Saturday, September 03, 2016

Jude Fournier Nominated for Congressional Medal of Honor

Every day in this country, ordinary Americans become extraordinary. It can happen in a single instance of bravery, or through a lifetime of service to others. These acts of courage and self-sacrifice symbolize the American spirit, and are recognized every year on National Medal of Honor Day, by our nation’s greatest heroes...To be considered for this rare civilian honor, nominees must have made a difference in the lives of others through a singular act of extraordinary heroism, or through their continued commitment to putting others first.
Jude Fournier was nominated this year for the Citizen Honors Program, sponsored by the
Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. While Jude did not make the final cut, he spoke humbly about the great privilege it was to even be nominated for this honor. I agree wholeheartedly that he fully deserved to be part of that list.

Several years ago,I was asked to speak about global hunger and poverty to a JustFaith Ministries class at Our Lady of the Most Rosary Catholic Community in Albuquerque. I asked Jude to come with me. We were both graduates of a JustFaith, a program that engages people of faith in discussion and experience of real-life issues.

Children at St. John XXIII wrote messages about hunger
A Great Story Teller
I invited Jude to come along because he brought along the real-life perspective that I lacked. Jude, who was then working as a chaplain at a hospice program in the Albuquerque area, is a great story teller. His stories carry a lot of weight because of his broad life experience.

How many of us can say we have helped with disaster relief in the aftermath of earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal? And raise your hands if you were part of the Witness for Peace delegation that opposed the US intervention in Nicaragua.  I cannot count how many times I have heard about Jude's travels to Malawi, Kenya and other countries in Africa to assist with programs for communities where people are suffering from AIDS and other diseases. You get the picture. At the JustFaith class, I offered the statistics and the big picture. Jude offered a story about the deep faith of a group of people that he met during one of his many visits to Malawi, as part of a program sponsored by a program affiliated with the Presbyterian Church.

The first time I met Jude, he had the role of director of social concerns at John XXIII Catholic Community. (With the beatification of Pope John XXIII, the community is now called St. John XXIII Catholic Community). At that time Jude was  a strong supporter of Bread for the World, so I asked him to do one of the readings at an ecumenical worship service at St. Timothy Lutheran Church. Jude, who believes legislative advocacy is an important element of fighting hunger and poverty, readily agreed.

The next time I crossed paths with Jude, he was director of religious education at Aquinas Newman Center.  At Newman Center, he led a program for parishioners on the spirituality of fasting.

Jude in deep prayer before delivering his sermon
A People Perspective
Jude also delivered the sermon for our U2 Agape Service in October 2007, sponsored by Bread-New Mexico, the ONE Campaign, Newman Center Campus Ministry, Lutheran Campus Ministry and St. Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church. The service was modeled after the U2Charist, which used songs from the rock group U2 to promote faith-based action against global poverty.

Here is an excerpt of a blog post I wrote about the U2 Agape Service.
The sermon was delivered by Jude Fournier, director of religious education at Newman Center, who spoke about his experiences working with victims of Hurricane Mitch in Central America, and also with villagers in Malawi for the past two summers. Jude related a touching story of his encounter of young refugee mother along the Nicaragua-Honduras border who had just lost her child. In the village of Chibanzi, Malawi, Jude had the opportunity to work alongside remarkable people who minister to people suffering with AIDS and their families. One Presbyterian minister shared with him that on average he presides over ten funerals per day. Jude was touched by the words above the minister's Prayer House. "First, dear child you must die to yourself and then you shall know the unimaginable joy of walking out of the tomb."
Jude is now director of religious formation at St. John XXIII Catholic Community. He has promoted many projects to help parishioners of all ages to enhance their faith. With his support, students who participated in Vacation Bible School in the summer of 2015 wrote messages on paper plates urging our US Representatives and Senators to strengthen child nutrition programs. The children received a nice reply from Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Even with his duties at St. John XXIII, Jude still takes time off from his duties to travel to Nepal, Africa and other places where he can lend a hand. Clara Maestas, business manager at St. John XXIII, wrote a great piece on Jude's nomination for the Congressional Medal of Honor for May 2016 edition The People of God, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Here is the link to the article, found on pages 23 and 32.

I have asked Jude to relate more stories from his experiences abroad in our Bread New Mexico blog. Stay tuned.

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