MARYKNOLL, N.Y. — Maryknoll Lay Missioners have created the Bishop McCarthy Spirit of Mission Award to honor lay missioners “who exemplify an outstanding dedication to the spirit of mission after their return to the United States from their overseas mission commitments.”
The award is named for the late Bishop John E. McCarthy, who headed the Diocese of Austin, Texas, from 1986 until he retired in 2001. Known for his social justice and advocacy work, he provided national leadership for the church in its work to address systemic poverty. He died Aug. 18, 2018, at age 88.
In a news release about the award, Maryknoll Lay Missioners also announced its first recipients: Cathy Breen and Wynnie-Fred Victor Hinds. Breen was in the organization’s mission class of 1989 and Victor Hinds in the class of 1994.
They were honored during the Aug. 2-4 weekend celebrating the jubilees of six mission classes. Some 35 people from the classes of 1979, 1984, 1989, 1994, 1999 and 2009 participated in what is an annual weekend reunion.
Breen went to Bolivia in 1986, where she witnessed the “U.S. war on drugs,” documenting the effects of forced eradication of coca growers’ crops. For about eight of her 10 years in Bolivia, Breen served as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner. Returning to the U.S. in 1996, Breen joined the Catholic Worker movement as a live-in volunteer in one of the New York City houses of hospitality, where she continues to live and serve.
In 2002 she traveled to Iraq as part of a small peace team at the invitation of Kathy Kelly of Voices in the Wilderness. There she witnessed firsthand the consequences of the 2003 U.S.-led war on terror. She was in Baghdad during the war’s initial “Shock and Awe” bombing campaign and has followed the plight of Iraqi refugees fleeing war in Jordan, Syria and Turkey, revisiting Iraq to witness the reality Iraqis are suffering currently.
While deeply involved in the Catholic Worker, Maryknoll remains part of her extended community.
Victor Hinds served as a Maryknoll lay missioner for five years in Venezuela, working in community outreach and development. She also founded a music group in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, made up of children ages 6 to 13 years.
Upon her return to the U.S. in 2000, Victor Hinds worked as Maryknoll’s Eastern regional recruiter. Throughout the years, she has been involved with environmental issues in New Jersey. She is co-chair of the Newark Environmental Commission and is a board member of New Jersey Clean Water Action, board trustee of New Jersey Highlands Coalition and a social justice advocate.
She is also the community outreach and engagement manager for the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions. As a consultant for the United Nations Population Fund, she traveled to Egypt to evaluate and monitor the fund’s Global Youth Partnership Program.
Victor Hinds is executive director of her own nonprofit, Stepping Stones Resources, and her independent consulting business, SSR Consulting Group. She focuses on community engagement and organizing to get people involved in the decision-making process to find tangible and long-term solutions to issues that affect the environment, health and quality of life.
Bishop McCarthy, the third bishop of Austin, was supporter of mission throughout his life. He first came to know Maryknoll through Maryknoll Father Bill Woods; their friendship went back to their days in the seminary. Father Woods served in Guatemala advocating for poor and marginalized people until he was killed in 1976.
“Bishop McCarthy became an ardent supporter of Maryknoll Lay Missioners, as it blended his dedication to mission, laity in the church and Catholic social teaching,” the news release said.
Among his advocacy efforts, Bishop McCarthy wrote a policy statement on poverty for the U.S. bishops’ that became the framework for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the bishops’ domestic anti-poverty program. He also served on the board of Catholic Relief Services, the bishops’ overseas relief and development agency.