• Fr. Leo Schmitt was awarded the Saint Teresa Award 2016
  • Fr. Schmitt is a German-born priest who acquired Filipino citizenship and lived in the Philippines most of his life
  • He founded a foundation which buys land as relocation sites and builds homes for the poor

A priest who was born in Germany but eventually acquired Filipino citizenship has been awarded the Saint Teresa Award for his work in providing free housing for the poor in his adopted country.

Rev. Fr. Leo Schmitt, SVD, has been living in the Philippines for over 60 years since he was first assigned as a parish priest.

The now 88-year-old priest founded the Samahang Bagong Buhay Foundation, which works towards alleviating poverty for the impoverished Filipinos. Through the foundation, Fr. Schmitt was able to purchase lands to be used as relocation sites.

More than 1,000 families have since been housed in five different relocation sites.

“Ako ay Pilipino. Ako ang inyong kapatid. [I am a Filipino. I am your brother],” he told ABS-CBN News.

The award, named after the recently canonized Saint Mother Teresa, was given by JCI Manila, which had already previously honored the late Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin.

“What we saw was his contribution and the number of families that he helped,” explained Gio Valencia of the JCI Manila.

In addition to a trophy designed by artist Mel Aguinaldo, Fr. Schmitt also received a cash prize of P1 million, half of which would be given to a home for the aged in Antipolo City, which he has chosen to be his charity beneficiary.

“Though restricted by old age, Fr. Schmitt remains a vibrant and enthusiastic inspiration for all the clergy, both diocesan and religious. His life of simplicity, faithfulness, humility and pastoral service is his best contribution to the mission,” Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes told the website Live, Love and Pray.