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Life of Father Mathew Remembered at Kids Voting Event
 
BROWNSVILLE, TEXASOCTOBER 21, 2013 – Third graders from Incarnate Word Academy took turns hitting a large round piñata painted with the word “APATHY” at the culmination of a celebration to mark the 91st birthday of the late Father Armand Mathew, OMI.
 
Teacher Jesus Jaime of Incarnate Word Academy winds up to hit the Stop Voter Apathy pinata as his 3rd grade class cheers him on Teacher Jesus Jaime of Incarnate Word Academy winds up to hit the Stop Voter Apathy pinata as his 3rd grade class cheers him on during a Remembering Father Mathew event at the Main Courtyard.
Members of the campus community gathered today in the Main courtyard at The University of Texas at Brownsville, to honor Mathew’s legacy and to create awareness and raise funds for Kids Voting USA Brownsville in his memory.
 
A priest and community activist whose work took him where he was needed, including Washington, D.C. for a decade, and the founding director of the Center for Civic Engagement, Mathew passed away at the age of 90 in June.
 
“Father Mathew gave us all so much, so of course everyone wanted to give him something on his birthday every year,” said Dr. Selma Yznaga, Director of Advising, who served as master of ceremonies for the event. “But we soon learned that material things were not of much interest to our dear friend; after he established the Kids Voting Endowment, we knew exactly what would be the best gift for Fr. Mathew – donations to the endowment to help keep it growing and going strong.”
 
Mathew believed deeply in the mission of Kids Voting in Brownsville, and he worked tirelessly to establish the program, that encourages involved citizenship, in all Brownsville schools.  Knowing the initiative must be self-sustaining to ensure its survival, he created The Kids Voting USA Brownsville Endowment with UTB in 2005.
 
Michael Seifert, a community activist who works with the Marguerite Casey Foundation and Proyecto Vida Digna in Matamoros, Mexico, and a long-time friend of Mathew’s, addressed the group eloquently during today’s celebration of Mathew’s tireless efforts to make the world a better place. Seifert spoke of the changes coming to the Rio Grande Valley and the fact that within a very few years, UTB will be the second largest Hispanic serving university in the United States.
 
“We can sit back and watch things pass us by, or as Armand would say, we can get involved and work for change,” Seifert said. “And he understood that change is going to start at the grass roots and with our children. Teaching them from the very beginning about voting and being a part of voting was his life.”
 
Seifert said Mathew’s real passion was the struggle for justice.
 
2 dancers perform during a Remembering Father Mathew event on Monday, Oct. 21, 2013 at the Main courtyard. 2 dancers perform during a Remembering Father Mathew event on Monday, Oct. 21, 2013 at the Main courtyard.
“He had little patience for the folly of politics and the foolishness of people who couldn’t be bothered with reading the signs of the times,” Seifert said. “His only expressed fear was that Kids Voting would come to a stop after he was gone. I think we owe it to him that we make sure that the seed that he planted, and planted, and planted takes root and grows.”
 
As in past years, the UTB Center for Civic Engagement organized Father Mathew’s birthday party with entertainment and a hotdog lunch. Jesus Enrique Jaime’s third-grade students from Incarnate Word Academy sang “The Sunflower Song,” Juan Antonio and Alberto Chapa sang Mexican ballads, and Dr. Zelma Mata, Associate Professor of Health and Human Performance, and Santa Estrella of the Grupo Folklórico Tizatlán danced “La Indita,” dressed in their white lace costumes.
 
Dr. Olivia Rivas, Professor of Educational Psychology and Leadership, she said she hoped this birthday would begin a new era of the birthday gift tradition by helping spread the word of Father Mathew’s work to new students and faculty who never had the good fortune of meeting him.
 
“Father Mathew taught us if we want peace and we pray for peace, we must be informed and involved in our community, and everyone must learn about the issues and vote,” Rivas said.
 
For more information on Kids Voting, contact the Center for Civic Engagement at 956-882-4300 or civicengagement@utb.edu.
 
For information on making a donation to the Kids Voting Endowment, contact the Division of Institutional Advancement at 956-882-4328.

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