OGDENSBURG -- Three people from St. Lawrence County – two from Ogdensburg and one from Massena – are receiving the honor of the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross from Pope Francis.
Catherine Denny of Ogdensburg, Mary Besio of Massena, and Sister Mary Teresa LaBrake of Ogdensburg will be receiving the award.
Bishop of the Diocese of Ogdensburg Terry R. LaValley announced that he will confer the cross on the three plus others from around the diocese at a special vesper service at St. Mary’s Cathedral at 3 p.m. Dec. 8.
Catherine Denny is a parishioner of Notre Dame Church in Ogdensburg. She worked for many years as a therapy aide at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center until her retirement. The announcement says that she has been an example of piety and service in her parish community through such work as helping to bring patients at St. Joseph’s Nursing Home to chapel for daily Mass. She has been active in several church-related organizations, and “has given selfless service to the poor, elderly, sick, homebound and needy persons in the name of the Church,” the announcement said.
Mary Besio is a parishioner of St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s Church in Massena. She worked at Alcoa for a time, but stopped to raise her family. In 1973, she became the parish secretary at St. Mary’s Parish in Massena, and served in that capacity for 33 years. After her retirement in 2012, Mary continues to help out as a volunteer in the parish office. She remains active in several church organizations. “She is a woman of prayer whose faith is reflected in her humble and gentle dealings with others. Mary is welcoming and helpful to all who interact with her,” the announcement of the award said.
Sister Mary Teresa LaBrake recently retired from parish ministry at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Ogdensburg. Sister Teresa has a long record of service in Catholic education and parish ministry. She was an elementary teacher at Catholic schools in Ogdensburg, Jackson Heights, and Atlanta, Georgia, and a principal in Catholic schools in Ogdensburg, Eden, and Buffalo. In 1990, Sister Mary Teresa became assistant superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Ogdensburg, a position she held for seven years. In 1997, she became pastoral associate at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Ogdensburg, a position she held until her retirement this past June. She continues as a volunteer at the cathedral parish, visiting the sick and leading the evangelization team. She “is exemplary in her sharing of her faith by example and by proclamation. She is a woman of prayer and service. She has led a life of loving service to God’s people,” the announcement said.
The award is given for distinguished service to the Roman Catholic Church. It can be awarded to a lay person or a cleric. It is the highest medal that can be awarded to the laity by a pope.
The Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross was instituted by Pope Leo XIII in 1888 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his ordination, and was originally bestowed on those who aided and promoted the celebration.