Ogechi Akalegbere 2021 Winner of CCHD’s Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award

Ogechi Award

Ogechi Akalegbere was honored as the 2021 Winner of CCHD’s Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award on November 16th during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fall general assembly in Baltimore. The award recognizes a young adult between ages 18 and 40 “who demonstrates leadership in fighting poverty and injustice in the U.S. through community-based solutions.”

Akalegbere epitomizes Holy Childs’ founder, Cornelia Connelly, with her service to others and being a woman of “action not words.” Her service is multifaceted. As the Christian Service Coordinator for Holy Child, she coordinates all of the student service projects. In her spare time, she is the co-chair of the pastoral council at St. Rose of Lima Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, where she leads training on equity for parishes with Catholics United for Black Lives. She is also a board member/volunteer community organizer for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (an interfaith organization Action in Montgomery).

Akalegbere’s efforts to ensure that personal experiences, struggles and viewpoints are heard are the reason why Genevieve Mougey, Director of the Office of Social Concerns in the Archdiocese of Washington, nominated Akalegbere for the award. She described Akalegbere as “a woman who integrates the Gospel into every facet of her being.”

Akalegbere said she takes her inspiration from the Gospels and Catholic social teaching. She holds a strong belief that people of faith are called to uphold the dignity of those on society’s margins: the elderly, the young, the poor, the struggling, the immigrant.

Upon receiving the award Akalegbere remarked, “I’m honored to be named this year’s U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Cardinal Bernardin Award recipient. It’s extremely humbling to have been nominated and won this national honor. I’m excited to highlight my social justice work and to have been formed as a leader by my parish, community organizing groups, and the many I have been blessed to encounter through service. My wish is that more young leaders are encouraged to practice love in action through deep encounters that inspire justice.”

Catherine Albornoz ‘98, Head of Mission and Campus Minister at Holy Child, was overjoyed with the news, “I am elated that Ogechi is being recognized and her message is being hearkened. She is an inspiration to me and the students. I am blessed to call her a friend, a partner, and a colleague.”

Dr. Shannon Gomez, Holy Child Head of School, also expressed her excitement, “Congratulations Ogechi on receiving the 2021 Winner of CCHD’s Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award! It is an honor to have you as part of our Holy Child community, we are so proud of you!”

Ogechi at mass
Catholic Standard photo by Andrew Biraj