Forty Catholics in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia have been honored by Pope Francis for their dedication and exceptional service to the church, the archdiocese announced Aug. 16.
The honors will be conferred by Archbishop Charles Chaput during a ceremony with Evening Prayer Sept. 5 at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, Philadelphia.
The awardees, who include lay individuals, couples, a religious sister and a permanent deacon, will receive their honors among five award categories.
Knight Commander in the Order of St. Gregory the Great:
James J. Bock retired in 2018 after a long career of exemplary service to the local church at both the parish and archdiocesan levels. As the archdiocesan Secretary for Temporal Services, he oversaw the material needs of the central administrative offices of the archdiocese as well as successive archbishops, auxiliary bishops and staff members. In 2003, he was named a Knight of St. Gregory by St. Pope John Paul II.
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 great sixth century predecessor. In the nearly 200 years since that time, sitting pontiffs have awarded it 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 Holy Father himself for service already rendered and an invitation from him to continue a life of exemplary Christian witness.
Dames and Knights in the Order of St. Gregory the Great:
James Amato has served in the Secretariat for Catholic Human Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in various capacities for more than three decades. He was named Secretary for Catholic Human Services in 2011. An active State Licensed Professional Social Worker, he has dedicated his professional life to advancing the charitable works of the local church and assisting those most in need throughout the Philadelphia region.
Leslie J. Davila serves as the director of the Office for Child and Youth Protection of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Over the past seven years, she has spearheaded efforts to continually bolster archdiocesan efforts to protect the children and young people entrusted to the care of the church through education and training. As a result of her work, the archdiocese has become a leader in this arena and a model for other institutions around the country.
Dr. John M. Haas has served the church locally, nationally and internationally for decades as a distinguished bioethicist, university professor, moral theologian, author and lecturer. President of the National Catholic Bioethics Center and a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, he is also the founder and president of the Philadelphia-based International Institute for Culture and a consultant to the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
Martha Louise Gannoe Haas, a wife and mother of nine children, has performed in choirs around the world including the Cathedral Choir in Fribourg, Switzerland. While her husband Dr. Haas was teaching at the Pontifical College Josephinum, she was instrumental in organizing successful development campaigns for its seminary. Additionally, she founded and managed the Christopher Shop at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. The shop provided a welcome refuge with maternal solicitude for seminarians in the midst of the rigors seminary life.
Frank J. Miller is a successful businessman, financial expert and long-standing member of the Archdiocesan Finance Council. He has been generous to the Church in Philadelphia, providing material resources, professional counsel, and countless hours of volunteer time. He has played a crucial role in stabilizing and greatly improving the fiscal health of the local church and its ministries.
Barbara Purnell has been an essential, decades-long source of encouragement and support to her husband Deacon Edward Purnell, who is being honored with the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice. In addition to her duties as a homemaker, she has been an active resource and partner in her husband’s many ministerial efforts at the parish level. Without her ongoing and tireless dedication, Deacon Purnell’s significant contributions to the mission of the Church in Philadelphia would not have been possible.
Dr. Lester A. Ruppersberger is one of the most well-respected obstetricians/gynecologists in the Philadelphia region. Although retired from practice, he has served as vice president, president and president emeritus of the national Catholic Medical Association. He and his wife Elizabeth have taught Natural Family Planning for many years, and generously donate time and material resources to a wide range of archdiocesan charitable causes.
Elizabeth Veronica Ruppersberger is not only an accomplished businesswomen, but also serves the largest Philadelphia-region pro-life women’s clinic as a board member, teaches Natural Family Planning with husband Dr. Lester Ruppersberger and generously volunteers for various pro-life organizations.
Albert J. Toczydlowski served as the founding director of the archdiocesan Office of Investigations until retiring in 2018. Prior to that time, he was a colonel and lawyer in the Judge Advocate General Corps of the United States Army Reserve for many years, while also serving with distinction in civilian life as Deputy District Attorney of the City of Philadelphia. As the director of the Office of Investigations, he spearheaded the development of many policies that have been critical to the archdiocese’s efforts to protect children and ensure the integrity of Archdiocesan operations.
