When I was in Bogotá, Colombia, for the Opus Prize due diligence visit last May, members of our group would often express our fascination with the ambient, saintly presence of Sister Valeriana García-Martín. As she graciously led us through her facilities, we simply lost count of all the times her loving character and powerful aura left us stunned.
In short, she is an extremely remarkable woman, and I will be absolutely honored to see her again at the Opus Prize event on Wednesday evening. I also look forward to meeting the other two finalists for the $1 million Opus Prize: Aïcha Ech Channa of Casablanca, Morocco, and Father Hans Stapel of Guaratinguetá, Brazil.
I encourage all of my fellow students – as well as faculty and staff – to attend the 8 p.m. event in Orchestra Hall. To do otherwise would be a missed opportunity. Free tickets are available at the Box Office in Murray-Herrick Campus Center and at the College of Applied Professional Studies in Opus Hall on the Minneapolis campus, and buses will leave from Flynn Hall at 7 p.m.
During our visit to Colombia, we did not tell Sister Valeriana that we represented a Minnesota foundation interested in awarding her a substantial sum for her charitable work. However, it was a struggle to explain our presence in sufficiently vague terms in case the visit would be affected by the knowledge of our endeavor. In any case, we witnessed the work of her organization on an ordinary day – and what we witnessed was truly extraordinary.
Sister Valeriana led us into the rooms where the children slept. The rooms were filled with vibrant, playful bedspreads, which the children shared with a host of delightful stuffed animals. I chuckled when one boy about five years old showed me his secret collection of trading cards (stored under the mattress for safekeeping, of course).
It was humbling to hear that most of these children had been abandoned after birth by parents who were unwilling or unable to carry the burdens associated with their disabilities. Sister Valeriana said that even though she was cramped for space, she would not hesitate to find room for another such child when the need arose.
You will hear many more humbling and amazing stories Wednesday evening if you take the time to head to Orchestra Hall. Please join me!