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Two Religious to Receive Presidential Accolades for Service to Irish Abroad

 Boston based nun and a Zambia based priest were named by Irish President Minister Michael D Higgins as two of the ten recipients of the inaugural Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad.

The new awards were conceived at the Global Irish Economic Forum in Farmleigh last year and are intended to honour those living overseas who have enhanced Ireland's reputation among the people of their adopted countries. 

Announcing the awards, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said that he was, “delighted to recognise the distinguished and sustained work made by these ten individuals to Ireland, Irish communities abroad or Ireland's international reputation by people living abroad.  We are honouring individuals who, in their own separate ways, have made a remarkable contribution to this country.”

Among the recipients is Laois born Sister Lena Deevy who is the Executive Director of the Boston Irish Immigration Centre (IIC).  Sr Deevy, a member of a member of the Little Sisters of the Assumption for over thirty years, took up her position with the IIC in 1990. 

Under Sr Deevy leadership, the IIC not only provides services for its own constituency it also reaches out to all immigrants in an inclusive manner.  Many international solidarity efforts have benefited from Sr Deevy's involvement including efforts supporting justice and peace in Nicaragua, El Salvador, South Africa and the Philippines.

Since moving to Boston, Sr Deevy has been involved with the Haitian Solidarity Movement and PeaceWatch Ireland.  She served as the Chairperson of the National coalition of Irish Immigrant Organisations from 1998 to 1999 and is currently serving as the chair of the Governor's Advisory Council on Refugees and Immigrants. 

Among her several awards, Sr Deevy was presented with the Isaac Hecker Award for Social Justice from the Paulist Centre in 1996 and the Governor's New American Appreciation Award in 1999.

Another religious receiving one of the Presidents awards is Tullamore native Fr Michael Kelly SJ. 

One of three members of his family to become a Jesuit, Fr Kelly arrived in Zambia in 1961.  He worked in education for several years and qualified as a child psychologist in 1975.  However from the late 1980's Zambia was in the throes of dealing with the devastating impact of the Aids pandemic Fr Michael redirected his attention to addressing HIV and AIDS. 

While much of the attention in the HIV/AIDS arena has been on the area of treatment and care, Fr Kelly has been a consistent advocate at national and international levels on the importance of prevention and the role of education in that context. 

He has consistently pointed out that education is the most effective ‘social vaccine’ against HIV and AIDS and that education helps prevent infection.  The longer children are in school, the higher the chances of delaying the starting age of sexual activity.

Fr Kelly's publications have become known throughout Africa and internationally.  His long list of publications includes some fifteen books, numerous articles in journals.  He has also contributed to the work of the World Bank, UNESCO, UNAIDS, UNICEF, OXFAM and a range of other AIDS related organisations. 

Since 2006 Fr Kelly has been a member of the Council of Consulting Fellows for the International Institute for Development planning in Paris, as well as a member of the Council of the University of Botswana in Gaborone.

Sr Deevy, Fr Kelly as well as the other recipients, Chuck Feeney (US), Pat Kelly (Canada), Pierre Joannan (France),  Sally Mulready (UK), Loreto Brennan Glucksman (US),  Andy Rogers (UK), Donald Keough (US) and the family of the late Jim Stynes, will be presented with their awards at an official event at Áras an Úachtaráin on November 15.

by Sean Ryan

© CatholicIreland.net 2002-2012



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