Recently retired chief executive officer of Catholic Cemeteries and Crematoria, Peter O’Meara has been honoured with a papal knighthood in recognition of over a decade of tireless advocacy in the corporate and political sphere, defending the Church’s mission in ensuring everyone has a dignified faith-based funeral and burial and access to grief support at a reasonable cost.
Mr O’Meara has been made a Knight of St Gregory the Great in a moving ceremony led by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, who presented him with the honour after having personally nominated him to Pope Francis.
Mr O’ Meara, who has recently been diagnosed with motor neurone disease, also received the sacrament of anointing of the sick from Archbishop Fisher at his Sydney home, surrounded by family, friends and work colleagues.
A long-time friend and colleague of Mr O’Meara’s, Catholic Cemeteries and Crematoria governor, Danny Casey, said Mr O’Meara has been an inspirational advocate for the Church’s mission in the cemetery sector, successfully fighting off a NSW government proposal in 2021 to hand the management of all cemeteries over to government.
Mr Casey said Peter O’Meara has left a great legacy which will benefit many generations of Sydneysiders and their families who wish to have a faith-based burial.
“Peter has laid the foundations by having obtained land and planning approvals and designs for outstanding cemeteries that will look after the departed for over 100 years in Sydney and, in so doing, he has earned the respect and affection not only of Catholics, but also of other faith communities as well,” he said.
Over many years, Mr O’Meara has worked closely with Muslim and other faith community organisations to ensure that Catholic Cemeteries and Crematoria can offer dignified, low-cost burials for all which respect different faith traditions.
In 2021, he successfully fought off plans by then NSW Property Minister, Melina Pavey to push ahead with plans to merge all five Sydney cemetery trusts under one single government-controlled model called One Crown.
Mr O’Meara’s successor as CEO of Catholic Cemeteries and Crematoria, Lauren Hardgrove, said Peter has been a visionary leader with a strong personal Catholic faith which guided every decision he made.
“I would say the greatest legacy Peter has left to our organisation has been in the establishment of a Grief Care division, focused on supporting our bereaved, but also in educating the community about death, dying, grief and bereavement and having services available to support them,” she said.
“Peter foreshadowed, long before governments did, the looming burial crisis and secured land to enable everyone to have a service or burial place in metropolitan Sydney.”