On the evening of Thursday, October 21st, 2010, the Thomas Francis Meagher Division of Helena, Montana gathered at the Montana City Grill for the Division’s 26th annual Charter Dinner and the awarding of the Archbishop Brunett Medal for Social Justice. The award is named in honor of Archbishop Brunett, the now retired Archbishop of Seattle who was formerly the Bishop of the Diocese of Helena. All in attendance enjoyed a wonderful dinner and a great social evening. It was the 11th time the Archbishop Brunett Medal for Social Justice was awarded. The 2010 recipient, Gertrude “Gert” Downey from Butte Montana is an extraordinary woman whose faith driven life of compassion for others has greatly impacted her family and her community. A summary of her accomplishments is inspiring.
Gert Downey, born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1931, is the mother of 10 children and her life of public service has been driven by her Catholic Faith. The local Butte paper,The Montana Standard, in an article about her stated:
If you ask Gert Downey what her primary motivation is for helping others, she doesn’t hesitate to reply, “Faith”. … Downey added that she believes the best legacy she could ever leave her children and grandchildren is compassion for those who need help.
Gert worked with the Butte Silver Bow Anti-Poverty Council from 1965 to 1995, serving as the Director from 1991 to 1995. Over all those years, she obtained many grants for the needy, helped establish a transitional housing project for them called “Homeward Bound” and also launched a project called “Rosalie House” which provides low income housing for seniors. She has always treated people of all socio-economic levels and varied mental and physical disabilities with the same compassion and kindness, always being mindful of their inherent dignity as children of God.
Her other Faith driven achievements, too numerous to fully describe here, include: Associate of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth and through that association and Habitat for Humanity rehabed a home for a developmentally disabled couple; initiating a project which successfully funded and built a home for a grandmother struggling to raise the 3 children of her daughter, a single mother, who died of ovarian cancer ; active in the right to life movement, the LAOH, and the Living Word local prayer group as well as
attending daily Mass and serving as a Eucharistic Minister to those who cannot get to Mass. The story of her life and the remarks she made upon acceptance of the award were a moving and inspiring experience to all attending the dinner. It was a great evening in Montana !!