MASSENA - A long-time parish secretary at St. Marys Church in Massena will be recognized with papal honors Sunday in Ogdensburg.
Mary Besio, Massena, is among the 13 lay persons and one religious sister in the Diocese of Ogdensburg who will be awarded the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross by Bishop Terry R. LaValley during a ceremony at 3 p.m. at St. Marys Cathedral.
They were nominated by Bishop LaValley for the honors after consulting with each parishs pastor.
Mrs. Besio said the news came as a surprise to her.
I got a letter in the mail from the bishop a week ago. I was real surprised, she said.
The Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross was instituted by Pope Leo XIII in 1888 to commemorate his 50th anniversary of priestly ordination and was originally bestowed on those who aided and promoted the jubilee.
The medal, the highest that can be awarded to the laity by the pope, is now given to a lay person or cleric for distinguished service to the church.
Mrs. Besio and the other honorees will receive the medal, which is cast in gold, with the cross including the images of Saint Peter and Saint Paul and the words Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (for Church and Pope).It also contains three crosses and a papal tiara.The medal is attached to a yellow and white ribbon.
Theyll also receive a certificate explaining the award. It reads, Pope Francis has determined to bestow the medal of the venerable cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, awarded in recognition of outstanding service distinguished by remarkable zeal and effort to [the recipient] and at the same time granting the aforementioned the honor of wearing the insignia of this award.
Itll be exciting. I had heard of this award before, but I had no idea. After reading the letter, I realized what it was, Mrs. Besio said.
A parishioner of St. Marys and St. Josephs Church in Massena, she graduated from Norfolk High School in 1947 and then worked with her sister at a restaurant in Massena, She worked for Alcoa from 1947 to 1955 before raising her family.
Mrs. Besio became the parish secretary at St. Marys in 1973, serving in that role for 33 years, a span that saw eight priests serve as pastor. She retired in 2012, but continues to help out as a volunteer in the parish office.
I enjoyed it. I still volunteer a couple of days whenever they need me for mailing, she said.
Shes still very much a part of the office. She loves the people too much, said the Rev. Scott D. Fobare, current pastor of St. Marys and St. Josephs parish.
Mrs. Besio is also an active member of the Knights of Columbus Auxiliary, Sacred Heart League, Parish Council, Bereavement Committee and Church Bazaar Committee. She participates in daily Mass and attends Eucharistic Adoration.
Rev. Fobare said Bishop LaValley had contacted him regarding the award, and the bishop petitioned Rome to have her recognized.
Bishop LaValley called and asked if I would endorse her for the papal Honor. He knows Mary on a personal level from his time in Massena, he said. She was quite surprised.
Other recipients of the papal honors areCatherine Sponable of Lake Placid, Dr. John T. Middleton of Plattsburgh, Mary Ann Lepkowski of Turin, Catherine Denny of Ogdensburg, Elizabeth Hartzell of Watertown, Patricia Stabins of Watertown, Roger Snyder and Colleen Snyder of Lake Pleasant, Grey Nun Sister Mary Teresa LaBrakeof Ogdensburg,Leo Giroux and Theresa Giroux of Plattsburgh, Joseph A. Provoncha of North Hudson and James D. Carroll of Plattsburgh.
It is so fitting that we recognize the faith and dedication of these generous men and women in this Year of Faith.Their tireless dedication and outstanding service clearly demonstrate their love of God and His Church.It is people like these recipients who truly open the doors of faith for our world, Bishop LaValley said in a statement.
These individuals have truly built up the church in our diocese by their dedicated service, he said. I am delighted to have the opportunity to express our gratitude to them for their generosity and their faithfulness.These individuals are most deserving of this recognition.I look forward to celebrating these wonderful faces of faith at the Dec. 8 vespers service.