Sargent Shriver died two weeks ago at the age of 95 after struggling with Alzheimer’s disease. The press accounts of his life lauded a life of dedicated public service during the administrations of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.
Shriver was the driving force behind the creation of the Peace Corps, founded the Job Corps, Head Start and other programs as the "architect" of President Johnson's "War on Poverty" and also served as the United States Ambassador to France.
Many of the obituaries described Shriver who married President Kennedy’s sister Eunice as the last link to the Kennedy era commonly called “Camelot.” Others spent time featuring his connection to the former NBC news reporter, his daughter, Maria, and somewhat infamous, son-in-law, the Austrian actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who just concluded his term of office as governor of California.
Most of these press accounts of Sargent Shriver mentioned only in passing his deep Catholic faith. He and his late wife Eunice attended Mass daily. His Catholic faith was so deeply rooted in him that his daughter Maria noted that during his struggle with the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease: “He could pray the rosary perfectly. But he couldn’t remember who I was.”
It must also be noted that when being pro-life became unfashionable in his own political party, Sargent Shriver kept the courage of his convictions and steadfastly defended the right to life for all human beings. In 1972 he ran for the vice-presidency of the United States in what would be the last pro-life Democratic candidate on a presidential ticket. His ardent pro-life stance may have very well ended his political career in the Democratic Party he so loyally served. A price that Sargent Shriver was willing to pay rather than comprise - his convictions and his deep Catholic faith.
In an era when elected officials, especially those who are Catholic, are so readily willing to compromise their convictions for personal ambition, quickly abandon the fundamental beliefs of their faith to political expediency, and go with the times in the face of their ideals, the late Sargent Shriver stands apart. He remained pro-life even when it wasn’t popular in his political home. He remained Catholic to the core even when it wasn’t welcomed by many in our country. While we grieve his death along with his family, we truly lament the passing of such a shining example of what a Catholic statesman and public servant can be yet is so seldom found in our contemporary politicians.