On Aug. 3, 2019 during its Jubilee Weekend, Maryknoll Lay Missioners proudly conferred its first annual Bishop McCarthy Spirit of Mission Awards on lay missioners who exemplify an outstanding dedication to the spirit of mission after their return to the United States from their overseas mission commitments.
The first recipients of the award are Cathy Breen (Class of 1989) and Wynnie-Fred Victor Hinds (Class of 1994). The Jubilee Weekend is an annual event for classes of missioners celebrating reunions divisible by 5 years (i.e., 10th, 15th, 20th, etc. anniversaries).
In 1996, Cathy Breen returned from seven years as a Maryknoll lay missioner in Bolivia to become a live-in volunteer at a Catholic Worker house of hospitality in New York City. However, her mission journey did not end there.
In 2002, Cathy traveled to Iraq as part of a peace team sponsored by Voices in the Wilderness. This became the first of many visits to Iraq, through which she formed ongoing relationships with those whose lives have been uprooted by conflict.
A prolific writer, she has shared her experiences and observations through countless articles. She currently volunteers for Voices for Creative Nonviolence, through which she continues to advocate for peace and to tell the stories of those affected by war and violence.
Wynnie-Fred Victor Hinds spent six years in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, with Maryknoll Lay Missioners. Since returning to Newark, New Jersey, in 2000, she has been a tireless advocate for environmental justice.
She has been active in several Newark and New Jersey-based environmental groups and currently serves as co-chair of the board of the Newark Environmental Commission. In addition, Wynnie-Fred is the founder and executive director of Stepping Stones Resources, a nonprofit focused on seeking long-term solutions to issues that affect the environment, health and quality of life.
Reflecting on her time as a lay missioner, Wynnie-Fred says, “I learned how unlimited the heart’s capacity to absorb and entrust love is. The way that the heart just gathers the love that people give you and the love you give—and how it heals itself during moments of anguish only to expand and persist—is what gives me the confidence and strength to continue working and fighting for a just and conscientious world.”
The Bishop McCarthy Spirit of Mission Award is named after the late Bishop John E. McCarthy of Austin, Texas, who died in 2018.
Throughout his life, Bishop McCarthy was a champion of social justice. He marched with Martin Luther King Jr. at Selma, supported the rights of migrant farmworkers and was one of the founders of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. As bishop of Austin, he established a project that provided free legal services to those in need and was one of the first bishops to call on Catholics to practice compassion for all living with HIV/AIDS.
A devoted supporter of mission in general and of Maryknoll in particular, McCarthy was also an avid promoter of laity in the church. As a result, Maryknoll Lay Missioners became one of his favorite causes. Through the years, he maintained close friendships with several lay missioners, including Marj Humphrey, who remembers him as “a charismatic person of great joy, with a sharp wit, a delightful sense of humor, and a passionate commitment to poor, marginalized and stigmatized people.” For Marj, “he was the embodiment of what mission is all about.”
Maryknoll Lay Missioners hopes to continue to honor his extraordinary life and his commitment to mission by offering this award annually at the jubilee (reunion) weekend.
For more information on the Bishop McCarthy Spirit of Mission Award or the Jubilee Weekend, please contact Debbie Northern at 914-236-3476.