Catholic school administrators, lay parish volunteers and prominent business leaders are among the 24 individuals in the Archdiocese of Baltimore who will be awarded papal honors at a special 4 p.m. prayer service at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Homeland Nov. 20.
The awards, for outstanding service to the archdiocese and the papacy, include that of Knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great; Dame of the Order of St. Gregory, the Benemerenti Medal and the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice.
“I am grateful to our Holy Father for recognizing the gifts and graces shared so freely and generously by our priests and laity of the archdiocese,” Archbishop O’Brien said. “In celebrating them, we acknowledge the diversity of their service to our church and to others.”
Though the honorees haven’t sought recognition, the archbishop said, “their service commands it.”
“I am pleased we have this opportunity to hold them up as an example that others might follow,” he said, “just as Jesus did during his earthly life.”
Honorees said they were honored by the recognition.
“It’s a very humbling thing because you work with a lot of people over the years who themselves deserve to be honored,” said Carol Augustine, retired director of evangelization and catechesis for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, who will receive the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice.
“It represents all the incredible people I’ve had the privilege of ministering with over the years,” Augustine said.
Maria Teresa D’Orazio, a pioneer in Hispanic ministry who helped establish the Spanish language Mass at St. John the Evangelist in Frederick, said she was shocked when Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski called to tell her she would be receiving the Cross Pro Ecclesia Et Pontifice.
“I didn’t believe it,” she said with a laugh. “I said, ‘Oh my goodness! What did I do?’”
D’Orazio said she ministered in Hispanic outreach because she saw a need and met it.
“I don’t feel I should receive an honor for that,” she said. “I was doing what I was moved by the Spirit to do. When I see the results of my little help, I give thanks to God for being able to do what he put into my mind.”
Alison Jenkins D’Alessandro, director of the archdiocesan Office of Child and Youth Protection, called it a special honor to be recognized by Pope Benedict XVI with the Benemerenti Medal.
“It shows the church’s commitment to child protection and how important it is to create safe environments for children,” she said. “My colleagues and I believe our work is a ministry of the church.”
D’Alessandro, a Presbyterian, has always felt very supported and encouraged in her role by family, colleagues and the leaders of the archdiocese.
“I’m very appreciative,” she said, “and I feel so fortunate to work with the people here in the archdiocese.”
The class of Knight or Dame within the Order of St. Gregory is the most frequently bestowed on the diocesan level as a special mark of favor of the Holy See for persons who serve the church on the local level. It is bestowed on individuals who serve the Catholic Church or who distinguish themselves by their accomplishments benefiting society – regardless of their religion or gender. The order was founded in 1831 by Pope Gregory XVI, who named it after Pope Gregory the Great.
The Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice is a papal award, but not a pontifical order. It was established by Pope Leo XIII in 1888 to mark his 50th priestly jubilee. It is awarded to lay persons and clergy who have given service to the church.
The Benemerenti Medal was created by Pope Pius VI in 1791 and was originally bestowed as an award for military courage in the defense of the temporal Papal States. Today, it is awarded to those who have merited special recognition by the Holy See and who may not necessarily be Catholic.
Click here for capsule profiles of all 24 papal honorees.