For immediate release
May 20, 2021
Contact: Lisa Demer, 907-545-3555 (cell)

Archbishop Emeritus Roger Schwietz, Ed Rasmuson, Cathy Rasmuson and Archbishop Andrew Bellisario are seen at Holy Family Old Cathedral on Monday, May 17, 2021, after the Rasmusons received Benemerenti Medals. (Photo by Frank Flavin)

Anchorage, AK – Ed and Cathy Rasmuson this week were awarded one of the Catholic Church’s highest honors for their years of service to the Church and their community. Pope Francis honored each with the Benemerenti Medal. The papal award was bestowed on the couple May 17 by Archbishop Andrew Bellisario, C.M., and retired Archbishop Roger Schwietz, O.M.I., during an evening prayer service at Holy Family Old Cathedral in downtown Anchorage.

The award is considered once-in-a-lifetime recognition for spiritual service and service to community. Pope Gregory XVI instituted it in 1832 to recognize soldiers in the Papal Army showing exceptional courage. In 1925, the field was expanded to civilians, both lay and clergy. It remains a rare honor. The word “benemerenti” means “the well-deserving.”

Guests gathered at Holy Family Old Cathedral on May17, 2021, in downtown Anchorage for evening prayers and recognition of Ed and Cathy Rasmuson.

Cathy Rasmuson, vice chair of Rasmuson Foundation, attends Holy Family Cathedral, and Ed Rasmuson, chairman of the Foundation, belongs to Anchorage First Presbyterian Church. They have dedicated themselves to helping people in need, both as private individuals and through the Foundation, which has a mission of promoting a better life for Alaskans. The family is guided by principles of faith, honesty, hard work and giving back. Ed Rasmuson’s grandmother, Jenny Olson, arrived in Alaska at the dawn of the 20th century as a Swedish missionary and met and married E.A. Rasmuson. She created the Foundation in 1955 to honor her late husband. Faith-based organizations, along with nonprofits and local governments including tribes, have received Foundation grants over the years.

Archbishop Bellisario, leader of the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau, described why each is being recognized:

“Ed and Cathy Rasmuson’s commitment and support over many years to the Catholic Church, and to so many individuals in need within Anchorage and our State of Alaska, through their personal generosity and the Rasmuson Foundation, is well known and greatly appreciated by all the people they have helped.”

The medals are reserved for “whomever is found singularly well deserving in Christian affairs,” according to certificates that accompanied the medals. Pope Francis bestowed on both Cathy and Ed Rasmuson “the right to wear this decoration.”

“We are humbled by this honor,” Cathy Rasmuson said. “Our family is so blessed to do God’s work, to offer a helping hand to organizations devoted to building better lives for Alaskans.”

[Download the press release.)

About the Foundation

Through grantmaking and initiatives, Rasmuson Foundation aims to promote a better life for all Alaskans. Main funding areas are homelessness, health care, the arts, organizational and community development and human services including projects to address domestic violence, child abuse and services for seniors and people with disabilities. The Foundation was created in 1955 by Jenny Rasmuson to honor her late husband E.A. Rasmuson.