FOR THE CHURCH AND THE POPE
Sunday evening in the Chapel of St. James located on the grounds of the Bethany Center it was my privilege to present papal honors to six of our priests and eighteen lay people. The priests were given the title of “Monsignor” and there are two categories of said “Monsignors”: Prelate of Honor to His Holiness and Chaplain to His Holiness. Each is entitled to a distinctive form of dress to be worn on occasion and to be addressed as “Monsignor.” It is an honorary title which is given in this diocese near the completion of a lifetime of service to this local Church as a priest. Here it is a recognition of about three decades of dedicated priestly service in and to this diocese or in the military service. The honor entails no additional salary or monetary compensation (in fact when they buy all their trappings, it ends up costing the new monsignors money). It is strictly honorary in nature.
This is the second time that the Holy Fathers have chosen to recognize our priests and I hope to continue requesting these forms of recognition from time to time according to our priest’s age and years of service in the diocese. No diocese may have more than ten percent of its active priests accorded this honor and generally, except for those approaching retirement, the Holy See prefers that men begin as Chaplains to His Holiness and then after five years be “promoted” to Prelates of Honor. Prior to about six years ago, bishops were free to petition for as many monsignors for their diocese as they wished and we usually only asked for Prelates of Honor but things tightened up around 2002 and now it has become more restricted. Here are the names and brief biographies of the six priests honored this year.
Since the announcement of these honors for these priests, most have had individual celebrations with the people of their parishes and the common, recurring thematic during these days has been one of congratulations and expressions of gratitude for priestly service generously given. Those are exactly my own feelings tonight.
The lay women and men all received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award which translates “For the Church and the Pontiff”. From time to time I ask the deans as well as some pastors in the deaneries of the diocese to provide me with names of lay people who have made extraordinary contributions to the life of the diocese or service to others beyond the parish, the Church, and to the bishop’ ministry of service. Since we annually give the St. Jude the Apostle award to men and women who stand out for their dedicated service to their parishes, this is more of a diocesan recognition. The Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award is the highest recognition the Church can give to lay people. It is a medal and I am attaching a picture:
The medal is accompanied by a parchment which we frame for the recipients. Some dioceses choose to make a few lay women and men Knights and Ladies of St, Gregory, Knights and Ladies of St. Sylvester, etc. but those designations are different categories and the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award remains the highest form of recognition. This year’s recipients have gone out of their way to provide service and assistance to the diocesan ministry and they are so recognized. To view the names of those to whom this award was presented tonight and the brief introduction of each awardee, please click here.
None of those honored tonight sought this or any other form of recognition. What they have done, they have done out of faith and love for their Church. This evening’s reading at Evening Prayer from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians [4:4-9] captures the spirit of this occasions very well: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving make your request known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received ands heard from me. Then the God of peace will be with you.
Congratulations to all.