Adelaide, Australia, Aug 9, 2013 / 04:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has recently named three South Australian Catholics to the Order of St. Gregory the Great, the single highest honor the Pope can bestow on an individual.
“Their lives are exemplary models of Christian living, and all of them are well recognized in the community as people of the highest integrity, distinction and leadership,” stated Archbishop Philip E. Wilson of Adelaide, Australia.
The Archdiocese of Adelaide announced the awards in a recent press release. The recipients of the pontifical award had been recommended to the Holy Father by the archbishop.
Pope Gregory XVI established the Order of St. Gregory the Great in 1831 to honor a former Pope, St. Gregory the Great, who is regarded as an esteemed theologian of the sixth century.
The prestigious Papal awards are given to individuals who have served the Church and society and witnessed to their Catholic faith in a sustained and exemplary way.
Archbishop Wilson explained that the awarding of the ancient titles is “rare” and is particularly significant on this occasion because these are the first to be granted by Pope Francis.
The Holy Father named businessman Graham Spurling to be made a Knight of the pontifical order. Archbishop Wilson described Spurling as a leader in the manufacturing industry who has completely reformed and revitalized the financial structures of the archdiocese in his role as Chairman of the Diocesan Finance Council.
Married with five children and 15 grandchildren, he is an active member of his local Brighton parish.
Dr. Krista Maier, a general practitioner, was named as a Dame of the order. Maier is known locally for her work serving residents of the southern suburbs, particularly those in disadvantaged circumstances.Archbishop Wilson described her as “a committed Catholic who lives out her faith in her role as a medical doctor,” as well as a person of “great charity and generosity,” reflected in her volunteer work in the community.
Also receiving the honor of Dame was Pauline Connelly, a social worker and counselor who serves as the assistant director of Centacare Catholic Family Services in the archdiocese.
Connelly was praised for her support for migrants, refugees and members of the Aboriginal community, in addition to her involvement in developing child protection policies and procedures, as well as cultural awareness training for counselors.
“Pauline Connelly is one of the most distinguished lay women in the Archdiocese of Adelaide,” Archbishop Wilson said.
Press office Jenny Brinkworth explained that “the archdiocese is delighted and exited with these nominations.”
She told CNA that Archbishop Wilson will present the awards, signed by Pope Francis, later in the year.
“The honors acknowledge these three individuals’ extraordinary Christian leadership,” emphasized the archbishop.