January 1, 2023 | Local News
Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

This year’s honorees of the Bakhita Empowerment Initiative’s Liberation Award. Iris Gutierrez is seen third from left and Susan Montalvo-Gesser is seen fourth from left. COURTESY OF REBECCA ROBY

Two local women honored with 2022 Liberation Award


On Dec. 2, the Bakhita Empowerment Initiative of Catholic Charities of Louisville, Inc., honored two local women, Susan Montalvo-Gesser and Iris Gutierrez, with this year’s Liberation Award.

Montalvo-Gesser is the director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Owensboro. She oversees the western Kentucky-based Catholic Charities office, whose recent work includes spearheading tornado recovery efforts, assisting with local Afghan resettlement, accompanying migrants, and offering services to human trafficking survivors.

Gutierrez is a licensed professional therapist who resides in Lexington and offers telehealth services in Spanish. Gutierrez is a participant of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Owensboro’s Counseling Assistance Program, also known as CAP, which provides a list of counselors across the region who offer services at a reduced rate for Diocese of Owensboro parishioners (owensborodiocese.org/counseling).

The Bakhita Empowerment Initiative provides direct assistance and case management to survivors of human trafficking, also aiming to educate the community about human trafficking, as well as how to identify individuals who are being forced or coerced for the purpose of sexual exploitation or labor.

Originally printed in the January 2023 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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