Newswise — ST. LOUIS — Saint Louis University and the Opus Prize Foundation announced the three finalists for the 16th annual $1 million Opus Prize, awarded annually to a leader in faith-based humanitarian work. The prize will be awarded Nov. 21 on the campus of Saint Louis University.

The Opus Prize, awarded each year in partnership with a Catholic university, is one of the world’s most prestigious recognitions for faith-based, nonprofit innovation and work. The $1 million award and $100,000 prizes for the other finalists make up one of the world’s largest faith-based awards for social entrepreneurship.

The Prize is given to an organization in honor of the winner. Opus Prize finalists are:

  • Individuals or organizations who champion faith-filled change
  • Doing work aligned with the mission and values of the Opus Prize
  • Committed to successfully transforming lives
  • Working anywhere in the world
  • Motivated by any faith or religion
  • Able to benefit significantly from the monetary award and recognition

Saint Louis University sent students, faculty and staff to the three finalists’ home countries this spring to witness firsthand the work of the leaders. The 2019 finalists come from Puerto Rico; the Democratic Republic of Congo; and Kenya. All the finalists will be at Saint Louis University the week of Nov. 17-22 for a week-long celebration and recognition of their work.

The finalists for the 2019 Opus Prize are: 

Michael Fernandez-Frey, founder and director of Caras con Causa (Faces with a Cause)

Caras con Causa is a non-governmental organization (NGO) serving economically poor families in communities bordering the Bay of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Caras con Causa, under the inspirational leadership of Fernandez-Frey, is committed to children’s education, restoring the wetlands after the hurricane, and organizing communities to protect themselves against the destruction of their homes by the government.

Sr. Catherine Mutindi, founder of Bon Pasteur

In 2012, Sr. Catherine started the organization in the Democratic Republic of Congo after being invited by the local bishop to come to the city of Kolwezi to work with widows and orphans.

Sr. Catherine first listened to the community and within 10 months developed a five-year plan which focused on addressing:

  • Alternative livelihoods to mining, including farming
  • Gender violence and the physical abuse of children
  • Child protection policies and schooling for children
  • Civic strengthening given the “gold rush” environment of the mining entities

Among the many successes in the seven years since her arrival is the enrollment of 2,899 children in school today.

Brother Charles Nuwagaba, Provincial Vicar of the Bannakaroli Brothers of St. Charles Lwanga

Brother Charles oversees a primary school and vocational education program run by the Brothers of Charles Lwanga on the edge of the Kibera slum, the largest slum in Africa. The primary school currently enrolls 280 students and 260 young people, including teenage mothers who are enrolled in vocational programs.

The vocational programs are an effective strategy in alleviating poverty and include programs in motor vehicle maintenance, hairdressing and beauty, hospitality, computer technology and more. The Bannakaroli brothers see themselves as defenders of human rights and as a voice for the vulnerable.

The Opus Prize Foundation

The Opus Prize Foundation is a private and independent nonprofit foundation. Established in 1994 by the founding chairman of earlier Opus Companies, the Opus Prize Foundation is a self-sufficient foundation independent from The Opus Group. The foundation selects universities as partners to organize and execute the Opus Prize selection process and award ceremony. Through these partnerships, students are challenged to think globally and inspired to live lives of service.

Saint Louis University

Saint Louis University is a Catholic, Jesuit institution that values academic excellence, life-changing research, compassionate health care, and a strong commitment to faith and service. Founded in 1818, the University fosters the intellectual and character development of more than 13,500 students on campuses in St. Louis and Madrid, Spain. Building on a legacy of nearly 200 years, Saint Louis University continues to move forward with an unwavering commitment to a higher purpose, a greater good.