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Mercy sister awarded $1 million to help empower women and girls in impoverished nations

03 Sr Marilyn in SSudan village '66 PAGEMercy Sister Marilyn Lacey with young women of a South Sudan village earlier this year. Sister Marilyn sent this picture and caption for publication in the spring 2017 issue of Mercy High School, Burlingame’s “The Oaks” in a section noting what alumnae are presently doing: “Sister Marilyn Lacey, ’66, is still working full time, forging ways for women and girls in South Sudan and Haiti to learn, connect and lead.” (Photo courtesy Mercy High School, Burlingame)

October 19, 2017
Tom Burke

San Francisco native and Burlingame-based Mercy Sister Marilyn Lacey was awarded the $1 million Opus Prize for 2017 in ceremonies Oct. 11 at the Jesuits’ Regis University in Denver. Sister Marilyn, a member of the sisters’ West Midwest Community, was honored for her work with Mercy Beyond Borders, an organization she founded in 2008 after a visit to Sudan, at the time calling the African nation “by far the most devastated place I’d ever seen in my decades of doing refugee work.”

Sister Marilyn spoke from experience. She has been deeply involved in work with refugees and immigrants, including time ministering in a Laotian refugee camp, since 1981.

“After a global search for heroic humanitarian nonprofits, The Opus Foundation, in collaboration with Regis University, has awarded its annual Opus Prize to Mercy Beyond Borders,” Sister Marilyn said in a statement released by Mercy Beyond Borders Oct. 12. “The extensive 18-month vetting process included a site visit to MBB Haiti projects by foundation board members and Regis faculty and students. We thank you, our wonderful donors, for believing in our mission and supporting us in so many ways over these past 10 years. With the generous gift from the Opus Foundation, as well as your continuing and very crucial support, we will work together to do even greater things in the next 10 years.”

In a statement on its website, Regis University said: “The $1 million Opus Prize, funded by the Opus Prize Foundation and given in partnership with Regis University, will allow (Sister Marilyn) Lacey to endow more scholarships for her students, expand the reach of her programs and grow her staff to help even more women and girls in these impoverished and war-torn nations.”

“With operations in South Sudan and Haiti, Mercy Beyond Borders brings hope to more than 1,400 women and girls annually by providing educational, economic and empowerment opportunities where there are few options to escape extreme poverty,” Mercy High School, Burlingame said in a statement. Sister Marilyn is a 1966 graduate of the school.

Sister Marilyn celebrated 50 years as a Sister of Mercy in 2016. She was born in San Francisco and is a graduate of St. Dunstan School in Millbrae.

“I feel only gratitude and joy for this vocation to Mercy and the great blessing of meeting God in the poor,” she said in 2016 in a reflection about her time as a Sister of Mercy.

Sister Marilyn holds a graduate degree in social work from UC Berkeley and is the author of “This Flowing Toward Me: A Story of God Arriving in Strangers” (Ave Maria Press, 2009).

Honored with Opus Foundation prizes of $100,000 were Sister Stan Terese Mumuni of the Marian Sisters of Eucharistic Love for her work with the Nazareth Home for God’s Children in Ghana, and Dr. Jason Reinking and Dr. Noha Aboelata for their work with Roots Community Health Clinic in Oakland.

Information available from the Opus Prize website said: The Opus Prize is given not only to expand the humanitarian efforts of the recipient, but to inspire others to pursue lives of service. The $1 million award and two $100,000 prizes make up one of the world’s largest faith-based awards for social entrepreneurship.

Opus Prize laureates combine the spirit of innovation with amazing faith to inspire long-term, local solutions to address poverty and injustice. Opus Prize laureates prove change is possible, empowering and inspiring us all.

Opus Prize finalists are leaders who carry an unshakable faith, believing the problems they see around them not only can be resolved – they will. The award was established in 2004.

Visit www.mercyborders.org. For a video on Sister Marilyn’s work, visit www.opusprize.org/sister-marilyn-lacey.

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