A tribute to Gospel workers

May 11 2003 | by

SAINT ANTHONY'S International Awards were created in 1998 to celebrate the centenary of our magazine, a carrier of news, often hidden and ignored, about the Catholic Church and human rights. This year, for the first time, the Award Ceremony - which has reached its third edition and was presented by Elisabetta Gardini and Jim Carrington - took place in the Basilica of Saint Anthony, attended by over 2,000 people.

Witnessing Jesus' solidarity and love is the most unconventional act of our time as it means going against the flow, facing incomprehension and sacrifice as well as feeling immense joy. These emotions were expressed on the faces of all the people in the audience as well as the four prize winners.


For the Witness category, which awards a lay or religious person who has given witness by concrete commitment in favour of human rights, according to the example of Saint Anthony, the Messenger's friars chose an 80-year-old Salesian nun, Sister Nancy Pereira. Since 1993, Sister Nancy - who lives in India - has been the 'banker of the poor'. In fact, she opened a bank counter offering loans to the have-nots (those who are unable to provide the guarantees asked for by traditional banks) so that they may begin working for themselves, escape poverty and help their country, without being dependent on hand-outs.

Sister Nancy's social rehabilitation programme has enabled many families living in Indian suburbs to hope for a better future and responsibly invest their small capital. Once their problems have been resolved, the families return the money loaned, allowing other outcast families to benefit from a 'loan of hope'. Sister Nancy, while receiving a cheque from Fr. Luciano Massarotto, the secretary of Saint Anthony's Charities during the ceremony, declared humbly: 'I don't deserve this, but I appreciate it very much all the same.' and she no doubt thought of the smile this sum of money would bring to the faces of those living in the slums.


For the category of Solidarity, a prize assigned to a group or association which operates in the volunteer sector, the Messenger of Saint Anthony's friars awarded the well-known Italian journalist Mino Damato, founder and president of Children in Emergency. Mino Damato recounted to those present at the ceremony how a photo of a Romanian little girl with tears in her eyes published in a magazine changed his life. Mr. Damato looked for this little girl infected with AIDS: her name was Andreia and he adopted her, removing her from the orphanage in which she lived in dreadful conditions. 'Yet when my little girl flew into heaven like a butterfly, I realised that there were many other children needing affection. Lots of them were unable to speak as nobody had ever taught them, they had never been cuddled or held in someone's arms. Many had contracted AIDS, and yet their most serious disease was not AIDS, but abandonment.' Mr. Damato thus began involving himself in helping these children whose lives last but a flash, visiting Romania in order to construct proper houses and institutes which take care of both their suffering bodies and needy hearts.

Suffering has personally touched this well-known Italian TV personality's heart and led him to acts of solidarity. Saint Anthony's Charities decided to make a contribution to his activity as well. Mino Damato was unaware of this donation presented to him during the ceremony and turned to the director of the Messenger of Saint Anthony, Fr. Luciano Bertazzo, saying: 'Once again Providence has preceded me! It often happens to me, and it has happened once more, to receive exactly what I need. We plan and work and the Lord ensures we are never without!'

Not just rubbish on TV

The Saint Anthony's International Awards also has two categories dedicated to Television and Cinema. Through this recognition, the friars, with typical Franciscan optimism, wish to demonstrate that not all that is shown on the silver screen or on our television sets is in bad taste or contrary to Christian values. For the Cinema category, the director Pupi Avati was presented the award for his film The Knights of the Quest (2001). This film tells the story of the journey to Thebes in Greece made by five young knights in 1271 in order to recover the Sacred Shroud and deliver it back to France and into the hands of the royal family. Upon receiving the Award, the director spoke of his childhood and his mother who used to take him to pray in the Basilica of Saint Anthony.

For the Television category, the prize went to Luca De Mata, director of the documentary Christ beyond the Iron Curtain, produced by the Italian television channel Rai Uno. This documentary tells of the tragic persecution of Christians in Eastern Europe during Communism, using witness accounts and images. A reminder in this day and age in which many seem to have forgotten the 'Church of Silence' and the massacres resulting in millions of deaths and martyrs.

Noa: the voice of peace

The prize giving was concluded with a beautiful concert by the Israeli singer Noa. She has been involved in reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis for years, turning her voice into a channel of peace which soars above borders, different religions and ethnic groups. She was the first non-Christian to sing Ave Maria before Pope John Paul II in 1994. She chose this song to begin her performance at the Basilica. After an hour of music, she concluded by singing her wish of peace for everyone. She then lit a candle for Hannukah explaining: 'This is the Jewish festival of light which overcomes the darkness. It is a symbol of goodness which triumphs over evil.' This feast charms Jewish children who gaze at the candles sparkling in the windows of their homes. Even Baby Jesus would have celebrated Hannukah with great joy.

St. AnthonyÕs

international family

The evening ended thus on the wave of music and everyone's heart filled with love and recognition. Once the applause was over, the crowds of people quietly filed out of the Basilica, taking with them all they had seen and heard and leaving the SaintÕs Basilica in peace and tranquillity.

Fr. Luciano Bertazzo, the General Director of the Messenger of Saint Anthony best summed up the award ceremony by declaring at the beginning of the evening's entertainment that the awards made in St. Anthony's name were not just assigned by the friars of the Basilica, but also by the many members of St. Anthony's international family world-wide: only thanks to the generosity and dedication of the readers of the Messenger of Saint Anthony will it be possible to spread the good work of the Gospel and charitable deeds begun by this Paduan Saint.

Updated on October 06 2016