'Unconventional' missionary gets this year's Hugh O'Flaherty award
Published 02/11/2015 | 02:30
An unconventional Irish missionary has been awarded this year's Hugh O'Flaherty International Humanitarian Award.
Fr Seán Myers (85) was not in Killarney to receive his award in person as he is still in active ministry in Juazeiro, a parish 400 miles northeast of Salvador in northeastern Brazil.
A native of Fossa in Co Kerry, Fr Myers has been in Brazil for the past 55 years and was the subject of a 'Radharc' documentary, 'Padre Joao is a Kerryman', in 1977.
In a speech delivered by his niece, Mary Vousden, he thanked his colleagues, family and people from home who had nominated him for the honour.
"My Redemptorist colleagues have always supported me in my 'unconventional' ideas.
"I cannot congratulate you enough on your choice for this award. After all, I'm just a cábóg from Barleymount living and praying with cábógs in the Brazilian backwoods."
Provincial of the Redemptorist Order in Ireland, Fr Dan Baragry, said Fr Myers was a wonderful role model for all young missionaries and humanitarian volunteers and richly deserving of the recognition he has now received.
He said that the paternalistic approach taken by Fr Seán, which often came in for criticism in the past, was now being championed by Pope Francis, which put the Fossa priest ahead of his time.
The award is named in honour of Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty, the so-called 'Vatican Pimpernel', who set up the Rome Escape Line, helping over 6,500 American and British servicemen, as well as Jews, escape occupied Rome during World War II by hiding them in safe houses.
Previous recipients include captured Goal aid workers Sharon Commins and Hilda Kawuki and the inspirational teenager Donal Walsh, who was awarded posthumously.