Alvare receives Evangelium Vitae Medal

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Pro-life champion Helen Alvare was honored as the winner of the 2012 Notre Dame Evangelium Vitae Medal. Inaugurated in 2011, the medal is given annually by the University of Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life to an individual who "steadfastly" affirms and defends the sanctity of human life.

"From the television studio, to the radio airwaves, congressional hearing rooms, university campuses and forums beyond, you have spoken and acted with 'courage on behalf of those who have no voice,'" read the citation for the award.

The medal citation praised Alvare for more than 20 years of service defending and promoting human life. With quotes from Blessed John Paul II's 1995 encyclical "Evangelium Vitae" ("The Gospel of Life"), for which the medal was named, the citation stated: "In an age when the sanctity of life from its earliest to its final days is assaulted, you have boldly and unremittingly worked to build and sustain the 'unconditional respect for the right to life of every innocent person,' 'one of the pillars on which every civil society stands.'"

In her remarks after the medal was conferred, Alvare thanked all the people who had kept the pro-life movement alive and cited the large number of young people who are pro-life as a sign of tremendous success.

She described the pro-life movement not as a cause or an issue, but a way of life, God's way of trying to transform the activists personally as they do good for the world. The Catholic Church is the best at pursuing the truth about the human person and thus does pro-life better than anyone, she added.

Alvare said the pro-life movement has won the argument about the humanity of the unborn child, though formidable challenges remain because of the culture's distorted view of human sexuality - challenges that she said she went into academia to address.

In his introduction of Alvare, David Solomon, Notre Dame philosophy professor and chairman of the Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life, explained that the fund had been created by several Notre Dame faculty and staff members to support pro-life initiatives on the campus and to put in place a comprehensive pro-life educational effort at Notre Dame.

The 2011 inaugural medal winner, Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, was present for the 2012 event that honored Alvare, who was his former colleague.

Alvare worked for three years in the Office of the General Counsel of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and then became spokeswoman for the USCCB pro-life secretariat for the next 10 years. She then joined the faculty of the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America, and now is on the faculty of School of Law at George Mason University. Her scholarly work is in the areas of abortion's impact on women; marriage; parenting; and new reproductive technologies. Alvare is also a consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

In his homily at the Mass preceding the award banquet and ceremony, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend noted that the Gospel for that day reminds us the church is an "evangelizing community" with the obligation to spread the Gospel, for God wants all people to know the truth and be saved. However, evangelization faces many challenges in today's increasingly secularized culture, where relativism is rampant, religious liberty has come under assault, and the sacredness of human life has been discarded, he said.

Bishop Rhoades quoted the first words of "Evangelium Vitae": "The Gospel of life is at the heart of Jesus' message. Lovingly received day after day by the church, it is to be preached with dauntless fidelity as 'good news' to the people of every age and culture."

Therefore, the bishop explained: "The new evangelization requires 'dauntless fidelity,' courage, creativity, zeal and commitment" to "defend human life against the many threats from the culture of death in which we live." And he described Alvare as a wonderful example of the role of the laity in "wisely and courageously" proclaiming and serving that "Gospel of life."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970