Meeting a Real Life Hero
I had the great privilege to attend the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity ceremony in Yerevan, Armenia. It was my first visit to the country, and the opportunity to experience the rich history and culture of the Armenian people was a delight.
It was also a great opportunity to celebrate Armenian generosity as expressed by the Aurora Prize. Each year, $1.1 million dollars is provided in support of the unsung heroes in the humanitarian sector. The five finalists selected for the prize this year were all exceptional humanitarians operating in contexts of insecurity, oppression, and great need. They came from Syria, Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Sudan.
The tagline of the Aurora Prize is ‘awakening humanity’. Another slogan featured was ‘generosity in action’. Combining the traits of these two phrases sums up the character of this year’s selected laureate, Dr. Tom Catena.
Dr. Tom, as he is affectionately known by the people of the Nuba Mountains, is an amazing human being.
While in Yerevan, I had the privilege of walking and talking with Tom. His humility and generosity did certainly awaken my humanity. And for me, Dr. Tom defines generosity. He portrays his colleagues and patients in Sudan with dignity. Yet at the same time, he calls out the injustices perpetrated by their oppressors in this war-torn and forgotten region. With a spirit of deep love for the Nuban people, Dr. Tom lives out his calling as a medical missionary.
We all have an obligation to look after our brothers and sisters. It is possible that every single person can make a contribution, and to recognize that shared humanity can lead to a brighter future. With my faith as my guide, I am honored to continue to serve the world and make it a better place. – Dr. Tom
CMMB’s Longest Serving Volunteer
I remember working with Dr. Tom when he started as a volunteer. He was such a role model for people who are here to make a difference. Tom didn’t have any schedule as such. He worked all day, every day. He even worked all night if a patient needed him. I was a volunteer at that time as well, so I was very impressed by Dr. Tom and CMMB. I will always remember him as a very hard worker. He is a man who is really dedicated to helping people. – Anita McTernan, Coordinator, Comprehensive Care Center, Mutomo Mission Hospital
In 2007, Dr. Tom’s dedication and commitment to providing medical care to the most marginalized brought him to Sudan where, together with the Diocese of El Obeid, he helped establish the Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountains.
There are many beautiful moments from my time with Dr. Tom in Armenia, but perhaps the memory that I will always remember, occurred on our last evening in Yerevan. After the prize had been awarded and the formal celebration had ended, Dr. Tom and a few of us were walking back to the hotel. We were strolling down one of the main roads in central Yerevan, past restaurants and cafes and people returning from their own evening’s events. We were deep in our conversations when we suddenly became aware of some excitement around us.
People were running up towards us and calling out: “Hey Dr. Tom, can I have a selfie!?”
I’ve been given benefits from the day I was born. A loving family. A great education. So I see it as an obligation, as a Christian and as a human being, to help. – Tom Catena