New Orleans Saints Owner Tom Benson and his wife, Gayle Benson have received from Pope Benedict XVI the highest Papal award granted to a lay person. This special Papal recognition was granted by the Pope at the request of Oblate Bishop Michael Pfeifer, OMI, of the Diocese of San Angelo, Texas who points out that he recommended the Bensons for this highest award for their long, constant and most outstanding generosity and service to the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, especially in the San Antonio area for almost 50 years, and the wider Church.
The special Papal recognition that will be bestowed upon the Bensons is the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award – for outstanding service to the Church and the Pontiff (Pope).
Bishop Pfeifer points out that this award is most unique and given to very few people, and that the Bensons truly deserve this special recognition for their constant and generous long service of promoting the mission, the ministries of the Oblates, and helping many individual Oblates for five decades.
"Tom and Gayle are longtime friends and benefactors of the Oblates who bring out the best in us," stated Bishop Pfeifer. "They are true friends who not only make many of our good works possible, but they help make us be our best: courageous and daring, generous and forgiving, determined and faithful—good Oblate missionaries. I find this true of them on a personal level and a corporate level. Their friendship has been life-giving personally to countless Oblates." The Bensons have been the most generous givers to the building project an Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio which provides theological preparation for many seminarians and future lay leaders."
Bishop Pfeifer points out that Mr. and Mrs. Benson, who presently reside in New Orleans, have also been very great supporters of the Catholic Church in both the New Orleans and San Antonio regions, as well as other areas throughout the states of Louisiana and Texas.
A special date to bestow these awards on the Bensons is being arranged and will take place at the chapel of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio at a date to be determined.