Belmont, N.C. The Benedict Leadership Institute at Belmont Abbey College is thrilled to award Mrs. Nina Shea as the recipient of the 2023 Benedict Leadership Award, to be presented in a public ceremony at Belmont Abbey College on March 30, 2023. This award highlights the incredible achievements of men and women whose lives reflect the heroic leadership of St. Benedict.
Mrs. Shea works extensively for the advancement of individual religious freedom and other human rights in US foreign policy as religious freedom confronts an ascendant Islamic extremism, and other authoritarian regimes. She advocates in defense of those persecuted for their religious beliefs and identities and advocates on behalf of diplomatic measures in order to end religious repression and violence abroad, whether from state actors or extremist groups.
Mrs. Shea was appointed by the US House of Representatives to serve as a commissioner on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom seven times from 1999 to 2012. During the Soviet era, Ms. Shea’s first client before the United Nation’s was Soviet Nobel Peace Laureate Andrei Sakharov. Since then, she has been appointed as a US delegate to the United Nations main human rights body by both Republican and Democratic administrations. She also served as a member of the Clinton administration’s Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad. In 2009, she was appointed to serve as a member of the US National Commission to UNESCO.
Mrs. Shea lead the effort of building grassroot support for the adoption of the International Religious Freedom Act (1998). For seven years ending in 2005, she helped organize and lead a coalition of churches and religious groups that worked to end a religious war against non-Muslims and dissident Muslims in southern Sudan. In 2014, she initiated and helped lead a coalition of hundreds of prominent American religious leaders to issue The Pledge of Solidarity for Persecuted Iraqi, Syrian and Egyptian Christians and Other Minorities, which was released by a bipartisan congressional panel on May 7, 2014. In summer 2014, she met with Pope Francis to discuss the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.
At Hudson, she has organized conferences for Nigerian schoolgirls and others who survived Boko Haram attacks, Christian converts formerly imprisoned in Iran, Coptic bishops from Egypt, Catholic bishops from China and the Gulf, Muslim scholars, and many others. Mrs. Shea advocates on behalf of a broad range of persecuted religious minorities around the world. For such work, she was honored by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA with the Community’s inaugural “Ahmadiyya Muslim Humanitarian Award.”
She has authored or edited four widely acclaimed reports on Saudi state educational materials that promote extremist views and in 2011 had an opportunity to travel to Saudi Arabia and speak directly about her findings with the ministers of Education, Justice and Islamic Affairs. Her reports include: Ten Years On: Saudi Arabia’s Textbooks Still Promote Religious Violence (2011), Update: Saudi Arabia’s Curriculum of Intolerance (2008), Saudi Arabia’s Curriculum of Intolerance (2006), and Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology Invade American Mosques (2005), all of which translated and analyzed Saudi governmental publications that teach hatred and violence against the religious “other.”
She is the co-author of Silenced: How Apostasy & Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide, with a foreword by Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid, the former President of Indonesia and head of Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest Muslim organization (Oxford University Press, 2011). Her most recent book, which she also co-authored, is Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2013). She regularly presents testimony before Congress, delivers public lectures, organizes briefings and conferences, and writes frequently on religious freedom issues in leading publications.
For the ten years prior to joining Hudson, Mrs. Shea worked at Freedom House, where she directed the Center for Religious Freedom, an entity which she had helped found in 1986 as the Puebla Institute. Mrs. Shea is a member of the bar of the District of Columbia. She is a graduate of Smith College, and American University’s Washington College of Law.
Prior recipients include Archbishop Charles Chaput, Mr. Michael P. Warsaw, Mr. Leonard Leo and Mr. Carl Anderson. Recipients deliver a public address in their area of leadership and are presented with a $10,000 cash award.
Belmont Abbey College founded the Benedict Leadership Institute in 2016 to develop Catholic leaders and inspire them to transform society in light of their faith. Nina Shea is the sixth recipient of the Benedict Leadership Award and has been a human rights lawyer for over 30 years. She works extensively for the advancement of individual religious freedom and other human rights in US foreign policy.
Belmont Abbey College, home of the Benedict Leadership Institute, is a private Catholic liberal arts college located near Charlotte, NC. Founded in 1876 by Benedictine monks, it is recognized by the Cardinal Newman Society as one of America’s top Catholic colleges.
Justice Clarence Thomas Receives Benedict Leadership Award
Washington, DC – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has been named the fourth recipient of the Benedict Leadership Award. The award was to be given at Belmont Abbey College but Just one day before the scheduled presentation ceremony at Belmont Abbey College, the event was cancelled due to the outbreak of Covid-19.
The presentation of this prestigious award, however, was recently held in the Justice’s chambers.
The Institute selected Justice Thomas in recognition for his extraordinary career as a defender of the Constitution and his enduring leadership as a man of faith.
On July 1, 1991, Justice Thomas was nominated by President George Bush to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. He is currently the longest serving Justice on the Supreme Court. He also released a book in 2007 entitled My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir, which became an immediate bestseller.
