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(LifeSiteNews) — For many people, 2021 was an unusually difficult year, in some ways more difficult than 2020. The year saw the emergence of draconian vaccine mandates and vaccine “passports,” dehumanizing and alarming rhetoric about healthy people who refuse to be injected with a novel medical product, continued lockdowns in some places, and crippling inflation. The Pope’s new motu proprio severely restricting the Traditional Latin Mass made 2021 a devastating year for Catholics attached to the Church’s traditional sacraments.

As we begin 2022, LifeSite presents our list of 2021’s “people of the year.” These stalwart freedom fighters were a light in darkness in 2021 … and are leaders to watch in 2022.

Ron DeSantis, America’s governor

In the course of three years, Ron DeSantis went from being a little-known nerdy Congressman who wrote a book on constitutional principles to the Republican who barely won the Florida governorship to “America’s governor,” a leader whose coronavirus response of early treatment, no vaccine coercion, and no more lockdowns led over 300,000 Americans to move to the Sunshine State in a year. And many more want him to run for president in 2024. He’s smart, funny, and doesn’t have the baggage of a certain fellow Florida resident.

DeSantis has made Florida arguably the freest and best state in the union to live in. And it’s not just his pro-freedom, pro-effective treatment COVID response that conservatives love: He’s taken on critical race theory, boys in girls’ sports, Big Tech, voter fraud, Florida municipalities that tried to force-mask kids or mandate coronavirus shots, illegal immigration, and much more. DeSantis is a pro-life Catholic.

Reggie Littlejohn

As the president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, Reggie Littlejohn has spent years campaigning against forced abortion in China. In 2021 she spoke out against so-called vaccine passports and the implementation of a totalitarian, Communist China-style social credit systems. Littlejohn’s firsthand knowledge of China’s surveillance tactics is an important tool in the fight against coronavirus tyranny.

Thomas Renz 

Attorney Thomas Renz has become a well-known name to many freedom fighters, and to LifeSite readers. Renz is the lead attorney in several major cases brought in Ohio and nationally regarding unconstitutional COVID-19 lockdowns, mask mandates, business closures, and more. His focus is serving justice with integrity. Most recently, Renz has created the Renz Letter to call for an independent prosecutor to investigate criminal and civil violations by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the FDA, CDC, and HHS, as well as the mainstream media and others who may be culpable in the marketing and authorization of the deadly COVID injections.

Behind the scenes, he has spent and continues to spend countless hours pulling together these vital cases against the major players in the COVID-19 narrative, specifically in the United States. He has shared valuable and shocking information with thousands through video interviews and conferences, both in-person and online. Despite the continued attacks and additional flood of “information” from Fauci and various government agencies, as well as the mainstream media, Renz does not quit. If anything, their fight to hide the truth emboldens his resolve to shine a light on every nook and cranny, exposing their lies and seeking justice for everyone who has been impacted by the narrative (let’s face it: that’s every single American citizen, even everyone in the world). His unwavering spirit is indeed inspiring.

Monica Smit, freedom activist

Monica Smit is an Australian anti-totalitarian activist who opposes the draconian lockdown measures and cessation of democracy in her country in general and in her state of Victoria in particular. The founder of Reignite Democracy Australia (RDA), Smit has organized, led, and addressed dozens of rallies against Australia’s COVID restrictions and forced vaccination.

The 33-year-old traditional Catholic became an international household name when she was arrested on August 31, 2021, on two charges of “incitement.” Smit spent 22 days in jail, having rejected a bail condition that directed her to remove any RDA material that would incite opposition to Australia’s Chief Medical Officer from social media. She was released when this bail condition was dropped.

Unable to attend rallies without being instantly re-arrested, Smit is dedicated to getting out the truth of what is happening to Australians and to the rest of the world. In a November interview with LifeSiteNews’ John-Henry Westen, Smit publicized Victoria Premier Dan Andrews’ latest blow against democracy, the proposed Permanent Pandemic legislation. If passed, the bill would allow for two-years’ imprisonment of activists like Smit, unlawful entry by police, crippling fines, and Andrews’ ability to announce a pandemic on any pretext. Smit told Westen that she regrets she can no longer go to protests but that she is more effective at home with her computer than in jail.

“It’s part of my sacrifice for the freedom of others,” she said.

Activist parents

When we think of heroes, it’s often the big names and “MVPs” in the game. Sometimes, it’s actually those with the assist that make a bigger impact than expected.

That’s you. Each and every parent, grandparent, aunt and uncle, godparent … Those who stood up to false narratives this year ranging from COVID-19 to Critical Race Theory, from the continued lies about gender and the LGBTQ+ world to the non-stop fight for life.

