Sister Andrea Kantner, OSF, presented with International Peace Award

Sister Andrea Kantner, OSF, receives the Community of Christ’s International Peace Award. (Megan Marley/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

INDEPENDENCE — If you are an area Catholic, you’ve most likely heard of the Franciscan Mission Warehouse on the campus of the monastery of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist. You may have volunteered or your children earned service hours there, or you may have attended one of their fundraisers. But do you really know how valuable the mission warehouse has become to the world’s poor?

Partnering with area medical facilities including K.U. Medical Center, Truman Medical Center (both campuses), two campuses of St. Luke’s Health System, St. Joseph’s Medical Center, Olathe Medical Center, North Kansas City Hospital, Liberty Hospital and Shawnee Mission Medical Center, the Mission Warehouse receives nearly 3 thousand tons of worn or stained but still useable sheets and blankets, unused supplies from surgical kits and used but still working beds and equipment that otherwise would end up in a landfill. These useable medical items, valued at over $33 million, instead are put to good use, helping set up hospitals and clinics in remote areas of the world where healthcare resources are scarce or non-existent.

Franciscan Sister Andrea Kantner, founder of the Mission Warehouse, has seen the mission grow from just one container in 1995 to 327 containers shipped to 31 countries suffering from wars, earthquakes, and over-arching poverty. Semi-truck loads of medical supplies and equipment have also been sent stateside to aid those devastated by hurricanes, tornadoes or other natural disasters, especially the poor.

The Sisters recently affiliated with Project Cure, the nation’s largest supplier of medical equipment, which will enable the ministry to acquire and ship to more people in need worldwide. The Sisters and Paul Wilson, their warehouse supervisor, also hope to be able to acquire or build a 50,000 square foot warehouse to improve storage, staging and shipping and allow the mission to help more needy people around the world.

These good works were recognized April 6 with the presentation of the International Peace Award at the Community of Christ World Conference in Independence, which attracts more than 3,000 people representing 44 countries worldwide.

The first International Peace Award was presented in 1993 and is usually given to one person or organization each presenting year. This year, in honor of the 25th year of the Independence Temple international headquarters, the Peace Award was presented to two local peacemakers: Sr. Andrea and Gary White, co-founder of Water.org. The Award recognizes individuals and organizations that personify the community’s mission to be peacemakers and includes a financial gift to be donated to the charitable peace, justice, or environmental organizations of the recipient’s choice. Honorees also receive an original sculpture by Wyoming artist Gail Sundell depicting two hands — of a child and an adult — holding a crystal globe of the Earth.

Sr. Andrea and White join a series of highly distinguished, internationally recognized justice and peacemakers including Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche communities for adults with developmental disabilities and primate researcher and environmentalist Jane Goodall.

The awards were presented by Community of Christ Prophet President Stephen M. Veazey. When introducing Sr. Andrea, he noted that since 1995, she has guided delivery of food, clothing, school supplies, and in the past couple of years, predominately medical supplies and equipment to Brazil, Ukraine, India, Malawi, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, El Salvador and Ecuador. He said the Franciscan Mission Warehouse sends 15 – 20 containers overseas and 22 stateside shipments each year.
“Without her, people in need of medical equipment and supplies would have to do without,” he said, adding that that was compassionate stewardship.

Sr. Andrea said that on behalf of the sisters, the staff and volunteers, she was “honored and humbled” to receive the International Peace Award.
She recounted reflecting on the most important points for her address, three kept coming to mind: be open to God’s call; trust and have faith; and ask others to assist in good works.

In 1995, Sister Andrea, who joined the community in 1954, came home to the monastery after serving 17 1/2 years teaching in a Brazilian mission. 
With her she brought requests from Brazilians she had served for one thing that could improve their lives: a crate of Pepto Bismol. She made a few phone calls and received not only Pepto Bismol, but also household goods, clothing, food and school supplies, enough to fill a 20-foot container.  

The plan was to send one container a year to Brazil.

God, it seemed, had a different plan.  Donations started coming in at a rate the sisters never expected. Over the ensuing five years, Sr, Andrea and the sisters sent 24 containers to Brazil. In 2000, aided by “a large donation and a leap of faith,” they built a 9,000 square foot warehouse on the monastery campus, so all donations could be sorted, stored, packed and staged for shipping in one place. 

As they again prepared to ship to Brazil, they learned that customs regulations in Brazil had changed, and they were advised to not ship to that country.

In her address, she recalled during that period of self-doubt after learning about the change in Brazilian customs regulations, she walked into the warehouse, looked around at all the laden shelves and pallets and uttered a “big, heartfelt prayer for guidance.” She admitted that she didn’t know what to do, but she had faith that God did know. “Let us know the place; give us the physical strength, more volunteers and the necessary funds and we will do your work.” She said within a month, the Mission Warehouse received requests from El Salvador, Peru and many other countries. They were back in business and it was booming.

“The window to Brazil had closed, but the door to the world had opened.”

She reminded the assembly that God’s will and love can be found in everything. He calls those who know they don’t have all the answers. When times get difficult, be thankful and trust in him. Step into the unknown, he will give you the strength. Be open and faithful — that’s what led me here tonight, she said. And don’t hesitate to ask others for help. Many times they won’t hesitate. Together you may change the world! All of us can be instruments of hope and peace, in our own lives, our families, our neighborhoods, our cities and our country.

Water.org is an international non-profit organization that pioneers market-driven financial solutions to the global water and sanitation crisis. The organization has helped more than 16 million people worldwide through small loans that enabled them to develop clean water sources and build simple toilets.

Gary White began helping solve the global water and sanitation crisis nearly 30 years ago, Prophet President Veazly said in his introduction.

“My work is motivated by my faith,” White said. He grew up in St. Bernadette’s parish and said he was educated by a community of sisters, and thanked Sr. Andrea for his spiritual education.

Sometimes, he said, living water is pure, clean water for drinking or cooking.

In his address, he said that the clean water crisis is both a humanitarian crisis and a market failure. It truly is expensive to be poor, White said.

“Although millions of people may lack access to clean water,” he said, “no one should lack access to hope.”

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Tuesday
October 22, 2019
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph