Partners, based in Minnesota and Bolivia, and Leonora Micheiln Laboissiere Mol of Atelie de Ideias, based in Brazil, were each awarded runner-up prizes of $100,000.
Frechette said the work of the other finalists is impressive and inspiring.
“If we were in better times, I’d have divided the whole thing by three,” he said.
The Opus Prize Foundation, a private and independent nonprofit group, partners each year with a university to organize the award process.
In a statement, St. Catherine’s officials said: “The response of Fr. Rick and his staff to the overwhelming poverty in Haiti is an inspiration. He is fearless in his willingness to accept any challenge and responds to needs on a massive scale, performing each service with hope and compassion ... While Haiti’s current needs are relentless and demand attention, the St. Luke Foundation is also working toward a more promising future by investing in the development of people.”