Dr. Tom Catena gives the inaugural Catena Lecture on Medicine, Faith, and Service at Duke Divinity School.

In the Fall of 2019, the Theology, Medicine, and Culture Initiative launched the inaugural “Catena Lecture in Medicine, Faith, and Service.”


In 2019, Duke Divinity School received a $300,000 gift to endow the Thomas Gerard Catena lecture series, which is administered by the Theology, Medicine, and Culture (TMC) initiative of Duke Divinity School, in partnership with the Duke Global Health Institute and the School of Medicine (via the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities, and History of Medicine).

In tribute to Catena, the lectureship invites speakers whose work displays innovative scholarship, service and institution-building at the intersection of theology, medicine and culture.

The Inaugural Catena Lecture featured Dr. Tom Catena, who is the only physician for a population of more than 750,000 in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains, a conflict zone where humanitarian aid is restricted. At the Mother of Mercy Hospital, which he founded in 2007, he treats as many as 400 patients a day and is on call around the clock. Treating casualties of the region’s civil war, he performs more than 1,000 operations each year, often without running water or electricity.

In 2018, Catena received the Catholic Doctor of the Year Award from the Mission Doctors Association in Los Angeles. In 2017, Dr. Catena was awarded the $1.1 million Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, which honors unsung heroes working to preserve human life at great personal risk. He is the recipient of Honorary Doctorates from Brown University (2016) and Yerevan State Medical University (2017) and was named one of the 100 most influential people by Time magazine in 2015.

You can watch the inaugural lecture from Dr. Catena, “Gratitude in Action: One Doctor. One Hospital. One Million Patients.” from November, 19th, 2019 here:

After a two-year hiatus due to Covid-19, we are thrilled to announce the second annual Catena Lecture in Medicine, Faith, and Service, featuring Marguerite Barankitse, Founder of Maison Shalom International.

Watch the 2022 Catena Lecture:

Marguerite “Maggy” Barankitse was born at Nyamutobo  in 1957 in Ruyigi province, East-Burundi,. She was a teacher at a local secondary school, she then went to work as a secretary for the Catholic bishop in Ruyigi.

Despite mounting tensions, Barankitse put her dream of ethnic harmony into practice by adopting seven children: four Hutus and three Tutsis. As violence escalated between the two tribes following the assassination of the first democratically elected president of Burundi, a group of armed Tutsis descended on Ruyigi on October 23, 1993, to kill the Hutu families who were hiding in the Bishop’s manor. Barankitse had managed to hide many of the children but was caught by the fighters. They beat and humiliated her and forced her to watch the killing of 72 Hutus, but she refused to tell them where the children were hidden. Ultimately, she was spared only because of her Tutsi heritage. After the ordeal, Barankitse gathered her adopted children and the surviving orphans and hid them in a nearby school. As more and more children sought shelter with her, she decided to create a small nonvgovernmental organization: Maison Shalom, the House of Peace. Her house was open to children of all ethnic origins: Tutsi, Hutu, and Twa. She calls them “My Hutsitwa children”, and they call her Oma (or “grandmother” in German). In the following years, Maison Shalom in Ruyigi was one of the few places in Burundi where Hutus and Tutsis cohabited in harmony.

Since the events of 1993, over 20,000 children and youth have benefited from Maison Shalom. Before the current crisis in Burundi, the organisation employed more than 270 people, including nurses, psychologists, and educators who implemented special projects for the children.

In April 2015, Barankitse spoke out against the third term of President Pierre Nkurunziza and joined the youth demonstrations denouncing him. As a result, she was obliged to hide for a month in an embassy in Bujumbura. Eventually, she had to flee; the government had her name on a death list. Barankitse found herself a refugee.

Yet, her refugee status did not stop her devotion to alleviating suffering: She has opened a branch of Maison Shalom in Rwanda.