Conor Gallagher, Executive Director of the Benedict Leadership Institute, made the following comment to Justice Thomas: “While your life displays numerous reasons for being worthy of the Benedict Leadership Award, the Committee wishes to honor and highlight your leadership in defense of our nation’s Constitution and your personal witness as a man of faith.”
Justice Thomas has a particular fondness for Belmont Abbey’s tradition, for he was educated and loved by Benedictine nuns, which he affectionately refers to as “my nuns”. Coming from dire poverty in a segregated world, it was the compassion and faithfulness of these Benedictine sisters that helped shape the man that Justice Thomas has become.
The Benedict Leadership Institute was founded in 2016 by Belmont Abbey College to develop and inspire Catholic leaders to transform society while remaining true to their faith. The Benedict Leadership Award aims to recognize outstanding men and women whose achievements reflect the heroic leadership of St. Benedict.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput is a native of Concordia, Kansas, the son of Joseph and Marian DeMarais
Chaput. He joined the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, St. Augustine Province, in 1965, and was ordained
to the priesthood in 1970.
In his early career, His Excellency served as Vicar Provincial of Capuchin Province of Mid-America and
pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Colorado. He was elevated to Provincial Minister and Chief Executive prior
to being ordained Bishop of Rapid City, SD in 1988. As Bishop, he founded the Office of Native Ministry
and served on the USCCB Subcommittee on Native American Catholics. Pope John Paul II appointed him
Archbishop of Denver in 1997. A descendent of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribe on his maternal side,
he is the second Native American to be ordained a bishop in the United States, and the first Native
As Archbishop of Denver, he served as Chancellor of Redemptorist Mater Seminary, and founded the St.
John Vianney Theological Seminary. His Excellency co-founded the lay-organizations: FOCUS, CALL,
ENDOW, and the Augustine Institute. He served on countless Boards and USCCB Committees including
the Committee for Divine Worship, Migration, Pro-Life Activities, and Healthcare. He received Apostolic
Commissions to visit seminaries in the United States, Australia and Canada.
Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Archbishop of Philadelphia in 2011 where His Excellency began the
arduous task of restructuring the Archdiocese. He was appointed to the Pontifical Council for the Laity,
hosted the World Meeting of Families and the papal visit to the United States, and was elected to the
permanent council of the Synod of Bishops. He founded IRRP, a reconciliation program for victims of
sexual abuse. After nine years of faithful leadership, Pope Francis accepted his resignation and he
became Archbishop Emeritus of Philadelphia in 2020.
Michael P. Warsaw
Michael P. Warsaw is the Chairman of the Board & Chief Executive Officer of EWTN. He joined EWTN in 1991 and has held senior management positions in the areas of television production, satellite operations, and technical services, working directly with Mother Angelica, the network’s founder, on all of her major initiatives. Michael was named President of EWTN in 2000 and assumed the post of chief executive officer in 2009. With the Network’s 2011 acquisition of the National Catholic Register, he became its publisher. Michael assumed the post of chairman of the board of EWTN in 2013. In that capacity he oversees the network’s strategic direction and mission around the world. In 2017, Pope Francis appointed him as a Consultor to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications.
2018 Leonard A. Leo
Leonard A. Leo is a native of Long Island, New York. He attended Cornell University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1986, and completed a law degree at Cornell Law School in 1989. While studying law at Cornell, Leo founded a student chapter of the Federalist Society in 1989 and is Executive Vice president today. Leo has been influential in the appointment of three Supreme Court nominees including Justices Roberts and Alito, and most recently advising President Trump on the appointment of Justice Gorsuch.
He was served on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. He has been a U.S. Delegate to the UN Council and UN Commission on Human Rights as well as the Organization of Security and Cooperation and World Health Assembly. He currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Leo served as National Co-Chairman of Catholic Outreach for the Republican National Committee, and as the 2004 Bush presidential campaign’s Catholic Strategist. He serves on multiple Boards of Directors including: the National Prayer Breakfast, the Catholic Information Center, and The Catholic University of America. He is a Member of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. He and his wife Sally have raised seven children, two of whom were diagnosed with spina bifida in the womb.
2017 Carl A. Anderson
As supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, Carl A. Anderson is the chief executive officer and chairman of the board of the world’s largest Catholic family fraternal service organization, which has nearly 2 million members.
Mr. Anderson has had a distinguished career as a public servant and educator. From 1983 to 1987, he served in various positions of the Executive Office of the President of the United States, including special assistant to the President and acting director of the White House Office of Public Liaison. Following his service at the White House, Mr. Anderson served for nearly a decade as a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
From 1983 to 1998, Mr. Anderson taught as a visiting professor of family law at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. In 1988, he became the founding vice president and first dean of the Washington, D.C., session of this graduate school of theology now located at The Catholic University of America.
Since Mr. Anderson assumed the responsibilities of supreme knight in 2000, the Knights of Columbus have achieved new heights in charitable giving, providing in 2015 alone $175,079,192 directly to charity and more than 73.5 million hours in volunteer service.
In addition, Supreme Knight Anderson has overseen consistently strong growth in the Knights’ financial resources. In 2015, the Order’s insurance in force surpassed $100 billion, an amount that has more than doubled in the last 12 years.