Pope honors Jacksonville area church members for their service
They will be honored on Sunday at 5 p.m. with a special mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Augustine at 38 Cathedral Square, celebrated by Bishop Felipe Estévez.
JACKSONVILLE, Florida – Pope Francis has bestowed papal honors on 18 Catholics in northeast Florida for their dedication and outstanding service to the Diocese of St. Augustine over the past decade.
Those honored include a former Jacksonville mayor, a member of city council, and her husband who served with three other mayors.
They will be honored on Sunday at 5 p.m. with a special mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Augustine at 38 Cathedral Square, celebrated by Bishop Felipe Estévez, head of the diocese.
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“It is a privilege for me to present these papal honors in the name of our Holy Father, Pope Francis,” said Estévez. “The honored men and women have rendered exceptional service to the local church and their community. I would have liked to have been able to recommend many other parishioners in the diocese who have also served the church exceptionally for the Lord and his people. “
The diocese includes 61 parishes and missions in 17 counties in North Florida, including Jacksonville, Gainesville and St. Augustine.
The winners also include couples, nuns and a permanent deacon and will receive their honors in three award categories:
• The Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great was founded by Pope Gregory XVI in 1831 to honor his 6th century predecessor. Since then, the popes have awarded it to diplomats, artists, scientists, world leaders, and interfaith leaders who have shown their love for Jesus Christ and His church through their service.
The recipients are Gary Chartrand of Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish in Ponte Vedra Beach, Joe Helow of Holy Family Parish in Jacksonville, David and Mary Pat Kulik of Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish, Warren Powers of Holy Parish Spirit in Jacksonville and Alton Yates of Holy Rosary Parish in Jacksonville.
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• The Cross Pro Ecclesia and Pontifice is a gold medal with the name of the honored person inscribed, as well as a parchment. Established in 1888, it is awarded to Catholics who have rendered distinguished service to the church and to the papal office.
The recipients are Ernest Bono of Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish in Ponte Vedra Beach, Robert Hart of Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish, John Delaney of St. Paul Parish in Jacksonville Beach, Caridad Lee and James Stockman of Queen of Peace Parish in Gainesville and Gwendolyn Yates of Holy Rosary Parish in Jacksonville.
• The Benemerenti Medal was created by Pope Gregory XVI in 1832, first awarded to soldiers of the papal army, then extended to members of the clergy and laity for outstanding service in the church.
The laureates are Thomas Joseph McGoldrick and Elizabeth Kennedy of the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Saint Augustine, Martha Lucia Alers-Alers of Saint Catherine Parish in Siena in Orange Park, Deacon Lowell Corky Hecht of Saint Joseph Parish in Jacksonville, Gregory Montana from Assumption Parish in Jacksonville and Chau Thien Phan from Santa Maria del Mar Parish in Flagler Beach.
Three of these recipients have worked for or directed the city of Jacksonville.
Gwendolyn Yates served as Jacksonville City Councilor from 2003-2007 after serving as Administrative Program Manager in the Community Development Division. She has also served as president of the Florida Council on Aging and the Catholic Charities Bureau. Her husband, Alton Yates, is a US Air Force veteran who served as administrative assistant to mayors Hans Tanzler, Jake Godbold and Tommy Hazouri. And Delaney was mayor of Jacksonville from 1995 to 2003, and then was president of the University of North Florida until 2018.
Mass and ceremony are open to the public.
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