With each passing year, parents have had to stand strong in the midst of the culture wars. This year was no different, and there were added attacks from all directions.

You didn’t let it break you. If anything, you’ve managed to be encouraged and encourage others in the fight. There’ve been small victories, and some major ones, too! In spite of, and perhaps because of, the darkness that seems to encroach on our children, you’re determined to push back, to stand strong, to shine bright. LifeSiteNews stands with you, cheers you on, and gives you the information necessary to continue this fight. May your spirit and resolve be stronger than ever in 2022. Onward and upward, warriors!

Matt Walsh

One of two traditional Catholic podcasters at conservative media outfit The Daily Wire, along with dapper, lib-triggering troll Michael Knowles, Matt Walsh boasts a number of impressive titles ranging from theocratic fascist to trans-Virginian and best-selling LGBTQ children’s author. 

Walsh, a homeschooling father of four, earned the trans-Virginian title this year when he skirted an arbitrary rule that would have prevented him — as an out-of-state resident — from speaking at a school board meeting in Loudoun County Virginia, which had become a flashpoint for parental outrage over radical ideologies and forced masking in American classrooms.  

Walsh circumvented the restriction by “renting” a basement apartment to gain Virginia residency for just long enough to blast the school board over its abusive policies in epic and characteristic fashion, making sure not to neglect the opportunity to poke at the transgender movement. 

“For too long, I have been a Virginian trapped in a Tennessean’s body,” he said. “It feels so good to finally live my truth openly. I’m here, I’m Virginian, and I’m proud.” 

The stunt made a splash in the media and helped keep national attention on the radical Virginia county. When The Daily Wire then broke a story about the Loudoun County School Board covering up a sexual assault committed by a boy in a girl’s bathroom, the off-year gubernatorial election was all but lost for the Democrats, with The Daily Wire taking a measure of credit for flipping blue Virginia red. 

But becoming a trans-Virginian and helping to influence an election weren’t Walsh’s only achievements in 2021. 

The frontman of the Sweet Baby Gang (don’t ask) also made his surprise entrance onto the LGBTQ children’s book scene this year, penning a clever tale demolishing the transgender movement with facts and cartoon walruses. The ironic children’s story Johnny the Walrus features a young boy whose imaginative forays into pretending he’s a walrus almost put him under the surgical knife when his internet-influenced mom comes to believe Johnny must live his true identity as a flippered marine animal. The book rocketed to the top of the Amazon charts, selling out within hours and even temporarily earning Walsh a top spot among LGBTQ authors before the title was stripped from him in what Walsh jokingly called “a horrific example of homophobia and gay erasure.” 

Kyle Rittenhouse, citizen

Kyle Rittenhouse is the type of person you want as a neighbor, especially when your town is under siege from violent leftists bent on destruction in the name of racial justice. Rittenhouse has family in Kenosha, and when his community was under attack, he went there to peacefully lend a hand. He cleaned up graffiti, volunteered to guard a small business, and offered first aid to injured people. But he came to prominence because he defended himself from attacks from violent leftists, including a convicted child rapist named Joseph Rosenbaum and a domestic abuser named Anthony Huber. 

His subsequent trial, overseen by a no-nonsense judge who had to reign in liberal prosecutors, ended with him being rightfully acquitted on all charges. Rittenhouse’s killing of two criminals who were trying to kill him was not really about Rittenhouse, but about the right to self-defense and someone’s right to defend his community when law and order had completely collapsed. 

Rittenhouse did not grow up in a stable family life — his parents were divorced and his dad struggled with alcoholism. But instead of turning to drugs or alcohol, he surrounded himself with good, male role models, enrolling in various programs through the Antioch Fire Department and the Grayslake Police Department.  

And when duty called, he stepped up to keep his community safe and ultimately had to exercise his right to defend himself in a very dangerous situation.  

Bishop Thomas Paprocki, a true shepherd

Bishop Thomas Paprocki is likely known to LifeSiteNews readers because of his outspoken defense of the Catholic Church’s teachings on sexuality, marriage, and life. 

His Eminence also deserves praise for his swift defense of the Latin Mass and his public rebuke of a fellow priest, Fr. John Jenkins, for implementing a COVID jab mandate at the University of Notre Dame.

Just three days after Traditionis Custodes, Bishop Paprocki issued a dispensation for two parishes in his diocese to continue to celebrate the Latin Mass.  

Earlier in the year, Paprocki rebuked Notre Dame’s president, Fr. John Jenkins, for mandating that all students take one of the abortion-tainted jabs. “The [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] concluded that persons may — not must — get vaccinated,” Paprocki reminded Jenkins. The Springfield bishop is an adjunct law instructor at the university. 

