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Archbishop receives award from state pro-life organization

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann is presented the Kansans for Life Heroic Defender of Life award by Danielle Greenwood, director of communications for the organization. The presentation was made April 11 during the organization’s annual banquet held at the Overland Park Convention Center. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MARC ANDERSON

by Marc and Julie Anderson

OVERLAND PARK — Heroic Defender of Life.

That’s the award presented to Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann by Kansans for Life on April 11 during its annual fundraising banquet held at the Overland Park Convention Center.

In his acceptance remarks, the archbishop thanked the 1,000 or so in attendance, especially the volunteers and staff of pro-life organizations.

“I believe it really represents not so much what I’ve done, but what our church is trying — and so many others — are trying to do,” he said.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann speaks during the Kansans for Life fundraising banquet at the Overland Park Convention Center on April 11. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MARC ANDERSON

Recounting how he first got involved in pro-life ministry, the archbishop said that in 1984, he was serving as an associate pastor at a parish in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. That year, he watched the Democratic National Convention. Geraldine Ferraro, a Catholic, was nominated as the vice presidential candidate.

“Immediately after receiving the nomination, she began not to defend life but defend abortion,” he said. “I was so saddened and discouraged.”

About a week later, the archbishop received a call from the priest serving as the archdiocese’s pro-life coordinator. The priest needed three names to submit to the archbishop as his possible replacement. Archbishop Naumann said he’d do what he could to support women and children, but he really didn’t think he was the most qualified choice. He was only on his second parish assignment and had not served in that ministry in any way — not even as chaplain for his own parish’s pro-life club.

When Archbishop John May called then-Father Naumann a few days later, he asked him to head the pro-life office.

“Again, I told him all of the reasons why I wasn’t the best qualified,” said Archbishop Naumann. “He said to me, ‘You can learn.’”

Sharing that story, the archbishop added, was important because, “You never know how the Lord uses defeats. Geraldine Ferraro unintentionally inspired me to want to get involved in a deeper way in the pro-life movement.”

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann leads a rosary in front of Planned Parenthood in Kansas City, Kansas. Efforts like this led to the archbishop being presented the Kansans for Life Heroic Defender of Life award. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Later in his remarks, Archbishop Naumann said that he was “grateful for this recognition. I feel very privileged to serve the years that I have, the opportunity to be friends with so many amazing people that are part of the pro-life movement.”

And he had a word of encouragement for his listeners.

“We know the victory has been won. We know that Jesus has defeated sin and death,” said the archbishop. “You and I, we are privileged to be part of what’s unfolding at this time and in this place. So, let’s stay strong and never grow weary.”

Prior to the presentation, Danielle Underwood, director of communications for the organization, said, “Archbishop Naumann has been a champion for life throughout his ministry, which has spanned almost five decades. In the early ’80s, he started working as the coordinator of the Respect Life office in St. Louis, Missouri, where he helped establish Project Rachel, a healing ministry for women suffering from the harmful effects of abortion decisions. In 2005, he became archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, and he chose as his episcopal motto in Latin, ‘Vitae victoria erit’ which means, ‘Life will be victorious.’”

Noting the archbishop has integrated his motto as a core principle into everything in the archdiocese, Underwood listed some of the ministries started or expanded under Archbishop Naumann’s leadership, including his support for unplanned pregnancy and adoption resources, fertility care, Project Rachel and Project Gabriel, as well as the launching of a nationwide initiative known as Walking with Moms in Need, initiated during his term as the first non-cardinal to lead the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-life Activities.

About the author

Marc & Julie Anderson

Freelancers Marc and Julie Anderson are long-time contributors to the Leaven. Married in 1996, for several years the high school sweethearts edited The Crown, the former newspaper of Christ the King Parish in Topeka which Julie has attended since its founding in 1977. In 2000, the Leaven offered the couple their first assignment. Since then, the Andersons’ work has also been featured in a variety of other Catholic and prolife media outlets. The couple has received numerous journalism awards from the Knights of Columbus, National Right to Life and the Catholic Press Association including three for their work on “Think It’s Not Happening Near You? Think Again,” a piece about human trafficking. A lifelong Catholic, Julie graduated from Most Pure Heart of Mary Grade School and Hayden Catholic High School in Topeka. Marc was received into the Catholic Church in 1993 at St. Paul Parish – Newman Center at Wichita State University. The two hold degrees from Washburn University in Topeka. Their only son, William James, was stillborn in 1997.

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