Environmental activist Sharon Lavigne named 2022 Laetare Medal recipient
Observer Staff Report | Sunday, March 27, 2022
Environmental justice activist Sharon Lavigne will receive Notre Dame’s 2022 Laetare Medal, according to a press release. The Laetare Medal — established by Notre Dame in 1883 — is the oldest and most prestigious honor awarded to American Catholics and is awarded each year at Notre Dame’s commencement ceremony.
Lavigne is the founder and director of the faith-based grassroots organization Rise St. James. The organization fights for environmental justice in St. James Parish, Louisiana. St. James Parish is located in an area known as “Cancer Alley,” an 85-mile region along the Mississippi River that is home to more than 150 petrochemical plants and refineries, according to the release.
Rise St. James campaigns against the addition and expansion of more facilities in the region, which has cancer rates about 700 times that of the rest of the U.S., according to the release.
The release said the group is currently attempting to stop the construction of a $9.4 billion Formosa plastics chemical plant.
The Laetare Medal recipient is named every year on Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent. The recipient each year is a Catholic “whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the Church and enriched the heritage of humanity,” according to the Laetare Medal webpage.