Pope Francis has bestowed papal honors upon 28 women and men in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for their dedication and exceptional service to the church. Four of those being honored have strong connections to West Catholic.
Nine have been named Dame or Knight in the Order of St. Gregory the Great, 11 will receive the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (Cross for the Church and Pontiff); and eight will receive the Benemerenti (To a Well Deserved Person) Medal.
The honors will be bestowed upon the individuals by Archbishop Charles Chaput during a Vespers service Sunday, Jan. 21st at 4pm at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, Philadelphia. Each of the honorees “has performed some exceptional service for the church or offered some form of outstanding Christian witness in a generous and sustained way – in education, philanthropy, diaconal and religious life, prolife and vocations work, social ministry, and other apostolates,” said Archbishop Chaput. “Each has earned the gratitude of the Holy Father and our whole Catholic community.”
Dawn Chism ’73 will be honored with the Benemerenti Medal. Dawn has been actively involved in leadership and service roles for the Philadelphia Catholic community at both the parish and archdiocesan levels for many years. Her primary focus has been to encourage priestly vocations and to provide moral support for priests, especially in the African-American community. She has also held various positions in the Serra Club of Philadelphia.
The Benemerenti Medal was created under Pope Gregory XVI and dates to the late 18th century when it was awarded to soldiers in the Papal Army. The medal was later extended to members of the clergy and laity for exceptional service to the Roman Catholic Church.
Brother Richard E. Kestler, F.S.C., will be honored with the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice. Brother Richard has dedicated his religious life to the ministry of Catholic education as a teacher and administrator. In addition to many years as a classroom instructor at various Catholic schools, Brother Richard served as Principal at West Catholic, and he served as president of West Catholic Preparatory High School from 1999 to 2005 and again from 2012 to 2016 before retiring. He continues to further the mission of Catholic education as a volunteer at West Catholic and La Salle University.
The Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice was established in 1888 by Pope Leo XIII and is given to Catholics age 45 and over who have shown distinguished service to the church and the papal office.
Anna Davis and Gerald T. Davis ’59 will be honored as Dame and Knight in the order of St. Gregory the Great. Gerald is a retired senior communications executive from Sunoco and serves on the board of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. He and his wife and children were selected to present the offertory gifts at Mass to Pope Francis during his visit to Philadelphia in 2015.
The Order of St. Gregory the Great, one of the five pontifical knightly orders, was founded by Pope Gregory XVI in 1831 to honor his sixth-century predecessor. It has been awarded to diplomats, artists, scientists, world leaders and interfaith leaders from all walks of life who have shown, by their service, extraordinary love for Jesus Christ and his church. Membership signifies recognition from the pope for service already rendered and an invitation from him to continue a life of exemplary Christian witness.
To see the full listing of those receiving honors please check out the full article on Catholic Philly.