Pope Francis Bestows Honors Upon 10 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 10 individuals for their exceptional service to the Catholic Church.  One individual will receive the Benemerenti Medal; four will receive the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (Cross for the Church and Pontiff); three have been named Dame/Knight in the pontifical Order of Saint Gregory the Great; and two have been named Dame/Knight Commander in the same Order.

The honors will be conferred by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. at an evening Vespers service:

Monday, December 9, 2019
6:00 p.m.
Chapel of the 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 established by Pope Pius VI in the last quarter of the 18th century as a military honor for outstanding service to the Holy See.  The medal was later extended to worthy  members of the clergy and civilian laity.  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.

  • Christopher J. Stefanick
      • Stefanick began his career as a highly regarded youth and young adult minister working at the parish level before assuming larger responsibilities at the diocesan level. He later founded and continues to lead successful evangelization efforts on a national scale. His work forming the character and leadership skills of Catholic men has been exceptional. He has provided outstanding counsel for many years to various bishops throughout the country, including Archbishop Chaput, and to several committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Background Regarding the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice

The Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, or Cross of Honor, was established in 1888 by Pope Leo XIII.  It is awarded to Catholics aged 45 and above who have shown long and distinguished service to the Church and to the Papal office.

  • Reverend Philip G. Bochanski
      • Father Bochanski, a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for more than 20 years, has spent the last decade counseling and supporting persons who experience same-sex attraction. He has worked tirelessly, with compassion and great sensitivity, to advance Church teaching on human sexuality, and gained national respect for the Courage apostolate in the process. Starting as a local chaplain for Courage International, he later advanced to National Associate Director, and now serves as the National Executive Director.
  • Helen Mc Connell
      • For three decades, Mrs. McConnell has cared for the priests of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as a registered nurse, Administrator of Villa Saint Joseph, and Director of Priest Retirement Services. In addition to her administrative duties on site at the Villa she frequently travels to care for priests living independently, in parish rectories, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes. Her career in service to the Church has been one of extraordinary compassion and care for those men who have given their lives to a priestly vocation for the benefit of others.
  • Phillip J. Miraglia
      • Miraglia, a distinguished clinical counseling psychologist, began his professional association with the Archdiocese in the mid-1970s. At that time, he worked as a counselor for Catholic Social Services. Over the last four decades, he has served the needs of clergy, religious men and women, and seminarians with exceptional dedication and discretion. As a psychologist consultant and collaborator, Dr. Miraglia’s counsel— on some of the most difficult and sensitive issues faced by the Catholic Church — has been generous, wise, and honest. His career has been an invaluable gift to the Church.
  • Louise M. Sullivan
      • Sullivan has served the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in various capacities for more than 30 years. In the early 1990s, she was part of the leadership team responsible for Archdiocesan nursing homes. During that time, she worked on numerous projects aimed at ensuring the highest quality of life for the aging. Since 2005, she has served as Office Manager for the Archdiocesan Vicar for Clergy. In addition to her critical administrative service for this secretariat, she assists with on-going formation programs, retreats, workshops, and continuing education programs for the priests and deacons of the Archdiocese.

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. Over the course of nearly two centuries, it has been awarded to philanthropists, diplomats, military and business leaders, artists, scientists, and interfaith leaders who have shown, by their service, extraordinary love for Jesus Christ and his Church. With the exception of Catholic heads of state, diplomats assigned to Vatican City State, and others of international standing, the Order of St. Gregory the Great is the highest honor granted by the Holy Father to laypersons.

Dame/Knight in the Order of Saint Gregory the Great

  • Jacqueline J. Delaney
      • Delaney has embodied a lifelong, active commitment to the mission of the Church. She has served on numerous Catholic-related boards and committees, and is the first woman named chair of the Board of Directors for the Malvern Retreat House. Over the last decade, Mrs. Delaney has also served as the chair of the Archbishop’s Benefit for Children, raising funds vital for youth programs administered by Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese.
  • James Delaney
      • Delaney has more than 40 years of business leadership in the health care and financial industries. He has served on numerous boards and foundations including the National Advisory Council of the U.S. bishops, the National Advisory Board of the Church Leadership Institute, the National Catholic Community Foundation, the Catholic Philopatrian Literary Institute, and Catholic Athletes for Christ. He is also the former Chairman of the Board at Neumann University, in addition to serving as Treasurer and Chair of the Finance and Audit Committee for the Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary Board of Trustees.
  • Miss Kerry F. Kober
      • Miss Kober has provided superior and irreplaceable executive assistance to Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap for more than 25 years. She has supported his episcopal ministry in Rapid City, Denver, and Philadelphia with exceptional discretion and diligence on a wide range of sensitive Church matters. Her commitment to Jesus Christ and to the work of the Church makes her a powerful Christian witness.

Dame Commander/Knight Commander in the Order of Saint Gregory the Great

  • Suann T. Maier
      • Maier’s distinguished teaching career — in Catholic schools in New York, Los Angeles, and Denver — spanned more than four decades. As a mother and grandmother of children with disabilities, she has been a counselor, coach, grassroots organizer, volunteer, and leader in prolife and special needs organizations for 45 years. In addition to her parish volunteer work over the decades, Mrs. Maier founded 14 prolife centers and 21 prolife hot lines for women with problem pregnancies, and has served in leadership and on boards for various Catholic women’s organizations.
  • Francis X. Maier
      • Maier has a career spanning 41 years in Catholic journalism and senior diocesan service, including 23 years as senior advisor and special assistant to Archbishop Chaput in Denver and Philadelphia. Over the decades he has written, spoken, and mentored extensively on Church matters, served as a youth minister and catechist, and been active in Catholic men’s groups and prolife advocacy. In 2005, Mr. Maier and his wife Suann, were named Knight and Dame in the Order of Saint Gregory the Great by Saint John Paul II.