Alliance Defending Freedom Founder Alan Sears, along with his wife Paula, recently received the distinct honor of membership into the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great. The Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix, formally conveyed the honor on behalf of Pope Francis to Alan and Paula Sears at an investiture service at St. Bernadette Parish in Scottsdale on Thursday night.
The Order was originally created by Pope Gregory XVI on September 1, 1831, to honor those who gave exceptional service to support the Papal States. When the Papal States fell several decades later, the pope extended the honor to those who gave extraordinary witness to the Church, whether they be Catholic or non-Catholic.
Every head of state bestows honors upon those who accomplish something significant for that state. For example, in the United States, the president awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to citizens and non-citizens. In the same way, even though it is about 100 acres in land, the Vatican, which is a sovereign country, grants honors to those who have labored in extraordinary service to the Body of Christ.
The Order bears the name of Pope Gregory I (known as Gregory the Great), a dedicated student of Scripture. His intense study of Scripture brought him to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. This pope (serving from 590 to 604) eventually commissioned a group of missionaries to bring the Gospel to the pagan Anglo-Saxons in England, successfully converting the community there. Evangelization was at the heart of Gregory’s mission.
Similarly, the work of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is indelibly connected to evangelization. ADF, along with ADF International, exists to keep the doors open for the Gospel worldwide by advocating for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family. The honor bestowed upon Alan and Paula demonstrates the esteem in which the pope holds the work of religious liberty and protection of conscience.
Alan and Paula Sears have sacrificed much for the Body of Christ through their work at ADF. Most exemplary is their personal witness. It is fitting, therefore, that they should be given this honor. They have devoted their lives in sacrificial service to support the rights of everybody to hear, share, and live out the Gospel.
During the investiture ceremony, the lector read from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “I handed on to you first of all what I myself received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried and, in accordance with the Scriptures, rose on the third day” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). The apostle Paul recognizes the gift given to him, and passes on that knowledge. He had received the grace attending the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ, with a resulting change of life.
Alan and Paula have also heard that Good News, and responded to the calling of God in their lives. This is clear from their work, not just with Alliance Defending Freedom, but also with the broader Christian community.
Congratulations, Alan and Paula. And thank you for all you have done for the Body of Christ.