Dames and Knights in the Order of St. Sylvester:
Helene Marie Carberry has served the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in various capacities over the last 27 years providing daily, invaluable support to successive archbishops, auxiliary bishops and lay senior administrators. Additionally, she actively supports and engages with Philadelphia’s Katie Kirlin Fund, a charity that raises financial resources and provides grants to athletes with disabilities who also suffer economic hardships.
Timothy C. Flanagan founded the Catholic Leadership Institute in 1991. The organization has changed the way the Roman Catholic Church understands leadership development for clergy and laity alike. Through Flanagan’s vision, the Church in Philadelphia has been able to provide its priests, seminarians and lay administrators with the tools to meet the challenges of an ever-changing ecclesial landscape at the parish and archdiocesan levels.
Barbara Henkels, a long-time benefactor of various archdiocesan charitable efforts, has made major contributions to Catholic education through the founding of the Regina Academies in the Philadelphia region. These classical Catholic schools have begun a new period in the history of Catholic education, offering families the opportunity to send their children to an authentically Catholic school rooted in the riches of classical Western tradition.
Blanca Nellys Herrera has faithfully served the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for over 20 years in ministry to the ever-burgeoning population of Hispanic Catholics. She currently coordinates the Hispanic Catholic Institute that offers a wide range of services and programs in Christian formation and lay ministry formation. Herrera’s work has had tremendous and positive impact in the life of the Hispanic community in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Donna Lee Huddell has served with distinction in multiple archdiocesan support staff positions for 11 years. Over the last seven years, she has provided daily executive support simultaneously to the Moderator of the Curia, Chief Financial Officer and Special Assistant to the Archbishop. Additionally, she has been actively engaged in the life of her parish and is a consecrated virgin in the Order of Virgins of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Kathleen Kelley has dedicated her adult life to the Church in Philadelphia and has served in a variety of administrative support positions in the Archdiocese. Over the course of decades, she has been highly regarded by all those with whom she has worked and has vital administrative support to two cardinal archbishops. Currently she served as executive assistant to Auxiliary Bishop Michael Fitzgerald.
Suzanne M. Kelly has provided the Archdiocese of Philadelphia with almost 30 years of service as an administrative assistant in various departments of the Archdiocesan Curia. She has been a model of humble and generous service for decades in a manner that has had a deeply positive impact on the spirit of the archdiocesan community.
Ann Menna’s outstanding career of service to the church spans 45 years. Currently, she serves as a deputy secretary of the Secretariat for Catholic Education in the Office of Catholic Education and coordinates Parish Religious Education Programs throughout the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, in addition to several other responsibilities aimed at ensuring that Catholic identity is central to the educational formation of youth and young adults.
Amy Stoner is a long-time employee of the Secretariat for Catholic Human Services and has dedicated her career to the local church’s works of charity. Currently, she has administrative responsibility for archdiocesan programs that assist those struggling to overcome homelessness and addictions in addition to children from impoverished areas with support needs. She currently serves as the director of Community-Based Housing and Homeless Services Division of Catholic Social Services. Additionally, she has been instrumental in the success of the Real Alternatives program, which seeks to provide life-affirming options for those women who might otherwise elect to abort a pregnancy.
John Wagner has faithfully served in the Secretariat for Catholic Human Services for more than two decades. As the deputy secretary for Catholic Housing and Community Services, he has spent the past several years spearheading projects to provide affordable housing communities for senior citizens. Under his leadership, Catholic Housing and Community Services has become a leading provider of senior living services in the Philadelphia region.
The Order of St. Sylvester, one of five pontifical knightly orders, was founded by Pope Gregory XVI in 1841. Those named to this order are actively involved in the everyday activities of the church. Membership signifies recognition from the Holy Father himself for exemplary service rendered to the church.
