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Give Richard Albert national honour

Published:Tuesday | December 1, 2015 | 11:47 AM


Needless to say, many are saddened and shocked by the untimely death of Monsignor Richard Albert. Originally from the Bronx, New York, Albert dedicated nearly four decades of his life to serving Jamaica's poorest, and for this he should be recognised by the Jamaican Government.

Although many are aware of his role in establishing the Stella Maris Foundation, few are cognisant of the fact that St Patrick's Foundation, based in Riverton City, was also founded by Albert. He was assigned by his superior to work in Jamaica for three years back in the 1970s. Those three years turned into 39 years of tremendous service.

There are many in Jamaica who still believe that leprosy was an ancient disease found mostly in the Bible, but few people know that it was Monsignor Richard Albert who took in the lepers after the Hanson Home for Leprosy was closing down in 1982.

Albert converted an abandoned building on Caymanas Estate to St Monica's Home, reassuring those afflicted with the disease that they would have a place to live. Persons who were homeless, those with HIV-AIDS, and the elderly with no one to care for them were also welcomed with open arms. Today, St Monica's is home to 35 residents.

Another skill-training organisation spearheaded by Monsignor Albert was the Seaview Gardens-based Christ the Redeemer Centre. It was built on land donated by the Jamaican Government and funded by a Dutch entity operating in Jamaica in the 1990s. Among today's offerings are: courses in business administration, remedial work, catering and cosmetology.

Msgr Albert was the 2004 Opus Prize recipient, a faith-based humanitarian award given annually to "unsung heroes working on the front lines". He also received the 2001 Path to Peace Foundation's Servant of Peace Award and was featured on one of America's most popular news magazine shows, '60 Minutes'.

Some may say that everything Albert did is a part of the responsibility of a priest. But how many foreign priests would stay in a country after dodging bullets in Waterhouse and receiving multiple death threats?

The international community has recognised Msgr Albert's work. The Jamaica that benefited from his tireless service should do the same.