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Pope bestows honors on Jacksonville-area church members for their service

They will be honored at 5 p.m. Sunday with a special Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine at 38 Cathedral Place, celebrated by Bishop Felipe Estévez.
Credit: AP
Pope Francis speaks during his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Pope Francis has bestowed papal honors on 18 Northeast Florida Catholics for their dedication and exceptional service to the Diocese of St. Augustine over the last decade.

Those honored include a former Jacksonville mayor, a City Council member and her husband who served with three other mayors.

They will be honored at 5 p.m. Sunday with a special Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine at 38 Cathedral Place, celebrated by Bishop Felipe Estévez, head of the diocese.

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“It is a privilege for me to present these papal honors on behalf of our Holy Father, Pope Francis,” Estévez said. “The men and women honored have provided exceptional service to the local church and their community. I wish I could have recommended many other parishioners of the diocese who have also served the church exceptionally for the Lord and his people."

The diocese encompasses 61 parishes and missions in 17 North Florida counties, including Jacksonville, Gainesville and St. Augustine.

The honorees also include couples, religious sisters and a permanent deacon and will receive their honors among three award categories:

• The Grand Cross of the Order of St. Gregory the Great was founded by Pope Gregory XVI in 1831 to honor his sixth-century predecessor. Since then, popes have awarded it to diplomats, artists, scientists, world leaders and interfaith leaders who have shown love for Jesus Christ and his church through their service.

The honorees 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 Spirit Parish in Jacksonville and Alton Yates of Holy Rosary Parish in Jacksonville.

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• The Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice is a gold medal with the name of the honoree inscribed, as well as a scroll. Established in 1888, it is given to Catholics who have shown distinguished service to the church and the papal office.

The honorees 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 in the papal army, then extended to members of the clergy and laity for exceptional service to the church.

The honorees are Thomas Joseph McGoldrick and Elizabeth Kennedy of Sisters of St. Joseph in St. Augustine, Martha Lucia Alers-Alers of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Orange Park, Deacon Lowell Corky Hecht of St. Joseph Parish in Jacksonville, Gregory Montana of Assumption Parish in Jacksonville and Chau Thien Phan of Santa Maria del Mar Parish in Flagler Beach.

Three of those honorees have worked for, or led the city of Jacksonville.

Gwendolyn Yates was a Jacksonville city councilwoman from 2003 to 2007 after being administrative program manager with the Community Development Division. She is also a past president of the Florida Council on Aging and Catholic Charities Bureau. Her husband, Alton Yates, is a U.S. Air Force veteran who served as administrative aide to Mayors Hans Tanzler, Jake Godbold and Tommy Hazouri. And Delaney was Jacksonville's mayor from 1995 to 2003, then was president of the University of North Florida through 2018. 

The Mass and ceremony are open to the public.

dscanlan@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4549

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