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Catholics honoured on Australia Day

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Ordinary heroes from the Catholic community were among the 845 people whose decades of service were recognised in the 2021 Australia Day Honours List. IMAGE: Freepik

Priest-scholar one of more than 800 honoured in 2021

The extraordinary contributions of Missionary of the Sacred Heart priest Fr Paul Stenhouse to the Church, scholarship, journalism and migrant families across Sydney and the country was recognised with an Australia Day award more than a year after his death.

Fr Stenhouse was one of 845 Australians whose decades of service were recognised in the Australia Day 2021 Honours List, in which posthumous awards are rare.

The founder of Annals Australasia magazine, former chairman of Aid to the Church in Need Australia and international expert on Semitic cultures and languages, was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for his service to the Catholic Church in Australia.

Fr Paul Stenhouse pictured in 2015 upon receiving an Australian Catholic University honorary doctorate.

Author of a new biography of Fr StenhouseWanda Skowronska, said she was delighted” to hear that he had made the list of honours.

“It is recognition so richly deserved by this pioneering scholar, journalist and compassionate priest,” Ms Skownronska said.

He saw beneath the surface of things, and expressed his supple perceptiveness in all his writings, particularly the journal Annalsthe longest lasting journal in Australian history. He was outstanding, kind and a humble Australian; a true ‘national treasure’.

Current chair of ACN Australia Terry Tobin paid tribute to the many-faceted life of the quiet-natured yet extraordinarily gifted priest.

“Fr Paul Stenhouse was of course a scholar, at home in Arabic and semitic languages (including Samaritan), who had taught at Sydney University,” Mr Tobin said.

He was a learned editor who produced Annals, the journal of Catholic Culture, for 50 years before signing off on its very last print edition just before he died in 2019. He was a Christian humanitarian who for more than 20 years was president of Aid To The Church In Need Australia in which time he oversaw, with the Collignon family, the raising of more than $60 million to assist priests and religious in building or maintaining hospitals, schools, seminaries and convents all around the world.

Above all he was a priest, a true country man, an Australian whose vision reached far beyond our shores. It is good that we honour him and those like him who are such great examples for all of us.” 

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Dr Michael McDonald. PHOTO: Supplied

Many other Catholics were recognised in the annual awards from all walks of life who serve, more often than not, in a voluntary capacity over and above their usual commitments.

They included the Chairman of Makinson d’Apice Lawyers William (Billd’Apice who was made a member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to the law, to the legal profession, and to the Catholic Church of Australia. He said he was delighted and honoured by the accolade.

“It was certainly a surprise, but I really want to share this with others as my work in the Church has been undertaken in a somewhat collegial manner,” Mr d’Apice said.

It’s been a great honour and privilege to interact with people like that, people with integrity and intelligence and commitment to the church’s ministry. I’m just be delighted to be able to play my part in it all.”

That part has been a broad one, including Mr d’Apice’s role on the finance council for the Archdiocese of Sydney for many years, as well as the Diocese of Broken Bay, and leadership roles with Calvary Care Ministries and Catholic Church Insurances.

Sydney businessman Greg Sanderson has been awarded an Order of Australia medal, recognising his philanthropic and fundraising work, including fundraising for St Vincent’s Private Hospital and the Curran Foundation. He said he felt “flattered”.

Dynamic duo Canowindra locals Anne and Mark Ward each received a Medal of the Order of Australia in the 2021 awards. PHOTO: Supplied

Working with St Vincent’s had been nothing but “the greatest pleasure” he added, and he is in awe of the Sisters of Charity who established the hospital and continue to serve the community with such dedication.

Elizabeth O’Carrigan from Summer Hill has been awarded an Order of Australia medal for her service to education in NSW, which has been spent in Catholic education. Currently the director of Catholic education in Wagga Wagga, Elizabeth’s distinguished career in education leadership includes almost a decade serving as a regional director of the former eastern region of Sydney Catholic Schools.

Dr Michael McDonald of Gerroa on the NSW south coast has been awarded an Order of Australia medal for his service to the Catholic Church and to the community, which involves involvement in Good Samaritan Education school boards, Church governance, the St Vincent de Paul Society, and Juvenile Justice NSW. 

Relatives of Fr Paul Stenhouse MSC process his coffin out of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Kensington following his Requiem Mass. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

“I was humbled and lost for words really,” he said. “Most of the work this have been areas in which I’ve volunteered and been privileged to meet many fine people who’ve dedicated their lives to the various works they’ve been involved in.

“I really value the notion of supporting the education of young women and providing them with opportunities to have a significant role and place in Australian society. We need to provide opportunities for people, particularly young people who are more disadvantaged than ourselves in a variety of ways, to allow them to flourish into the sort of human being that they could be.”

Anne and Mark Ward of Canowindra have both been awarded Order of Australia medals in recognition of their service to its close-knit community of around 1800 people including significant volunteer work at their local Catholic parish, St Edward’s in Canowindra.

“We are very honoured to receive it and are thrilled to receive it together because everything we do is really as a team,” – Anne Ward

“We are very honoured to receive it and are thrilled to receive it together because everything we do is really as a team,” said Anne. “What’s lovely about these awards is that they just recognise ordinary Australians doing ordinary things well. We’ve been very lucky to able to take on leadership roles in all sorts of organisations and to give back to our small community of Canowindra which has been so incredibly good to us over the years.”

A highlight of their work has been overseeing the fundraising and building of a disability-friendly house for a young local family who had been doing it tough, which was recently completed with the support of volunteers.

They also were instrumental in the work of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre in the town, Lyndon House. Their good friend and fellow St Edward’s stalwart David O’Dea also received a medal of the Order of Australia for his service to the community and to the wine industry.

“Dad’s been heavily involved in the parish over the 60 years he’s lived in Canowindra, from calling bingo to giving Communion and serving on the parish council,” said his son Stephen. “In the wider community whatever was needed to be done he was usually involved in it or the chairperson of it. 

Fr Paul Stenhouse MSC, centre, with other Australian representatives of churches in Jerusalem in 1971.

He helped to embed Lyndon House in Canowindra and gave a lot of succour to the people there as well as being a local innovator in the grape industry. Mum [Elizabeth ‘Wizz’] gave him her full support and they were part of a group of who just got involved in whatever the community needed whether in it was the local agricultural show society, sporting clubs and facilities and tourism.”

Among recipients of the Order of Australia Medal was Shirley Miller. Ms Miller was recognised for her service to the community through social welfare organisations. The Cremorne resident has worked as a volunteer at the St Vincent de Paul Society (Mosman outlet) for 50 years.

Announcing the Australia Day 2021 Honours List, Governor-General David Hurley congratulated the “diverse and unique” recipients and thanked them for their selflessness, commitment and dedication.

“Most would consider the achievements that they are being recognised for to be ‘ordinary’ or just what they do,” he said. “The sum of these contributions speaks to our nation’s greatest strength – its people. 

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