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At Decision Of Pope Francis… Alan And Paula Sears Receive Highest Honor For Lay People

July 11, 2017 Frontpage No Comments

By DEXTER DUGGAN

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — An international leader for faith, family and freedom who lives in this area wondered why the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix wanted to have a meeting at the chancery.
As co-founder of one of the world’s leading legal organizations defending traditional values, the Alliance Defending Freedom (adflegal.org), Alan Sears had encountered many powerful figures, both friends and opponents.
But, Sears said on June 29, he didn’t know why Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted called him and his wife, Paula, down to the diocesan headquarters.
Speaking with The Wanderer on the campus of St. Bernadette Catholic Church in north Scottsdale, about five miles northwest of ADF’s own headquarters, Sears said he asked himself, “Were we in trouble? A fund-raiser?”
However, he said, Olmsted disclosed the news that Pope Francis wanted to honor them for their defense of traditional morality with investiture into the Papal Order of St. Gregory the Great.
“No words to describe” hearing that news, Sears told The Wanderer. “We were so humbled when we found out. Paula and I broke into tears at the bishop’s office.”
Sears said he thought their award is “a direct message of love from the Holy Father to those” who work on the issues of morality, faith and freedom.
An ADF news release said investiture into the Order of St. Gregory the Great is “the highest honor that the Pope can bestow upon lay people….The Pope bestows the honor upon both Catholic and non-Catholic men and women for having shown, ‘by their sustained service, extraordinary love for Jesus Christ and His Church’ in their communities and countries.”
Shortly after investing the couple at St. Bernadette’s on June 29, Olmsted told The Wanderer it was the first time he performed this ceremony since becoming a bishop in 1999.
As about 600 people attended the 54-minute evening vespers service in the church, the Searses stepped forward and knelt before Olmsted as he presented their medals, an eight-pointed cross suspended from a representation of a crown of laurel wreath attached to a ribbon.
They rose, turned toward the audience and received rousing applause.
Although this parish, where the Searses worship, is more than two decades old, the impressive new church building in traditional cruciform architecture was dedicated in late May. A baldacchino rises above the main altar.
A statement from ADF quoted Alan Sears: “Paula and I are more than humbled by this honor. My first reaction was to wonder how on earth did we get picked out of all the great people in the world who do so many wonderful things for God, for His Kingdom, and the Church?
“Christians and people of good will everywhere should have the freedom to live consistent with their faith and to follow their conscience. We have counted it a privilege, with God’s grace, to do our part to protect these freedoms,” he said.
“Pope Francis repeatedly has spoken strongly about religious liberty, marriage and family, and the sanctity of life, so it is a distinct honor to be recognized by him for our work in those areas,” he said.
During Olmsted’s homily, on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the Phoenix bishop said the Church is still here 2,000 years after the apostles’ labors not because of its members but because of the promise of Jesus.
After Olmsted spoke, vicar general Fr. Fred Adamson ascended the pulpit to describe ADF as “a true friend of the Church.”
Framed proclamations in Latin from the Vatican of the Searses’ honor were placed on easels for viewing, denoting Alanum Eduardum Sears as a knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great, and Paulam Scott Sears as a dame of the order.
Married 28 years, the couple are parents to four grown children. Although Alan Sears stepped down as ADF CEO early this year after leading it from its early days in 1994, he continues to work more than a 40-hour week for the organization.
The Wanderer noticed some police officers in the vestibule of the church and asked one of them if any trouble had been expected. The officer replied no but noted these are days when there may be unexpected occurrences at gatherings.
This investiture, however, experienced no difficulties.

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