January 4, 2018

Pope Francis Bestows Honors Upon 28 Individuals for Exceptional Service to the Church in Philadelphia

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is proud to announce that Pope Francis has bestowed Papal Honors upon 28 individuals for their dedication and exceptional service to the Church in Philadelphia.

Nine have been named Dame/Knight in the Order of Saint Gregory the Great; eleven will receive the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (Cross for the Church and Pontiff); and eight will receive the Benemerenti Medal.

Archbishop Chaput remarked, “Each person recognized by the Pope 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.  Each has earned the gratitude of the Holy Father and our whole Catholic community. 

 But more importantly, each represents and stands in for the many thousands of other committed Catholics who serve the Gospel every day with the same fidelity and unselfish love.  Christian discipleship is not about accumulating honors.  In the long run, the only award that really matters is the friendship of God.  But these special expressions of papal praise and gratitude are moments of grace for all of us, and they’re meant to be a source of joy for the whole local Church.”  

The honors will be conferred upon the individuals by the Archbishop during a Vespers service at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. All are welcome to attend.

 Sunday, January 21, 2018
4:00 p.m.
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
18th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Background Regarding the Benemerenti Medal

The Benemerenti Medal was created by Pope Gregory XVI, and dates to the late 18th/early 19th 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.

Those Honored with the Benemerenti Medal

  • Anne Healy Ayella
    • Ayella recently retired as Assistant Director for Nutritional Development Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. She served the Archdiocese for 36 years in various roles related to its Community Food Program and as a liaison with Catholic Relief Services, the official overseas relief agency of the Catholic Church in the United States of America.
  • Dawn Chism
    • Chism 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.
  • Chinh Dinh
    • Dinh is a lay leader for the Vietnamese Catholic community in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and for Vietnamese Catholics throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia as the chairman for the Federation of Vietnamese Catholics.
  • John J. Donnelly
    • Donnelly is the retired President and CEO of L.F. Driscoll and serves on the Board of Directors of the Independence Mission Schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. A passionate advocate in combating cancer, he received the Humanitarian Award from the American Association for Cancer Research in 2016.
  • Marie Joseph
    • Joseph is an adjunct professor at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary. She serves as the executive director of the Legacy of Life Foundation, a prolife non-profit ministry saving more than 300 unborn children a year and providing support to their mothers.
  • Sheila Longworth
    • Longworth has devoted her life and work to generations of seminarians and priests. She has served as a phone operator, mail room clerk, and secretary at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary for several decades.
  • Brian G. McElwee
    • McElwee is the founding chairman of the Independence Mission Schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He also serves on the board of Immaculata University and Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools (BLOCS).
  • Damon Owens
    • Owens is the Executive Director of the Pope John Paul II Theology of the Body Institute. He and his wife Melanie have taught Natural Family Planning for 14 years and were featured presenters at the World Meeting of Families—Philadelphia 2015.

Background Regarding the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice

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 honor inscribed, as well as a scroll. The honor was established in 1888 and 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 Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice

