The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Opus Group awards over $1 million

Ryan Sydlik | Thursday, November 9, 2006

Several faith based organizations left Notre Dame’s campus with over $1 million Wednesday night.

Hundreds of people gathered in the Joyce Center as the Opus Prize Foundation gave Zilda Arns Neuman, founder of Pastoral da Crianca (the Pastoral of the Child), over $1 million for the church’s continued work to aid the poor.

The Opus Prize is affiliated with the Opus Group, a $1.4 billion national real estate development company that rewards individuals combining “a driving entrepreneurial spirit with an abiding faith to combat poverty, illiteracy, hunger, disease and injustice.”

As a public health program, the Pastoral of the Child works with more than 265,000 worldwide volunteers that supply the needy with everything from nutrition to immunizations.

The organization – founded by Neumann and her brother in Brazil in 1983 – began when Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns, then archbishop of Sao Paulo, asked if she could do something to prevent Brazilian children from dying of preventable causes.

After receiving the award Neuman thanked many people, but she had special words of praise for the organization’s volunteers, calling them “true anonymous heroes.”

“They always want to learn more so that they are able to save more lives,” she said.

The Office of Farmworkers Ministry (OFFM) and Cristo Rey Network – two other Opus Prize finalists – were each rewarded $100,000 for their charitable work.

OFFM received an award for its work with struggling farm workers in Apopka, Fla. and Cristo Rey Network was rewarded for its work in providing a first-rate high school education for economically disadvantaged youths in cities across America.

Sister Ann Kendrick was presented the $100,000 award for OFFM.

“Tonight all of us honoring the people … who are making a difference … who look at the reality of the material poor who say we can do better than this,” she said.

Rev. John Foley accepted the award for Cristo Rey Network, and said he never thought the Network, which is on track to educate 12,000 students annually by 2012, would achieve such a level of success.

“The first day we opened school, I wanted to hide under the desk because I had no idea whether it was going to work or not,” he said.

The Student Opus Prize was awarded to junior Benjamin Gunty for co-founding Artisan Opportunities International, Inc. (AOI). AOI’s goal is to battle poverty in Latin America by teaching individuals how to make quality hammocks that can be sold.

Junior Brian Brownschidle, accepted the award for Gunty, who is studying abroad in Angers, France.

Reading from a statement composed by Gunty, Brownschidle asked the youth in the audience to “make a positive difference.”

“There’s far too much to be done in this promising age to let our own potential to go idle,” he read. “To everyone else, I ask you to believe in us relentlessly, listen to us critically, engage us lovingly and above all else, lead us by your experience.”

University President Father John Jenkins had words of praise for the award winners and encouraged everyone present to be inspired by them.

“They are people of faith … they have faith, a real joy and thankfulness in their service,” he said.

Jenkins said the award recipients are a living witness of Jesus’ words in that giving one will receive.

“I hope each of you were inspired by these awardees,” he said. “And I hope [each of] you will go forth this year and the rest of your life following their example.”