The Center for Ethics and Culture bestowed the Notre Dame Evangelium Vitae Medal, the preeminent lifetime achievement award for heroes of the pro-life movement, upon Mother Provincial Sister Loraine Marie Maguire and the Little Sisters of the Poor at a gala banquet on Saturday, April 9. More than 400 guests joined in the celebration, including many elderly residents from the St. Augustine Home in Indianapolis, one of 28 hospitality homes run by the Little Sisters across the United States.
"The Evangelium Vitae Medal recognizes those whose outstanding efforts have served to proclaim the Gospel of Life by steadfastly affirming and defending the sanctity of human life from its earliest stages until death," said Carter Snead, Director of the Center for Ethics and Culture. "That reverence for life is the cornerstone of the work of the Little Sisters of the Poor, who embody true compassion through their ministry to the more than 13,000 elderly people of every race and religion who live in their homes in 30 countries. They have given the world a powerful witness to the unique, inviolable dignity of every human person, demonstrating the radical solidarity and hospitality at the core of the Gospel of Life."
Read the full text of the medal citation here.
The evening's celebration began with Mass in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart celebrated by the Most Reverend Kevin Rhoades, Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, assisted by priests of the Congregation of Holy Cross. In his homily before the standing-room only crowd, Bishop Rhoades thanked the Little Sisters for their ministry of hospitality and for their courageous stand for religious freedom as they await the Supreme Court's decision on their case against the federal government's contraception mandate. "May you, like the apostles, rejoice that you have been found worthy to suffer dishonor of the sake of the name of Jesus!" said Bishop Rhoades. "Thank you, Sisters, for your witness to the Gospel of life by your loving care for the elderly and the poor!" The congregation spontaneously erupted in a two-minute standing ovation for the Sisters following these words of thanks from the Bishop.
Read Bishop Rhoades' full homily here (PDF).
"The existence of an award such as the Evangelium Vitae [Medal] is an opportunity for all of us to stop, reflect, and celebrate the meaning of the gift of life," said Mother Provincial Sister Loraine Marie Maguire. "We need occasions like this evening which help us witness to the two greatest gifts that our Heavenly Father could possibly give us: life here on earth, and the gift of eternal life that His Son, Jesus merited for us by becoming one of us. Thank you for celebrating this honor with us and the opportunity for the Little Sisters of the Poor to witness with you to the sacredness of life while at the same time joining our efforts and commitment for this important moral cause."
Also joining in the festivities were many representatives from local women's religious congregations including the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the Sisters of St. Benedict. The evening's celebration ended with a benediction from the Rev. William Lies, C.S.C., the University's Vice President for Mission Engagement and Church Affairs. Invoking special blessings upon the Little Sisters, Fr. Lies encouraged everyone to draw inspiration from the Sisters' mission: "May their example continue to inspire others, and may we all - together - grow ever more committed to supporting life at every stage."
A gallery of photos from this year's celebration is available here.
The Notre Dame Evangelium Vitae Medal is the nation's most important lifetime achievement award for heroes in the pro-life movement, honoring individuals whose outstanding efforts have served to proclaim the Gospel of Life by steadfastly affirming and defending the sanctity of human life from its earliest stages. Announced annually on Respect Life Sunday (the first Sunday of October), the Evangelium Vitae Medal consists of a specially commissioned medal and a $10,000 prize. Past recipients include Richard Doerflinger, Helen Alvaré, the Sisters of Life, Chris and Marie Smith, and the Knights of Columbus.