  • Mr. Manuel A. Beltran
    • Deacon Beltran is stationed at Saint Martin of Tours Parish in Philadelphia. His primary ministerial focus is in working with the region’s Hispanic community. He and his wife are especially active in the “Pastoral Familiar” ministry, which offers pastoral counseling and retreats to couples and families across the Archdiocese.
  • Sister Maureen Crissy, RSM
    • Sister Maureen Crissy has dedicated her religious life to those most in need through 25 years of service in the ministry of education and 25 additional years of service as Program Director at Women of Hope, a shelter providing transitional housing for women and operated by Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
  • Becky Espanol
    • Espanol is the Parish Services Coordinator and the Religious Education Coordinator at Saint Martin of Tours Parish in Philadelphia where her husband is a permanent deacon. They are especially active in the “Pastoral Familiar” ministry, which offers pastoral counseling and retreats to couples and families across the Archdiocese.
  • Kevin L. Hughes, Ph.D.
    • Hughes is the co-founder and former chair of Villanova University’s Department of Humanities. He is currently an associate professor of Theology and Religious Studies at Villanova University.
  • Sister Patricia Kelly, MSBT
    • Sister Patricia Kelly has dedicated her religious life to those most in need through over 50 years of service in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as an administrator for parish ministry for Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
  • Brother Richard E. Kestler, FSC
    • Brother Richard Kestler 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, 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 Preparatory High School and La Salle University.
  • Mr. Jose L. Lozada
    • Deacon Lozada was a member of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s first permanent deacon class. He has ministered to Philadelphia’s Hispanic community with distinction since that time and is currently stationed at Saint Veronica Parish in Philadelphia.
  • Matthew McCloskey
    • McCloskey is the founder and president of McCloskey Financial Group. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Archdiocesan Educational Fund, founded by his grandfather, since 1979 and has been its President since 1995. He also serves as a trustee for Serra International. Mr. McCloskey was previously named a Knight in the Order of Saint Gregory the Great. His wife, Donna, is being named a Dame in the Order of Saint Gregory the Great this year (see below).
  • Sister Anne Patricia Myers, SSJ
    • Sister Anne Myers serves as Congregational President for the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Philadelphia. She has served as an elementary school teacher, counselor, and psychologist as well as in various higher education roles as a professor. She also serves as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors at Chestnut Hill College.
  • Sister M. Edward William Quinn, IHM
    • Sister Edward Quinn has committed her religious life to the mission of the Church through service in Catholic education for the past 50 years. She currently serves as Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment in the Office of Catholic Education for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
  • Thomas W. Smith, Ph.D.
    • Smith is a Professor of Political Science and Humanities at Villanova University and is also Director of the Villanova University Honors Program. He is the co-founder and founding chair of Villanova’s Department of Humanities and former associate dean of the university’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Background Regarding the Order of Saint Gregory the Great

The Order of Saint 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. 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 Holy Father himself for service already rendered and an invitation from His Holiness to continue a life of exemplary Christian witness. 

Those Named Dame/Knight in the Order of Saint Gregory the Great

  • Scott M. Browning
    • Browning has served the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, other Catholic dioceses and religious communities, and the Church at the national and international level for more than 20 years. He has been a major source of policy counsel on religious liberty and related issues, in crafting policies to help victims of sexual abuse and to prevent abuse in Church-related environments, and in assisting with the Church’s legislative and legal needs.
  • Mary Anne Burke and Mr. Arthur Burke
    • Burke is the retired Vice President of Fidelity Bank. He and Mrs. Burke have held various leadership roles in their parish and worked to foster vocations through their 40 year involvement in the Serra Club of Philadelphia, of which Mrs. Burke served as the first female president.
  • Anna Davis and Mr. Gerald T. Davis
    • Davis is a retired senior communications executive from Sunoco and serves on the board of Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary. He and his wife and children were selected to present the Holy Father with offertory gifts at Mass during the Papal Visit to Philadelphia in 2015.
  • Patricia B. Holloway and Mr. Gary M. Holloway
    • Holloway is Senior President and CEO of GMH Communities Associates. He and his wife Patricia have provided significant time, financial resources, and support to the mission of the Church through service on numerous Archdiocesan boards and councils and through Catholic schools and institutions within the Archdiocese.
  • Donna McCloskey
    • Working closely with her husband, Matthew, Mrs. McCloskey has been a staunch supporter of the ministry of Catholic Education in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for decades. Her particular area of focus has been with the Archdiocesan Educational fund. She has exhibited great personal dedication and significant contributions to this cause. Mr. McCloskey is a recipient of the Cross Pro Eccelesia et Pontifice this year (see above).
  • Joseph J. Sweeney
    • Sweeney worked to serve those most in need as an employee of the Secretariat for Catholic Human Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for 31 years before retiring in 2016. He was the first lay person to hold the position of Secretary for Catholic Human Services in the Archdiocese

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Editor’s Note: Additional biographical information on those men and women being honored by Pope Francis can be found at www.CatholicPhilly.com.



Stephanie Brophy
Associate Director of Communications
215-587-3747 (office)