Aug. 1, 2002 – For the first time in Vatican history, members of the Roman Catholic Church in the Virgin Islands have been singled out for papal and episcopal honors. Word of the church citations reached the territory during the recent trip by Pope John Paul II to the Catholic Youth Summit in Canada.
Among those receiving special honors: Fr. Bernard Campbell, 89, an associate pastor at St. Ann's Church on St. Croix, and Fr. Jerome Feudjio of Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral on St. Thomas were elevated to the title of monsignor. Campbell was named a member of the Papal Household. Feudjio was named a chaplain to the pope.
Others receiving official recognition from the Holy See are from the Catholic laity:
Knolly Beazer, who has helped prepare the sanctuary of Sts. Peter and Paul for services over the past 50 years, was named a Knight of St. Gregory. That is "a very old order in the church, designated for its service," said Bishop John Murry, who wrote the recommendation letters that led to the historic honors.
Receiving the Pro-Ecclesia et Pontifice award were Judge Alphonso Christian, Rita de Chabert-Shuster, Nausica Antoine, and Mr. and Mrs. Leonardo Ayala. The award dates back to the 19th century, Murry said, and is given to people in recognition of their contributions to their local Catholic diocese.
Murry said he determined the nominees for papal honors in consultation with priests of the Catholic churches throughout the territory. "It usually takes about six months to a year before papal awards are returned, and it worked out that I was notified of the awards that had been granted during the pope's trip to Toronto," he said. "It was wonderful to have him here in the Western Hemisphere as the awards were being announced."
The recognitions are a way of thanking church members for helping to promote the faith in the community, the bishop said. He added that at a time when the Catholic Church is enmeshed in scandal because of accounts of priests molesting children, the awards serve as acknowledgment of those in the clergy who have served with honor.
Locally, in another first, Murry himself has chose two honorees from each V.I. Catholic parish as recipients of the inaugural Bishop's Award.
The honorees on St. Thomas are: Dr. Alfred O Heath and Gerald R. Nicholson Sr. from Sts. Peter and Paul; Saint Anne's Church Legion of Mary and Marina Slame from St. Anne's Chapel; Noreen Francis Bryan and Carmen Sibilly from Our Lady of Perpetual Help; and Jean Dragin and Alma Wells from Holy Family.
Those on St. John are: Ina Lee and Thomas Gamon from Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Those on St. Croix are: Lucy Bough and the Rev. Hyacinthe George from St. Ann's; Carmen Anderson and the Rev Ulric E. Benjamin Sr. from Holy Cross; Charles McGregor and Leonard Schwan from Sacred Heart Chapel; Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Thomas and Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Williams from St. Joseph; and the Rev Emith Fludd and Gwendolyn Lucas from St. Patrick's.
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