Message from Father Trevor to Malcolm & Mariani
Dear Mariani & Malcolm,
Yesterday was the crowning of my labour of love and a recognition I would never have imagined. Not only was I awarded the $1 million 2005 Opus Prize given to an 'unsung hero' for outstanding humanitarian work, but Marquette University also conferred on me an Honorary Doctorate for my contribution to the field of education. The glittering function was held in the banquet hall of the university with a galaxy of about 500 guests which included university trustees, Opus prize board, major foundations, human rights groups, staff and students. The atmosphere was regal and super charged.
The programme began with a beautiful bharat natyam dance in honour of the Indian prize recipient.
After dance and introductions, one the students who visited the three awardees in their countries, shared their experiences of their visit, introduced the awardees followed by a video presentation on two huge screens. The prize winner was then asked to come on the stage and receive his medal, make his speech. The the other two awardees who received $ 100,000 each were presented their medals before dinner.
My suspense was to wait till after dinner! Before dinner the Marquette Gospel Choir rendered a beautiful invocation. The menu card had the three recipient's country's flag (Mexico, Kenya and India) and one dish from each of the three countries. The Indian dish was chicken tikka kababs!! (not really tikka!)
The 2005 Opus prize was conferred on me after dinner. The student who accompanied the team to India spoke about her visit and her experiences and then introduced me. Then the video of our work (which had all my 32 teeth beaming) shone over the screens!! You won't believe this, when I went up the stage I was given a standing ovation and a thunderous applause. My speech which was heard in rapt attention was very much appreciated and again I got a standing ovation. I couldn't believe all this and I could barely see, because by this time my vision was too wet and cloudy.
But the biggest surprise awaited me after my speech. The President of the University then conferred on me an Honorary Doctorate of Letters for my contribution to the cause of education and my many other accomplishments. After the citation was read he presented me the Doctorate Degree Certificate and put the Doctorate Hood on me. Again a thunderous round of applause. I couldn't believe all this was happening to me.
Present at the function was Fr. Hector D'Souza, the Jesuit Provincial of India, my two brothers and cousin priest (from New Jersey), my three staff and two friends who were my very first volunteers. It was an evening to remember and a good feeling that such a non-formal work among the poorest has received international recognition. The event was covered by the local press and TV, earlier the local Milwaukee paper and the Catholic Herald and radio ran features on me. Hundreds of websites featured the prize, including the Jesuits of USA and many of the Dioceses' newsletters too.
I am very much humbled by all that has happened and I dedicated it to all the unsung people on the streets, slums and tribal areas where we work and to all my team who share my passion and vision of bringing God's love and justice to the marginalised. It was an evening that will forever be etched in my memory and hearts. For my staff, it was a very moving experience.
Thank you for all your prayerful support and love which has encouraged me all along.