September 08, 2022

Three finalists have been chosen for the Opus Prize, one of the world’s largest faith-based awards for social entrepreneurship. Catholic University led the search for the unsung heroes who are global changemakers. 

A week of activities connected to the theme of “Inspiring Changemakers” will kick off on campus starting Oct. 31 and will culminate with the announcement of the $1 million Opus Prize winner during a Nov. 3 awards ceremony held at the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center. The other two finalists each will receive $100,000 grants. All are expected to be present on campus. 

Each year, the Opus Prize Foundation awards the Opus Prize not only to strengthen the humanitarian work of the recipient, but to inspire others to pursue lives of service. The award recognizes leaders and organizations that develop creative, faith-filled solutions to some of the world's most pressing problems. 

University Held Lead Role in Identifying Changemakers

The foundation chooses a university partner each year to coordinate the process and evaluate finalists through on-site visits. This is the second time Catholic University has been selected. Under the leadership of Chairs Emmjolee Mendoza-Waters and William Jonas, anonymous “spotters” were asked to research and submit formal nominations of changemakers and their organizations more than a year ago. 

In February 2022, a panel of distinguished jurors, selected by the University, recommended three Opus Prize finalists and one alternate. In spring and early summer, the Opus Prize Foundation and delegates from Catholic University — students and faculty — conducted due diligence site visits. 

Finalists Reflect Global Need and Diversity

The three finalists come from the United States, Ecuador, and Nigeria. Each leads a very different ministry but with one purpose: to transform the lives of others for good.

Community Renewal International (CRI) was founded by Mack McCarter, the nominee, in his hometown of Shreveport, La., to implement his vision for renewing cities through restoring relationships. CRI, which now has programs across the United States and Africa, “intentionally builds and grows positive, caring relationships,” according to its mission statement. CRI connects neighbors and residents to restore the foundation of safe and caring communities through renewal teams, haven houses, and friendship houses. Major crime has plummeted in CRI neighborhoods and the relationships formed have led to creative solutions to strengthen the common good. 

The team that visited CRI included Blessing Oyedele, a sophomore politics major; Seniors Colin Agostisi, politics, and Darby Drake, biochemistry; and Kathryn Bojczyk, chair and associate professor of education.

Damien House, Inc. (Fundación Padre Damián), is a residential hospital founded by Sr. Annie Credidio, BVM, in Guayaquil, Ecuador, to provide care for individuals living with Hansen’s disease (or leprosy), and to eliminate the stigma associated with the disease. The staff focuses on providing joy, medical care, the arts, and compassion to uphold the dignity of the 30 inpatient residents and up to 700 outpatients, many of whom live in extreme poverty.  

Jamie Besendorfer, a junior majoring in business administration in marketing and entrepreneurship; Sina Nofoagatoto'a Jones, who is pursuing her master’s degree in social work; and Maryann Cusimano Love, associate professor of politics, formed the University’s delegation for the site visit. 

Interfaith Mediation Centre, in Kaduna, Nigeria, is led by Opus Prize Nominees Imam Muhammad Nurayn Ashafa and Pastor James Movel Wuye. The Interfaith Mediation Centre is dedicated to promoting trust and tolerance between Christian and Muslim communities. Its mission is to create a peaceful society in Nigeria and beyond through non-violence and strategic engagement.  Ashafa and Wuye led conflicting Christian and Muslim groups before joining forces to promote peace and build trust through the early detection and prevention of violence motivated by religious misunderstanding.

The Catholic University delegation for this program included William Barbieri, ordinary professor of ethics and director of the Peace and Justice Studies Program in the School of Theology and Religious Studies; Molly Mullin, a junior politics major; and Michael Rudzinski, who is pursuing a master’s in social work. 

Learn more about the Opus Prize and award-week activities at