A Sister of Social Service and a psychotherapist received the 2012 People of Life Award for lifetime commitment to the pro-life movement, at an August 6 ceremony at the annual Diocesan Pro-Life Leadership Conference in Anaheim, California. The honorees were Vincent Rue, PhD, and Sister Paula Vandegaer, SSS.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), presented the awards. Over 85 diocesan, state and national Catholic pro-life leaders attended the awards dinner sponsored by the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.
The award recognizes Catholics who exemplify the call by Pope John Paul II in The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae, 1995) to dedicate themselves to pro-life activities and promoting respect for the dignity of the human person.
Rue, a practicing psychotherapist and traumatologist for 36 years, was the first mental health professional to provide clinical evidence of post-abortion trauma among women and the first to describe the adverse impact of abortion on fathers of aborted children. As co-founder of the Institute for Pregnancy Loss, he treats men and women traumatized by abortion and is a leading researcher in this field. Through published studies and as a legislation/litigation consultant, Rue’s expertise has helped shape pro-life laws and influenced court decisions.
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Sister Vandegaer, a licensed clinical social worker, has worked to build Christ-centered communities of support for abortion-vulnerable women and their families. Since 1967, she has helped to form hundreds of pregnancy help centers. She is the founder and current Program Director of International Life Services, an agency of 44 centers serving 28,000 women internationally annually. In 1989, she founded the Scholl Institute of Bioethics dedicated to research, service and education for those faced with difficult bioethical decisions. In 1997 she started Volunteers for Life, a group of volunteers who live in Christ-centered community, dedicating themselves to service agencies in the Los Angeles area. She is best-selling author of the first textbook for pro-life counselors, Introduction to Pregnancy Counseling (2000), and has lectured and conducted counselor training in 50 states and in Australia, Ireland, Belgium and Croatia.
The Pro-Life Secretariat has honored 17 other leaders since 2007.