The Augustinian Province of St. Thomas of Villanova will present its 2018 St. Augustine Medal to Bishop Louis A. DeSimone, who at 96 is the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s senior retired auxiliary bishop.
The medal is an honor bestowed upon an individual or couple who exemplify the spirit and teachings of St. Augustine, a deep commitment to the Order of St. Augustine and the Augustinian values of truth, unity and charity.
The presentation of the award will take place Oct. 4 beginning with a 4:30 p.m. Mass celebrated at St. Thomas of Villanova Church on the Villanova University campus, followed by dinner at the Philadelphia Country Club in Gladwyne.
“This is something we just inaugurated last year,” said Father Michael DiGregorio, the prior provincial of the Augustinian Province of St. Thomas of Villanova. “The first recipients were Jay and Patty Wright.”
Jay Wright of course is the coach of the Villanova basketball team, this year’s NCAA national champions.
“He and his wife were not honored because he is a prominent sports figure but because Jay really inserted Augustinian values into the way he guides the team here at Villanova, and he is very supportive of the province and the friars,” Father DiGregorio said.
So too in the case of Bishop DeSimone, who is not receiving the award just because he is a distinguished alumnus.
“He has been close to us for many decades,” Father DeGregorio said. “He went to Villanova and has been very close to us.”
Bishop DeSimone attended what was then Villanova College in the 1940s and left for induction into the United States Army during World War II. He served during the Italian campaign, including the liberation of Rome, where as Sergeant DeSimone he was blessed by Pope Pius XII.
(Read CatholicPhilly’s story on Bishop DeSimone’s role in one of World War II’s major battles.)
After his military service he enrolled at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
This year Bishop DeSimone will celebrate his 66th anniversary of priestly ordination. After a brief assignment on the faculty of St. Thomas More High School he served as parochial vicar at St. Donato Parish, Philadelphia, and SS. Cosmos and Damian, Conshohocken, where he was named pastor in 1968. This was followed by St. Monica, Philadelphia, in 1976.
While as pastor there he was named an auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese by Pope John Paul II in 1981 but remained as pastor until his retirement in 2001. Just recently, Ritner Street between South 17th and 18th Street bordering St. Monica Church was officially renamed Bishop Louis DeSimone Way.
Bishop DeSimone was one of three brothers who entered the priesthood: Salvatore, a priest of the Camden Diocese; and Russell, an Augustinian friar. Both are deceased.
“When his brother Russell had to be brought to the monastery for his health, the bishop came every single day. He would celebrate Mass with his brother and join the community for lunch, feeding his brother,” Father De Gregorio said. “It was an example to us of fraternal bond.
“Even since his brother’s death he continues to come regularly. He is usually here every Sunday to concelebrate Mass with the friars. He has always been well connected to us.”
Father Di Gregorio, who is a former pastor of St. Rita Parish in South Philadelphia, also remembers how faithful Bishop DeSimone was to the Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia where he still attends the annual May celebration of her feast.
While the pending award to Bishop DeSimone was just recently announced, it has already received enthusiastic inquiries and comment.
Archbishop Charles Chaput wrote in a comment, “I enthusiastically endorse and support your decision to present the Province’s St. Augustine Medal to our wonderful Bishop Louis DeSimone. As you know much better than I, he has a great love for the Augustinian community.”
Event sponsorships and gifts for the award ceremony will benefit the care of the elderly and infirm Augustinian friars.
For more information visit the website for the St. Augustine Medal.