Those honored with the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice:
Sister Kathleen M. Coll, S.S.J., has dedicated her life not only to her vocation as Sister of St. Joseph, but also to the ministry of Catholic education and to those most in need. For more than 50 years she has served as an educator in Catholic schools and has been especially active and effective in combatting the scourge of human trafficking.
Marc A. Fisher has served the church faithfully for many years in various capacities. Before his appointment as Chief Financial Officer for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in June 2019, he served as director of the Office for Audit Services (2011-2012) and director of the Office for Parish Services and Support (2012-2019). In those roles, he led a team that provided oversight and services to 216 parishes and over 100 affiliated parish schools throughout the five-county region. In addition, he played a key role in balancing archdiocesan budgets and helping to reduce archdiocesan debt.
Suzanne Hueston serves as General Counsel to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Before coming to the archdiocese, she held a senior position in state government as an attorney for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Her Catholic faith and legal expertise has helped her spearhead the revitalization of the archdiocesan Office for General Counsel. Additionally, she has defended the church with skill and prudence under very demanding conditions, and has successfully handled difficult litigation and mediation issues.
Lorraine Knight faithfully served in the Secretariat for Catholic Human Services for more than three decades before retiring in 2017, including a long tenure as executive director of Nutritional Development Services. Under her leadership, outreach and private funds needed to serve thousands of children and people in need with healthy food and food-related resources increased. In retirement she remains deeply committed to the service of the poor by serving as a director on Catholic Social Services’ board.
Cathleen C. Kokolus serves as the vice-president for Information Services and Assessment as well as the director of the Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Records Center at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. For nearly two decades, she has been a trusted collaborator in the work of seminary formation. She has been instrumental in providing oversight of various seminary projects including the Ryan Memorial Library renovation, and reorganization and relocation of the Archdiocesan Archives. Additionally, she plays a critical role in the re-accreditation with the Association of Theological School and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education process.
Sister Loretto Eugenia Mapa, R.A., was instrumental in the formation of Filipino Apostolate for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1995. She led this apostolate from its inception until 2014. She has also served as a committee member for the archdiocesan Office for Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees and co-founded the Asian and Pacific Catholic Network.
Sister Lorraine McGrew, I.H.M., has committed her life not only to her vocation as a Sister, Servants of Immaculate Heart of Mary, but also to the ministry of Catholic education. For more than 25 years she exhibited tireless dedication to providing children and young people with a holistic education centered on the example of Christ. Sister Lorraine has also served as a trusted and respected leader to her religious community as both regional superior and grand superior.
Deacon Edward M. Purnell was a member of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s first ordination class of African-American deacons. In addition to his extensive experience in parish ministry, he has served as a respected seminary instructor, director of various archdiocesan offices, liaison with civil authorities, consultant to archdiocesan Catholic education efforts, and leader in the African-American Catholic community.
Sister M. Kathleen Monica Schipani, I.H.M., has been at the forefront of ministry to the Deaf Apostolate and those living with other disabilities in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for over 25 years. Sister Kathleen is a member and past chairperson of the National Catholic Partnership on Disabilities and sits on its education committee. Most recently, she has led the development and administration of Lily’s Gift, a peer ministry of women for women who have had a poor prenatal diagnosis.
Peter Yecco serves as the Controller for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Since his arrival to the Office for Financial Services, he has helped professionalize archdiocesan financial procedures and rebuilt the financial staff. He played a crucial role in restoring financial viability to the Church in Philadelphia, and thus to the mission and public credibility of the local Catholic community.
The Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, also known as the Cross of Honor, comes directly from the Holy See and is composed of a gold medal with the name of the honoree inscribed, as well as a scroll. Pope Leo XIII established this honor in 1888. It is given to Catholics aged 45 and above who have shown distinguished service to the church and to the papal office.
