Sister Lena Deevy LSA, Executive Director of
the Irish International Immigrant Center

Congratulations to Sister Lena Deevy, who was among the recipients of the first annual Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad. Other recipients of this prestigious honor are philanthropist Chuck Feeney, former Coca Cola head Donald Keough, Ottoawa-based publican Pat Kelly, French author Pierre Joannon, the late Australian Rules footballer Jim Stynes, community worker Sally Mulready, Fr. Michael Kelly, and chairwoman of the American Ireland Fund, Loretta Brennan Glucksman.

There are five categories to the award and Sister Lena Deevy won the award for Irish Community Support alongside Sally Mulready of Britain.

In a statement, President Michael D Higgins said, “Each of the awardees has distinguished themselves by the long-standing service they have given to Ireland and to the Irish community abroad.”

Explaining the initiative, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore, said he had made a commitment at the 2011 Global Irish Economic Forum to establish an award system which would provide formal recognition by the State to individuals resident abroad. He said “The Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad will acknowledge the many ways in which our Diaspora make contributions to Ireland. Some engage with Ireland and our overseas communities to stay connected with their roots, others do so to be part of our heritage and our culture. Regardless of the reason, their contribution is deeply appreciated. This annual conferring by the President will be a fitting acknowledgement of that. The award will now be presented on an annual basis.”

Sister Lena Deevy is the Executive Director of the Irish International Immigrant Center and has been a member of an international order of Catholic women, the Little Sisters of the Assumption, for over thirty years. Her unique ability to organize public works programs became her trademark early on. She specialized in creating job centers, drug abuse programs, playgroups for children, and home care service centers. Although she has formal degrees in nursing and education, she proclaims that she is self-taught and that many of her projects were created because she saw a need that she felt had to be met.

Many international solidarity efforts have benefited from Sr. Deevy's involvement including efforts supporting justice and peace in Nicaragua, El Salvador, South Africa and the Philippines. Since coming to Boston, she has been involved with the Haitian Solidarity Movement and PeaceWatch Ireland. She served as the Chairperson of the National Coalition of Irish Immigrant Organizations from 1998 - 1999 and is currently serving as the Chair of the Governor's Advisory Council on Refugees and Immigrants. In addition, she serves as a member of the newly created Massachusetts Diversity Team and on the Department of Public Health's Refugee and Immigrant Health Advisory Council.

Among her several awards, Sr. Deevy was presented with the Isaac Hecker Award for Social Justice from the Paulist Center in 1996 and the Governor's New American Appreciation Award in 1999.
The scheme is managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and nominations were made by Irish communities abroad through Ireland’s network of diplomatic missions. The awards will be presented at a ceremony in Áras an Uachtaráin on November 15th.