The Monignor Juan Gerardi Award
Monsignor Juan José Gerardi Conedera (27 December 1922 – 26 April 1998) was a Guatemalan Roman Catholic bishop and human rights defender who was long active in working with the indigenous Mayan peoples of the country. In the 1970s he gained government recognition of indigenous languages as official languages, and helped secure permission for radio stations to broadcast in indigenous languages. In 1988 he was appointed to the government's National Reconciliation Commission, to begin the process of accounting for abuses during the civil war.
He also worked on the associated Recovery of Historical Memory Project (REMHI) sponsored by the Catholic Church. Two days after he announced the release of its report on victims of the Guatemalan Civil War, Guatemala: Nunca Más!, in April 1998, Bishop Gerardi was attacked in his garage and assassinated.
2014 Awards Recipient: Padre Wendell Verrill
Padre Wendell was ordained a priest in 1963 at Holy Cross Cathedral in Boston where he later served the Latino community for 18 years. Eight of those years he also served as director of El Centro del Cardenal, a social service agency for Latinos in the South End of Boston.
Prior to this Padre Wendell served in Peru and Bolivia as a missionary with the St. James Society which is where he learned Spanish. During his time at the Cathedral he also contributed articles to the Catholic newspaper, the Pilot, and for 10 years contributed a weekly column in Spanish to La Semana, a weekly newspaper based in Boston. He also provided radio programs in Spanish and produced over 200 half-hour television programs in Spanish for Catholic TV, a cable network.
In 1994 Padre Wendell was asked to serve as pastor of St. Mary Parish in Waltham which had a growing Hispanic population. He was pastor for 12 years during which time the Guatemalan community grew rapidly.
Due to health issues he resigned as pastor in 2006 and retired to Hingham, MA. He continues to serve the Latino community in retirement, most notably as the regular celebrant of the Sunday Mass in Spanish at St. Mark Church in Dorchester since 2009.
In 2012 Padre Wendell visited Guatemala for 12 days as part of a pilgrimage and retreat experience focusing on the martyrs of Guatemala and El Salvador. He also serves on the board of directors of Only A Child, a grass-roots program serving abandoned children in Guatemala City begun and directed by Waltham resident, George Leger.
For his unwavering service to the Guatemalan community, Casa Guatemala is proud to present Padre Wendell Verrill with the Monsignor Juan Gerardi Award.