A nurse, a chastity educator, and the retired director of the bishops’ national grassroots organization received the 2015 People of Life Award for lifetime commitment to the pro-life movement, July 27, during the annual Diocesan Pro-Life Leadership Conference in Kansas City, Kansas.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, chair of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), presented the awards to Nancy Valko, Molly Kelly, and Michael Taylor. Over 120 diocesan, state and national Catholic pro-life leaders and guests from across the country attended the private awards dinner sponsored by the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.
Nancy Valko was recognized for her professional and volunteer advocacy, especially on disability and end-of-life issues. A registered nurse since 1969, she worked for 45 years in critical care, oncology, hospice, home health and other specialties. Valko formerly served as president of Missouri Nurses for Life, board member of the Saint Louis Down Syndrome Association, and co-chair of the St. Louis Archdiocesan Respect Life Committee. She is currently a spokesperson for the National Association of Pro-Life Nurses and serves as a legal nurse consultant with the Valko Group. Having cared for family members as well as patients with chronic conditions, disabilities and terminal illness, her compassionate insight informs her many presentations, media appearances, and articles on medical ethics in Catholic publications and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Valko has become a significant voice in the fight against assisted suicide.
Molly Kelly was honored for her decades as a pro-life speaker and chastity educator. Widowed as the mother of eight children, Molly began speaking in local schools on prenatal development and life affirming options for pregnant girls. While raising her family, she opened their home to five unwed mothers in need of support. Called to address the issue of chastity at first locally, and then in every state as well as Canada, Great Britain, and Australia, she engaged over 50,000 high school youth each year with the message of “saved sex.” Rather than moralizing or teaching merely abstinence, she proposed the beauty of self-control with frankness and affectionate humor. Her popular videos, including “Face-to-Face with Teens: Molly Kelly,” “Teens and Chastity” and “Abortion,” expanded her outreach to countless other youth in public and private schools, equipping them with the tools to make wise, healthy decisions in their relationships.
Michael Taylor was honored for 46 years of pro-life leadership, including 26 at the bishops’ pro-life grassroots mobilization organization, the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment (NCHLA). He holds a doctorate of sacred theology from The Catholic University of America. After Roe v. Wade in 1973, he helped to form NCHLA and to shape the bishops' Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities, which guides Catholic efforts in pro-life education, pastoral care, prayer, and public policy. From 1975-79, he served as associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, where he helped design the annual Respect Life Program still used in dioceses across the country. Taylor established and served as the first executive director of the National Right to Life Committee. He was also appointed to the Pontifical Council for the Family for five years. As director of NCHLA, he oversaw several massive postcard campaigns, in which over 138 million Catholics called upon Congress to enact the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban, oppose the “Freedom of Choice Act,” support conscience rights and maintain pro-life measures already in law. Today NCHLA’s online action center is the hub of Catholic grassroots email activity on federal laws and policies, and their website, www.EndRoe.org. . . , is a comprehensive resource for students studying abortion law in the United States.
The People of Life Award recognizes Catholics who have answered the call outlined by Pope John Paul II in The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae, 1995), dedicating themselves to pro-life activities and promoting respect for the dignity of the human person. It is bestowed in honor of their significant contributions to the culture of life.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, and a long-time member of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, offered his congratulations as well.
Valko, Kelly, and Taylor join 25 other People of Life Award recipients since the Pro-Life Secretariat inaugurated it in 2007. More information on previous recipients and on the People of Life campaign is available at: www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/people-of-life/people-of-life-award.cfm