Pope Francis has recognized 15 lay men and women and four religious sisters in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for their outstanding service to the Church and communities.
Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez will confer the papal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice and Benemerenti medals on the honorees during a 3:30 p.m. vespers service at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on Sunday, Aug. 28.
The Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Award was instituted in 1791 and is given to lay and religious members for their service to the ecclesial community. Benemerenti awards have been given since 1888, and honor those who have shown exemplary service to their church, family, and community. The process to nominate and accept these awards has been on hold for nearly two years during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The honorees receiving Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice awards are Sister Angela Hallahan, CHF, and Sylvia Mendivil Salazar.
“This award is not only an honor for me,” Salazar told Angelus. “No one does anything alone.”
As volunteer coordinator for the archdiocese’s Native American Concerns ministry, she said she has always followed the advice she received from her parents: “Don’t just say good words, but follow with actions.”
Salazar has spent 22 years traveling to meetings with indigenous tribes and learning about their challenges. She was instrumental in the crafting of 17 Native American protocols signed by Archbishop Gomez and tribal leaders in 2018.
Benemerenti awards will be given to 17 others, including Suzanne Healy, who worked for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for over a decade as a victims assistance coordinator before being appointed in 2017 to the National Review Board with the USCCB’s Committee for Protection of Children and Young People.
“Serving the Church is something I was brought up to do, by my family and the BVM sisters (Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary) who educated me,” Healy said. “I am very honored to be receiving an award.”
Also receiving a posthumous benemerenti medal is Richard Grant Jr., who died on Aug. 10. Grant and his wife Maria are being honored for their years of support for Catholic charity and education in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
The other benemerenti recipients are:
Ana Marie Aguilera, of St. Anthony Church, El Segundo, Our Lady of the Angels Region
Judy Lynn Fernandes, of St. Louis de Montfort Church, Santa Maria, Santa Barbara Region
Sister Mary Elizabeth Galt, BVM, of Our Lady of the Angels Region
Patricia Louise Hendricks-Whisnant, of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Northridge, San Fernando Region
Robert Martinez, of Sacred Heart Church, Covina, San Gabriel Region
Donna May McKennon, of St. John Vianney Church, Hacienda Heights, San Gabriel Region
Robert Augstue McKennon, of St. John Vianney Church, Hacienda Heights, San Gabriel Region
Margaret Oberon, of Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Ventura, Santa Barbara Region
Sister Maryanne O’Neill, CSC, Our Lady of the Angels Region
Sister Edith Prendergast, RSC, Our Lady of the Angels Region
Juanita Rios, of St. Joseph Church, Carpinteria, Santa Barbara Region
Kathleen Sue Tonsich, of St. John Fisher Church, Rancho Palos Verdes, San Pedro Region
William “Bill” George Williams, of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Northridge, San Fernando Region
Jerry Cornelis Van Wingerden, of St. Joseph Church, Carpinteria, Santa Barbara Region