Pope Francis bestows honors for exceptional service on 15 diocesan laypersons

North Texas Catholic
(Feb 1, 2024) Local

Three Benemerenti Medals hang before the diocesan logo. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

FORT WORTH — Bishop Michael Olson announced Pope Francis has bestowed the Benemerenti Medal on 15 Catholic faithful who have provided exceptional service to the Diocese of Fort Worth, including one posthumous award.
The awards will be bestowed by Bishop Olson on Feb. 10 at 5 p.m. during the Saturday vigil Mass at St. Patrick Cathedral. The Mass is open to the public.
Bishop Olson said, “Since its establishment in 1969 as a diocese under the episcopal leadership of Bishop John Cassata, the Diocese of Fort Worth has always placed a priority on the importance of baptismal call to ministry. The Diocese of Fort Worth continues to be blessed to have many lay members who further the mission of the Church in North Texas. The individuals to whom Pope Francis has graciously awarded the Benemerenti Medal represent so many exceptional examples of faithful lay ministers in the Diocese of Fort Worth.”
The Diocese of Fort Worth Benemerenti Medal honorees are:
A detailed view of a Benemerenti Medal. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)
  • Michael Brown of Wichita Falls for his commitment to seminarian education. Over the course of more than 30 years, he raised more than $3.5 million to help fund the formation of priests by organizing semi-annual fundraising dinners. The medal for Brown, who died July 21, 2023, has been given to his family.


  • Joyce Brown Thomas of Fort Worth for exemplary service at Our Mother of Mercy Parish in Fort Worth as sacristan, Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, reader at Mass, officer of the St. Anne’s Altar Society, a core member of the diocesan Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Memorial Mass, and local, state, and national leadership within the National Conference of Catholic Women.


  • Jim Goldsworthy of Gainesville for years of generous stewardship of St. Mary Parish and School as well as service to the city of Gainesville as vice mayor and mayor, using the spirit of his Catholic faith to courageously help heal the wounds of racism and to promote respect and equality among all people.


  • LaDorne Hart of Keller for unwavering support of her husband, Monsignor E. James Hart, through his conversion and appointment to diocesan chancellor and moderator of the curia. By facilitating his work as a priest and leader, her joyful sacrifices allowed his ministry to bear an abundance of fruit in the life of the Church within the Diocese of Fort Worth.


  • John Crumley of Fort Worth in recognition of service with the Knights of Columbus, the Serra Club, and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre; as a St. Patrick Cathedral Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion and a reader; and as the diocesan attorney in assisting the bishop in developing new policies regarding safe environment for minors, just employment practices, and new norms and practices for ethical conduct of the clergy and lay employees.


  • Nancy Eder of Fort Worth for more than 25 years of commitment to the ongoing medical care for priests, seminarians, and diocesan Catholic schools, and her creative response and implementation of COVID-19 protocols throughout the Diocese of Fort Worth.


  • Deacon James Novak of Seymour for years of service and dedication to the faith community as an individual and as a permanent deacon at Seymour’s Sacred Heart Parish and St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Megargel, which includes formation of diocesan seminarians, enculturation of foreign priests, and collaboration with other local Protestant communities in the Seymour area to provide for the physical and spiritual needs of indigent and itinerant poor.


  • Rilda Novak of Seymour for service to the faith through her work at Seymour’s Sacred Heart Parish for the bereaved, as mentor for young couples preparing to receive the sacrament of matrimony, as well as for dutiful service to the Altar Society in preparing and repairing vestments and serving as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.


  • Doreen Quinn of Arlington for fostering Catholic education and supporting and nurturing her family as a dedicated wife and mother. A parishioner of Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, she has provided invaluable assistance to couples in their preparation for the sacrament of matrimony and served as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. She has been a member of the Fort Worth Chapter of Legatus since 2007.


  • Bill Quinn of Arlington for generous stewardship of his gifts, especially for his intellectual skill and experience as a money manager by assisting the diocese by screening companies for investment and avoiding investment with companies who do not align with Catholic teaching.


  • Mary Patricia Pelletier of Arlington for her dedicated life as a wife of a disabled veteran and mother of five children who practice the Catholic faith, as well as operating a crisis pregnancy center that has saved the lives of over 10,000 babies throughout its history — work she continues to do with her son James Pelletier to assist women in crisis pregnancies.


  • Deacon Tacho Perez of Wichita Falls for dedicated service among the Hispanic population in Wichita Falls, including newly arrived immigrants as well as longtime citizens, and for serving as a permanent deacon by assisting at Mass, consoling the bereaved, conducting funerals, visiting the sick, and bringing the homebound Holy Communion. 


  • Tessy Ross of Fort Worth for fostering Catholic education as a St. Andrew Catholic School junior high school teacher and, secondly in the Diocesan Catholic School Office to address the needs of financially challenged schools. She holds active membership in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre and has planned and organized regional conferences of the Order and assisted in planning and organizing large diocesan celebrations, such as the ordination and installation of two bishops and the celebration of the 40th and 50th anniversaries of the Diocese’s establishment.


  • Bill Ross of Fort Worth for the promotion of vocations as a member of the Serra Club and by organizing the annual Diocesan Vocation Awareness Program to assist young men and women to discern a vocation to priesthood or religious life. He is an active member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre and has assisted in the planning and organization of regional conferences of the Order.


  • Sandra Townsend of Fort Worth for more than 40 years of joyful service and dedication to the faith in teaching pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students at St. Andrew Catholic School.


In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI honored 10 individuals in the Diocese of Fort Worth with the Benemerenti Medal.
The Benemerenti Medal was first given by Pope Pius VI as a military award to papal soldiers in the late 1700s. In mid-1800s, Pope Gregory XVI created a special Benemerenti medal to reward those who fought courageously in the papal army at Ferrara, Bologna, and Vienna. In 1925, Pope Pius XI expanded the granting of the medal to include individuals in civil, military, laity, and clergy positions as a recognition of exceptional service to the Catholic Church.
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