Those Honored with the Benemerenti Medal:
Joseph Aquilante has taught theology at Bishop Shanahan High School in Downingtown, Chester County, for 20 years, and currently serves as chair of the school’s Theology Department. Through his efforts at Bishop Shanahan, his pro-life group of students has grown exponentially and has become one of the largest groups in the archdiocese. He also frequently works in conjunction with the archdiocesan Office for Life and Family on projects that assist youth and young adults in understanding and defending a culture of life.
Estela Reyes-Bugg currently serves as the director of Project Rachel, a ministry of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that provides pastoral support and counseling to those who have been affected by the decision to abort a pregnancy. In addition, she is a tireless advocate and voice for Philadelphia’s immigrant communities and leader of the Philadelphia’s Fatima Outreach Center. She is a model of authentic Catholic social ministry in action, combining her extensive work with immigrants and the poor, with her pro-life leadership in healing women struggling with post-abortion remorse.
Meghan Kathleen Cokeley serves as the director of the Office for New Evangelization of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. She provided invaluable staff support during the World Meeting of Families-Philadelphia 2015 (WMOF), and played a key role in developing and launching “Remain in My Love.” That initiative was implemented by Archbishop Chaput immediately following WMOF and seeks to imbue the love and beauty of the family fully alive into the fabric of archdiocesan life. Cokeley has also been instrumental in organizing annual archdiocesan women’s conferences that focus on the uniqueness and splendor of Christian womanhood.
Maria Victoria Fontanez has been a long-time lay leader at Our Lady of Hope Parish in Philadelphia. In that role she supported various parish ministry programs and assisted with pastoral, administrative and financial matters. Additionally, she has been a long-time advocate for all members of Philadelphia’s Hispanic community. Presently, Fontanez helps organize the Puerto Rican Week Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, and is the liaison for Hispanic Catholics with the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Kathleen Guertin, a wife and mother of six children, dedicated her professional life to the Church in Philadelphia for more than 40 years. She served as the secretary for the Religious Studies Department at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary for 27 years and is currently the secretary for St. Elizabeth Parish in Upper Uwchlan Township, Chester County.
John Kim is a man of great faith who has dedicated himself to the pastoral welfare of the growing Korean Catholic Community in the archdiocese. Since 2011, he has represented Holy Angels Korean Catholic Church as a committee member with the Office for Pastoral Care Migrants and Refugees. In that role he has assisted newly arrived Korean immigrants, planned Masses and community events that seek to meet the pastoral and cultural needs of the Korean Catholic community, and served as a translator for priests and laity alike.
Linda B. Love serves as a member of the archdiocesan Implementation Team for Parish Pastoral councils and as a key resource for the parish self-study process. She has been a team leader focused on collaborative relationships with many archdiocesan offices to further their ability in service to parish communities throughout the region. In 2012, she received the Servant of Christ award for outstanding leadership and service to the church.
Peter M. Schumacher has served people with developmental and physical disabilities for more than 50 years. He has been overwhelmingly generous in providing assistance and ongoing support in quiet yet deeply meaningful ways to individuals with disabilities and their families.
Norman Smeal serves as the president of the International Catholic Deaf Association, Chapter #8. This organization is a local Catholic Deaf Lay group that supports the mission of the Deaf Apostolate. Over the last 23 years, he has performed vital work in pastoral ministry to the deaf so that they may fully experience the Word of God.
Christopher West is an internationally renowned Catholic author, teacher and public speaker on matters of human sexuality, marriage and family with a focus on St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. In 2004 he was instrumental in the establishment of the Theology of the Body Institute in the Philadelphia region, where he currently serves as the Senior Lecturer of Theology and Christian Anthropology. He is also the founder and president of the Cor Project.
The Benemerenti Medal was instituted by Pope Gregory XVI and dates to the 18th century. It was first 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. It can be granted to persons as young as 35 and its reception is open to Catholics as well as members of other faith traditions.
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