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Kerry missionary wins Mgr Hugh O’Flaherty Award

By Sean Ryan - 24 August, 2015

Redemptorist Fr Seán Myers serves a community in a Brazilian parish which is over half the size of Ireland.

fr sean myers - ‘Padre Joao - Irish redemptorist - brazilThe 2015 Hugh O’Flaherty International Humanitarian Award has been bestowed on an Irish missionary who hails from Co Kerry.

Fr Seán Myers is a Redemptorist missionary serving in Brazil. He was nominated for the award by the local community in Fossa, where he was born.

The award is made to individuals who embody the same humanitarian endeavour as Mgr Hugh O’Flaherty who helped save the lives of over 6,500 people, including Jews and Allied soldiers, from the Nazis in occupied Rome during World War II.

Making the announcement, the Chairperson of the Hugh O’Flaherty Memorial Committee Jerry O’Grady said, “Fr Seán is a worthy recipient and even at the age of 85, continues to serve his community in Brazil in a parish over half the size of Ireland.”

This year marks the eighth year of the memorial to the Vatican Pimpernel, organised to raise awareness of the humanitarian work carried out by Mgr O’Flaherty.

Over the past few months nominations have been invited for people or organisations, which have displayed the same humanitarian ideals and principals of the Monsignor and would be deserving of this award.

A shortlist of 10 nominees was considered by the independent award panel, at which it was agreed that Fr Myers would receive the award for 2015. Fr Myers was nominated by the Fossa community, the place of his birth some 85 years ago.

In the spring of 1960, the recently ordained Fr Seán and two Redemptorist colleagues arrived in north east Brazil and soon assumed responsibility for a parish over half the size of the island of Ireland.

Fr Seán’s nomination stated, “Much of the part of Brazil to which he was assigned in 1960 was unknown, inaccessible, ignored and neglected by the authorities. He quickly became widely known as ‘Padre Joao’. During his parish visits to the remote villages and homesteads in the interior, he encountered people who lived in isolation, without water, often hungry, illiterate and undocumented.”

“He found people who lived in fear of eviction, women who worried about loss in childbirth and children who spent their days tending animals. Having no deeds or proof of ownership ensured vulnerability when faced with the notorious ‘land grabbers’ and corrupt officials. They felt that nobody cared about them.”

“Fr Seán knew that nobody cared about them! He identified with their sense of helplessness and hopelessness. He knew the value of education, good health and the necessity of water and road access. His humanitarian and Christian spirit told him he had no option but to help.”

Because of the scale and remoteness of his parish, it has not been possible to communicate with Fr Seán on the decision to award him the 2015 Hugh O’Flaherty International Humanitarian Award, however, representatives of his family and the Fossa community expressed their delight to see him recognised in this way.

The Hugh O’Flaherty International Humanitarian Award will be presented to Fr Sean Myers by the Mayor of Killarney on Saturday 31 October at the awards ceremony in the Killarney Plaza Hotel.

Previous awarded winners include war surgeon Dr John Beavis and anti-suicide campaigner Donal Walsh.

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