Former Canadian Governor General Michaëlle Jean.

Assumption award honours former governor general

By  Ron Stang, Catholic Register Special
  • April 28, 2022

WINDSOR, Ont. -- Former Canadian Governor General Michaëlle Jean received this year’s Assumption University Christian Culture Series Gold Medal award.

The Catholic university, which traces its roots to 1857 and is forerunner to the University of Windsor, says it chose Jean because of her “embodiment of the Christian spirit.”

The award, bestowed upon Jean last month, has been given annually since 1941 and has gone to some of the world’s leading names in religion, science, politics and the arts. Among past recipients have been Dorothy Day, a founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, Marshall McLuhan, the renowned mass media theorist, actor and Catholic social activist Martin Sheen, and former NFL football player Luke Willson.

Assumption principal John Cappucci said the award is given to people who have “a large impact” on society and culture.

“In the past we’ve honoured people who are not necessarily Christian,” he said. “As long as they exemplify what we would call Christian ideals.”

Jean, Canada’s first Black Governor General, was lauded for building relations with Indigenous people, supporting bilingualism and women’s rights and as Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Following her vice-regal office Jean was appointed UNESCO special envoy to her native Haiti. In the wake of that country’s 2010 earthquake, she oversaw reconstruction efforts and programs to stimulate literacy and education.

In 2015 Jean began a four-year term as Secretary-General of La Francophonie, an international organization representing French-language countries. She and her husband Jean-Daniel Lafond founded the Michaëlle Jean Foundation which provides support for marginalized youth. Jean is currently Chancellor of St. Paul’s University College in Waterloo, Ont.

Jean’s outreach efforts “directly follows the example set by Our Lord Jesus Christ,” the university says.

The Christian Culture award may be unique in Canada. Cappucci said he has spoken with colleges at the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities in Canada “and most of them realize that this is the signature one among Catholic universities because it’s so historic.”

Cappucci said the award, in a sense, was forerunner to the Second Vatican Council’s Gaudium et Spes, the pastoral constitution of the Church in the modern world. The Christian Culture lecture series goes back to 1934.

“So, they were looking at how Christianity and culture are actually a lot more similar than people would think they are,” he said.

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