“Besides, several thousand Notre Dame students have already tested positive for the coronavirus,” he wrote in an open letter with Professor Gerard Bradley. “They are naturally immune to the disease and have no need for the vaccine (No one knows for sure how long this natural immunity lasts, just as no one knows for sure how long the vaccine works).” 

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Medical freedom activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has provided millions across the world with honest answers in an age of COVID misinformation. A member of the famed Kennedy family, RFK Jr. has been exposing the dangers of vaccines for decades. His latest book on the gruesome experiments of Dr. Anthony Fauci makes him a pariah to global health authorities. Whereas Bill Gates and Big Pharma want chronically ill, drug-addicted customers, Kennedy Jr. and his merry band of medical truth-tellers seek to free people from the chains of an industry that puts profit ahead of people and sees patients cured as customers lost.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò

“A voice crying out in the wilderness.” There are fewer names in the world today that have risen in popularity as fast as Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. Initially known only to Catholics for having sounded the alarm on corruption in the Vatican under Pope Francis in 2018, this former papal nuncio to the United States has arguably become the face of the worldwide resistance to the Great Reset. His Excellency’s piercing denunciations of the enemies of God, coupled with his condemnations of COVID-19 tyranny and encouraging words for those fighting not just the Deep State but also the Deep Church, have made him a hero to Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Dr. Robert Malone

An unexpected champion for the cause of liberty and bodily autonomy, Dr. Robert Malone, the inventor of the mRNA technology behind the Pfizer and Moderna COVID injections, has consistently spoken out against the “future of global totalitarianism.” Perhaps realizing that he would be no champion of the vaccine mandate cause, Big Tech even censored Malone back in July. Shortly after Christmas 2020, he was kicked off Twitter.

His recent interview with Joe Rogan has gone viral, with Google even manipulating searches on “mass formation psychosis,” which Malone discussed with Rogan.

Dr. Malone has repeatedly spoken with freedom-loving media outlets to promote informed consent and warn against medical tyranny. He has urged parents to resist attempts to vaccinate their children with mRNA shots: Do “you want your own child to be part of the most radical medical experiment in human history?”

Malone, who has met with LifeSiteNews a number of times, recently responded to Archbishop Viganò’s call for an anti-globalist alliance, affirming that “we’re in a situation in which we’re all having our rights eroded and that there is a larger force beyond this.”

Dr. Peter McCullough, COVID-19 expert

Buffalo-born Dr. Peter McCullough is one of the world’s leading COVID-19 experts. Before the pandemic, he had a sterling career in Texas as an internist, cardiologist, epidemiologist, and researcher with dozens of articles in peer-reviewed journals. He became a Professor of Medicine, the President at the Cardiorenal Society of America, Editor-in-Chief of Cardiorenal Medicine and of Reviews in Cardiovascular Medicine, and a Senior Associate Editor at American Journal of Cardiology.

However, when COVID-19 struck, McCullough’s life was changed. As an internist, he had many elderly patients, people at most risk of the virus, and so he quickly learned as much as he could about the disease. To the dismay of the American medical establishment, his research led him to promote early treatment for the disease and to oppose the current COVID vaccinations, which he has concluded are “unsafe and unfit for human use.” Because of his principled stance, McCullough has been stripped of contracts and his professorship.

Undaunted, McCullough has published over 50 articles in peer-reviewed journals about COVID-19. He had also testified about the best way to tackle the disease before a U.S. Senate Committee, a Texas Senate Committee, the Colorado Assembly, the New Hampshire Senate, and the South Carolina Senate. He continues, at great professional cost to himself, to offer his medical expertise about COVID-19 through LifeSiteNews and other media organizations willing to hear him.

Nayib Bukele, President of El Salvador

The young and charismatic president of El Salvador is still somewhat of an enigma, but he has simultaneously made bold geopolitical decisions, like adopting Bitcoin as a legal tender and publicly rejecting the meddling of the US Deep State, while also maintaining El Salvador’s protections of marriage and the right to life. At a time when the protections of life and marriage in Latin America have fallen like dominoes (Chile, Argentina, and Mexico have all legalized the killing of children in the womb) El Salvador, led by Mr. Bukele, has continued to withstand intense international pressure to abandon its pro-life traditions.

People fired for vaccine refusal

During the COVID outbreak we have seen an all-out assault upon the most fundamental human rights like freedom of speech and most importantly freedom of conscience. Whether it is doctors who wish to share their experience in treating patients, believers wishing to have and provide access to the sacraments or heads of households who wish to earn a living free of medical coercion, we all owe a large debt of gratitude to those who pushed back and were willing to be shunned by the government and their employers to the point of losing their jobs. They will be able to stand proudly as they tell future generations how they refused to be violated by corporate interests and their many allies in government and throughout modern society.