Project H.O.M.E. wins Romero award

Every year the religious studies department and the president of Mercyhurst University choose an organization for the Romero award.

This year the award was given to the founders of project H.O.M.E. (Housing, Opportunities for Medicine and Employment), founded by Sister Mary Scullion and Joan McConnon.

The organization works to help meet the needs of the homeless in Philadelphia. They find shelter for the homeless and help those who are struggling with mental illnesses and addictions. The H.O.M.E. program then takes one step further and searches for means of employment for them.

“I had never really heard about the Romero award before, but I like the idea that we give it to organizations like H.O.M.E. that are making others’ lives better,” junior Max Susko said.

This program has seen great success and has helped thousands of people. Mercyhurst is now taking the time to recognize this organization for all the good they have done.

Chair of the religious studies department, Thomas Forsthoefel, Ph.D., will present the award to H.O.M.E.

“Sister Mary and Joan have created something powerful, both as an instrument that has changed the lives of many, but also in its lucid vision, which embodies the compelling values seen in the Gospel. That, then, impacts us who see it, who learn something of what the call to justice and peace may mean in our own lives,” he said.

Since 1991, Mercyhurst has been giving out the Romero award each spring. The criteria for the selection of the award is an organization that possesses heroic commitments to justice and peace and embodies a Gospel vision that affirms the dignity of the human person, which may involve challenging structures that service the marginalization of a person and community.

“I think it’s a really great thing that Mercyhurst acknowledges organizations that try and help others and their community,” junior Ryan Fragapane said.

The award was named after Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of El Salvador in the late 1970s, who was murdered for speaking about justice and truth to power for a country that was struck with oppression and repression, ultimately attempting to stir up a civil war.

“We take the namesake of the award as our inspiration,” Forsthoefel said.

The first Romero award was given in 1991 to Daniel Berrigan. Other previous winners include the organization Pax Christi and Sr. Helen Prejean, the author of “Dead Man Walking.”

Last year’s winner was the Erie L’Arche Community and was presented to its founder, Father George Strohmeyer.

“The award becomes a moment for us in the Mercyhurst community to reflect on our deepest values and commitments,” Forsthoefel said.

The award was created to help establish the cardinal values of faith, justice, hospitality and compassion of ethos and culture.