Second annual Women of Faith luncheon also raises funds for Catholic education
Wednesday, November 11, 2015 Ana Rodriguez Soto – Florida Catholic newspaper
AVENTURA | Archbishop Thomas Wenski called them “living saints” who were being honored on the feast of All Saints.
But none of the 10 women honored by the archdiocese at the second annual Women of Faith luncheon could explain why she was chosen.
“I heard that I have faith, and not only that, I have compassion,” said Myriam Mezadieu, recipient of the St. Francis of Assisi medallion for exemplifying the virtue of compassion.
“I’m boring,” said Suzy Lacher, recipient of the St. Anthony medallion for exemplifying the virtue of humility.
“I’m really moved but let’s be honest, a woman of faith is not a woman of faith unless she has people behind her making her what she is,” said Cookie Gazitua, recipient of the St. Sofia medallion for exemplifying the virtue of wisdom.
“I have no idea, truthfully. I’m very humbled by it,” said Maria Arazoza, recipient of the Our Lady of Grace medallion for exemplifying the virtue of grace.
But even if words failed them, their actions spoke volumes.
Mezadieu has spent more than two decades helping immigrants get their day in court. She joined the staff of what is now Catholic Legal Services in 1992, when it was housed in a cramped corner of Notre Dame d’Haiti Church in Miami.
“Randy and I, we opened that office,” she said, referring to Randy McGrorty, executive director of Catholic Legal Services.
Mezadieu is now CLS’ chief operating officer — a job she handled long before she was given the title. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business law with a minor in communications and management; a master’s degree in international affairs; and is a fully accredited Board of Immigration Appeals representative.
She also directs The Most Sacred Heart Foundation, which is devoted to dealing with teen pregnancies and helping clients with their post-natal needs.
“As a Haitian, as a woman, as a black, as an immigrant, to be honored today by the Church, to me that’s what people of faith means,” Mezadieu said. “I’m honored to receive it but it’s only my faith that brings me here.”
Faith, too, is what enabled Maria Simosa to survive after the death of her second child, Armandito.
“It was the beginning,” she said, her eyes misting with tears. “God has always been in my family and in me. That became like a greater union of my family, always with God and the Virgin.”
The Venezuela native had moved to Miami in 2009 to escape the deteriorating situation in her country. Here, she continued the charitable works she started there, including serving as a trustee of the Fundación CASAMIGA, which provides academic scholarships and organizes sports teams for young people.
Her charitable work is now focused on honoring her son’s life. She and her husband recently made the largest cash gift ever to St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach.
“I feel very proud,” she said, “to be in this country and to be selected among so many women.”
While nine of those honored are firmly entrenched in careers and family life, the tenth is still in high school. Eve Moll, 17, received the St. Maria Goretti medallion for excellence in the virtue of youth.
She is a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, a National Merit Finalist, an AP Scholar with distinction and a nationally ranked debater. At the age of 12, she also turned “a small act of kindness for a friend” into a service project, ArtbyEve, that has raised more than $65,000 for local charities.
“She’s always been able to paint and draw,” said Eve’s mother, Diana Moll, a retired anesthesiologist.
Eve began by drawing a card to comfort a younger friend who had been diagnosed with leukemia. That turned into a Christmas card campaign to raise funds for his ultimately successful treatment. Then other charities began asking her to create cards for their fundraisers and “before you know it she’s painting for the Miami Heat, for whoever needs something,” said Moll.
She credits others for helping her daughter succeed.
“I’m surprised by the generosity of the people who make my daughter’s fundraising endeavors as successful as they are,” she said. Otherwise, it would be like “a bell ringing with no one hearing it.”
Of her own service, Mariana Martinez said, “It’s a way of thanking God for all that we have been given.”
The recipient of the St. Lucy medallion for exemplifying the virtue of radiance, Martinez also was at a loss for words to explain why she was honored. “If they give it to me I humbly accept it,” she said.
After some thought, however, she hit upon the meaning of “radiance” — and perhaps the reason for honoring “women of faith” in the first place: “Even though one is passing through bad times in life, faith in God radiates light and hope.”
She and her fellow honorees were helping others even as they spoke.
The luncheon, organized by the archdiocese’s Development Corporation, raised more than $50,000 to help students with financial need attend local Catholic schools. Last year’s luncheon raised more than $60,000.
Click here for brief biographies of each of this year’s honorees, and here to read Eve Moll’s speech extolling the value of a Catholic education.