Couple to get award for work aiding Uganda, service in Denver
By Nissa LaPoint
Denver Catholics Albert and Marcellina Otii, known for their quick and easy charity both at home and abroad, will be honored at an awards dinner next month through the Office of Black Catholic Ministry.
St. Bakhita and St. Drexel Award Dinner
When: 5:30 p.m.-9 p.m. Nov. 9
Where: Bogey’s On the Park, 2500 York St., Denver
Cost: $30 per ticket
RSVP: by Nov. 1
Reservation: Mail check to the Office of Black Catholic Ministry, 1300 S. Steele St., Denver, CO 80210-2599
Information: Call 303-715-3165 or email email@example.com
St. Josephine Bakhita
This Sudanese-born former slave found freedom with the help of the Daughters of Charity. She converted to Catholicism and became a nun with the religious institute of the Daughters of Charity of Canossa in Italy, for whom she worked for 45 years. She was often called “Mother Moretta” or “Our Black Mother.”
St. Katharine Drexel
This American-born heiress dedicated her life and fortune to serving oppressed Native American and black peoples. She founded the religious congregation Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and during her lifetime opened, staffed and supported nearly 60 schools and missions in the West and Southwest. She also founded Xavier University of Louisiana in 1915.
“They’re always going that extra mile. They help in whatever way they can,” said Mary Leisring, director of the office.
The Otiis will receive an award at the fourth annual St. Josephine Bakhita and St. Katharine Drexel Award Dinner Nov. 9 at Bogey’s On the Park restaurant in Denver. The St. Ignatius Loyola Church parishioners were selected for mirroring the firm faith and selfless service of the Catholic ministry’s patronesses.
As initiators of the Denver-based ministry Team Africa: Ties That Bind, the Otiis have lent a hand to their native Uganda, recovering from the devastating and violent war in the 1980s.
After leaving Uganda in the late 1970s—then ruled by military dictator Idi Amin—the Otiis moved to Denver and in 2004 organized the first mission trip to support some 600 catechists serving 25 parishes in the Gulu Archdiocese. The catechists are instrumental in providing liturgies and pastoral care while attending to the sick and orphaned.
Since then, Team Africa has organized two more mission trips, a concert for youths and continues to raise funds to pay for 50 students’ school tuition.
Friends in Denver say the Otii’s service to the local community displays their love for the Church and commitment to serving the disadvantaged.
“You can always count on Marcellina and Albert’s home being open to welcome everyone. There are no strangers to them,” wrote Margaret Wright, who nominated the couple for the award. “Their leadership and strong faith are very much in alignment with the models illustrated by St. Bakhita and St. Drexel.”
At their parish, the couple serve as eucharistic ministers and have been part of the pastoral council.
The award is given to local Catholics who exemplify the 19th-century St. Bakhita of the Daughters of Charity of Canossa and St. Drexel, founder of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and Xavier University of Louisiana. The two saints were canonized Oct. 1, 2000.
The ministry gives the Bakhita Drexel Award to those who display exemplary service within and outside of the Denver Archdiocese.
“We wanted to do something to honor someone that has gone beyond their service to the black and African Catholic community,” Leisring said.
Tickets are available for this year’s award dinner through the Office of Black Catholic Ministry.