A woman who was imprisoned without trial for 20 years for her Catholic beliefs and a man who has spent decades serving persecuted Christians around the world are among seven Sydney Catholics presented with papal awards by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP yesterday.
Archbishop Fisher said the six lay men and women and one religious sister received their honours from Pope Francis for contributing in various ways “a great deal to the Church and the city in Sydney and beyond”.
“Of course to praise them is to praise God first—for it’s His grace that has shone through them,” he said at the ceremony in St Mary’s Chapter Hall.
“And I think today as we heard their stories and then heard from each of them it really was an experience of the communion of saints.”
After spending years in solitary confinement in her native China, Mrs Teresa Liu also endured time in a prison labour camp before finally finding freedom and a home in Sydney.
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The stalwart of St Michael’s Parish in Hurstville was made a Dame of the Order of St Gregory the Great in the ceremony at Cathedral Chapter Hall while Philip Collignon, long-time former national director of Aid to the Church in Need, was invested as a Knight of the Order of St Sylvester.
Chairman of Makinson d’Apice Lawyers William (Bill) d’Apice had his previous Papal Knighthood upgraded to a Knight Commander Con Placca of the Order of St Gregory.
Former CEO of St Vincent’s Private Hospital Robert Cusack, who is now the group business development manager at St Vincent’s Health Care Australia, was made a Knight of the Order of St Sylvester.
Sydney Catholic School’s head of corporate services Kathleen Campbell was made a Dame of the Order of St Sylvester, while the archdiocese’s director of the Commission for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue Sr Giovanni Farquer RSJ and founding member of the Christian Life Community in Australia Kay Hooper were both awarded the Croce Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice.
All had been surprised to discover via a letter from archdiocesan chancellor Chris Meney that they were to receive a papal honour and thanked God along with their family, friends and colleagues for their support.
“You could have knocked me down with a feather when I opened the letter,” said Mr Cusack.
Mr Cusack said it had been a “privilege” to work with the Sisters of Charity, Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters Little Company of Mary and to have the opportunity to carry on their legacies.
“I thank these Sisters for the opportunities, trust and support they have always given me,” he said.
He also thanked Bishop Terry Brady for “his outstanding leadership and support for the mission across the Archdiocese of Sydney, in particular the archdiocesan health ministries.”
Mrs Liu, who also had a brother tortured and killed in a Chinese prison, asked the assembled relatives, friends and colleagues to pray for and support persecuted Catholics in China today and also to pray for priests.
“I thank God that I am here today,” she said.
“I am 86 years old and I could not have imagined that I would still be alive [at this age].
“I thank God every day for everything that happens, all is for the good of my soul.”
Archbishop Fisher said that “in so many different ways these seven have brought Christ to people and people to Christ”.
It also made him “proud” as the Archbishop of Sydney to know “that for every one of them there are probably hundreds and thousands more in our city doing equally wonderful works every day and building up the people of God”.