YEREVAN — The $1.1 Million Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity was awarded on May 28, to Dr. Tom Catena, a Catholic missionary from Amsterdam, NY, who has saved thousands of lives as the sole doctor permanently based in Sudan’s war-ravaged Nuba Mountains. The Aurora Prize, granted by the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative on behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to their saviors, was announced at a ceremony in Yerevan. He was selected as the 2017 Aurora Prize Laureate from more than 550 nominations submitted from 66 countries.
George Clooney, Academy Award-winning actor, co-founder of both The Sentry and Not On Our Watch, and co-chair of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee, commended Catena by stating, “As violence and war continue to threaten people’s spirits and perseverance, it is important to recognize, empower and celebrate people like Dr. Catena who are selflessly helping others to not only survive, but thrive. Dr. Catena is a role model to us all, and yet another example of people on the ground truly making a difference.”
Dr. Catena received a $100,000 grant and the opportunity to continue the cycle of giving by donating the accompanying $1,000,000 award to organizations of his choice. Dr. Catena will donate the award to three organizations: African Mission Healthcare Foundation (AMHF), USA Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB), and Aktion Canchanabury, Germany.
For the last nine years, Catena — known by locals as “Dr. Tom” — has been on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the Mother of Mercy Catholic Hospital to care for the more than 750,000 citizens of Nuba amidst ongoing civil war between the Government of Sudan and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement. Patients have been known to walk for up to seven days to receive treatment for injuries from bombing attacks, and ailments ranging from leprosy and tuberculosis, to bone fractures to malnourishment and malaria. It is estimated that Catena treats 500 patients per day and performs more than one thousand operations each year.
On being named the 2017 Aurora Prize Laureate, Dr. Catena said, “We all have an obligation to look after our brothers and sisters. It is possible that every single person can make a contribution, and to recognize that shared humanity can lead to a brighter future. I draw my inspiration from the Nuba people. And with my faith as my guide, I am honored to continue to serve the world and make it a better place.”
“Dr. Catena is an inspiration to anyone who has ever doubted humanity. Despite tremendous injustice and sacrifice, he has dedicated his life to ensuring that the next generation has a brighter future,” said Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, co-founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative (AHI), and Aurora Prize Selection Committee member. “His service to others is an inspiration, and it is our hope that the individuals he has saved will continue the cycle of gratitude by becoming saviors themselves.”