February 08, 2024
Professor Andreas Widmer has been honored for his years of service to the Swiss Guard. (Photo by Jessica Krämer)

Professor Andreas Widmer received the Pontifical Equestrian Order of Pope Saint Sylvester, or  "Knight of Saint Sylvester," Jan. 22, the 518th Anniversary of the Founding of the Swiss Guard. The honor is conferred by the pope on laymen who are particularly meritorious in service of the Church and Catholic institutions.

Widmer is an Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship and the director of the Art & Carlyse Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship at the University's Busch School of Business. He was formerly a member of the Swiss Guard under Pope St. John Paul II.

He was recognized for his continuing service during a guard ceremony commemorating the arrival of the first Swiss Guards in Rome in 1506. He has returned annually for one week of service and has championed Swiss Guard projects in the United States.

“I am very grateful to Pope Francis for bestowing this honor on me, and also to the Commander of the Swiss Guard, Col. Christoph Graf, for recommending me," Widmer said. "We served together thirty years ago and I admire him tremendously, so it is humbling to be recognized.

Widmer's wife, Michelle, accompanied him in the ceremony.

Those inducted into the Order of St. Sylvester are actively involved in the everyday activities of the Church. Membership signifies recognition from the Holy Father himself for exemplary service rendered.

The Pontifical Order of Pope Saint Sylvester goes back to 1841, when Pope Gregory XVI founded it. In 1905 Pope Pius X, announced that the conferral had the special object of rewarding “the laity who are active in the apostolate, in particular in the exercise of their professional duties and masters of the different arts”.

Andrew Abela, dean of the Busch School of Business comments that “as the pontifical university of the United States, we are always in the service of the universal church, and so it is a great pleasure to learn that one of our faculty is recognized by the Holy Father for his professional work in the Church.”

The Order of Saint Sylvester is neither monastic nor military, but purely honorary. It is one of five orders of knighthood awarded directly by the Pope as Supreme Pontiff and head of the Catholic Church and as the Head of State of Vatican City.