Father Rick Frechette, a priest and doctor active in the healthcare, education, and quality of life of Haitians living in Port-au-Prince, is the winner of the 2012 Opus prize for humanitarian entrepreneurism. The prize, $1,000,000, is sure to go a long way in Haiti in Father Rick’s intentional, effective and relevant ministry model. Father Rick is a passionate priest who has spent the last thirty years serving the people of Haiti. Roughly five years of so into his service he went to medical school to better meet the needs of the people he serves.
A former student of mine, now a college student at St. John’s University in Minnesota, had the pleasure of meeting Father Rick this spring on campus. He said, “One of the coolest things about talking to him was his commentary on the practical implication of theological teaching. Haiti has a myriad of social complications that does not support Catholicism. He spoke authentically and beautifully on the necessity to make concessions in canonical law if it essential in bringing the love of God to people.” He knows spiritual wholeness is tied up in wholeness of the body and justice in the world.
Father Rick, like so many committed Catholics ministers, showed up in Haiti with no preconceived ideas. He kept his eyes open and responded to the needs of the people as they arrived. He does not mince words or waste time. He acts. “Time counts. If not us, who? If not now, when?” This model would not work if he was acting on his own. He doesn’t pretend to be from Haiti. He doesn’t pretend to be a specialist in something he has no experience in. He says, “Trust God. Trust people. Trust their dreams.” He listens to the people and their dreams, and he walks with them as their dreams become reality through hard work and fierce love. Like the love of Jesus we see in the Gospel, the love of the ministries Father Rick has helped set up crosses societal boundaries to bring love and dignity to the orphans, the sick and the slum dwellers. He empowers them to stand up tall and when they are strong, to help their neighbors too. It is no wonder he was chosen for a humanitarian award. In demanding that the people of Haiti be treated with deep humanity, he encourages me to offer humanity to those in my life. I hope you feel encouraged, too.
What is your heart beating for?
Where are your steps taking you?
Who do you recognize as a fierce humanitarian in your life?
How can you offer others humanity today?