Four Pastoral Care Leaders Honored For Exemplary Service
The Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church recognized exemplary and distinguished service of four pastoral leaders who have dedicated their lives to care for immigrants, refugees and people on the move. The awards were given during the Awards Banquet of the National Migration Conference 2008 held at the Hilton Washington Hotel on July 28-31, 2008. The four chosen awardees are admirable role models of selfless commitment to the mission to outreach to Catholic groups which because of special needs (language, occupation, or distance) are not able to participate in regular parish services.
Fr. John Jamnicky, a priest from the Archdiocese of Chicago, and Fr. Callist Nyambo, a priest from the St. Petersburg diocese received the Archbishop Silvano Tomasi Award. The award is presented to two individuals from the pastoral care networks to honor their dedication and exemplary care of immigrants, refugees and people on the move on a national, diocesan or parish level.
Fr. John Jamnicky began caring for civil aviation travelers and airport employees as Airport Chaplain of the Chicago O’Hare Airport in 1981. He was the founding president of the National Conference of Catholic Airport Chaplains and for many years, president of the International Association of Civil Aviation chaplains, an ecumenical and interreligious group dedicated to the mutual development of airport chaplains and chaplaincies. Fr. Jamnicky served as the Coordinator of Mobility Apostolates for USCCB and tirelessly worked to promote the ministries for airport travelers and workers as well as the Apostleship of the Sea. He started an organized Catholic cruise ship chaplaincy six years ago in collaboration with the Apostleship of the Sea-USA to ensure that thousands of crew members and millions of cruise ship passengers have access to valid Sacraments provided by legitimate priests.
Fr. Callist Nyambo, an immigrant priest from Tanzania, came to the United States in 1978 as a student of the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, CA where he received a Master in Sacred Theology degree. He has worked for more than 20 years in the Diocese of St. Petersburg, FL in various capacities- as pastor at three parishes including his current parish, All Saints Parish in Clearwater, FL. He served as diocesan director of the Office of Black Catholics for ten years. Fr. Nyambo was also very much engaged with strengthening national organizations and in representing to voices of African and African-American Catholics. He was a Board member of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, the founding president of the African Catholic Clergy and Religious Association in the USA, the current president of the African Catholic Clergy Association, and the national consultant for Tanzanian Apostolate to the USCCB. Fr. Nyambo is called, “Chief” by African Catholic leaders because of his superb leadership and humble servanthood. He lives God’s love for all His people through openness as a pastor of multicultural parishes where he is well-respected and loved.
The Distinguished Service Award is presented to individuals who have demonstrated outstanding service in their pastoral ministry with immigrants, refugees, migrants and people on the move. The two awardees for 2008 are Sr. Gabriella Williams of the Diocese of San Bernardino, and Dr. Paule Verdet of the Diocese of Boston.
Sr. Gabriella Williams provides outreach assistance at the Lower Desert Consultant for Social Concerns in the Diocese of San Bernardino, CA. For many years she provided migrant ministry leadership training through the Catholic Migrant Farmworker Network and has been the steady support to thousands of migrant and immigrant families living in dilapidated, no-permit mobile home parks in the agricultural areas of Riverside County’s desert. Sr. Gabi’s relentless advocacy for the residents resulted in the building of a community and child care center in Duroville Park, one of the many parks she reaches. Today at Duroville, the center serves as the gathering and learning venue for classes in English and Spanish languages, adult life skills, after-school tutoring for young students and many community celebrations. Housing and social services are other passions where Sr. Gabi contributes resources to repair trailers that allow residents to connect with the few existing social services available to them in desert country.
Dr. Paule Verdet left France for Chicago in 1948 and became a Sociology professor at Boston University. She began working with refugees in Boston in 1975 when she encountered Vietnamese and Hmong who could not speak English and needed housing desperately. This presented an opportunity for her to pay-back for the welcome she received when she first arrived. She twisted the arm of a rich friend who bought multifamily houses and allowed Paule to fill them to maximum capacity with newly arriving Hmong families. She organized ESL classes for women with student volunteers from Boston College. She helped ferry families to social welfare offices, schools, hospitals and churches. She sponsored the resettlement of numerous Hmong families in Boston and was an avid vocal advocate on their behalf to the point that the Hmong community began calling her “Mother.” Paule continues to work with Hmong Catholic catechists in the continuing evangelization of the Hmong community and has facilitated cross-fertilization among Hmong catechists in the East Coast from Rhode Island to Massachusetts to North Carolina.
The four deserving awardees were chosen from 18 candidates submitted by co-workers and volunteers in the pastoral care for migrants, refugees and travelers networks. The Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church is grateful to all who sent nominations.