Parish honors archbishop emeritus with award

Deacon Don Pool displays the St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Award for the congregation to see. It was given this year to Archbishop Emeritus James P. Keleher for his contributions to Catholic education. Archbishop Keleher was unable to attend because he was recovering from three shoulder surgeries. He was, however, able to accept the award via speaker phone. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MARC ANDERSON

by Marc and Julie Anderson
mjanderson@theleaven.org

MOUND CITY — Sometimes, technology allows people to connect in unusual ways.

Take for instance, this year’s St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Award recipient Archbishop Emeritus James Patrick Keleher. 

Due to three shoulder surgeries, he is currently recovering at a care facility in Kansas City. But Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann was still able to award him — by speaker phone, anyway — the prestigious honor at an awards banquet held Nov. 18 in the social hall of Sacred Heart Church in Mound City.

“Archbishop Keleher is such a perfect choice for this St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Award,” began Archbishop Naumann, “because he has been so passionate about our Catholic schools and Catholic education. And, of course, that was a big part of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne’s life.” 

Archbishop Naumann said his predecessor also possessed a passion for Catholic formation and vocations, as well as for making sure the schools “fulfill their primary purpose in making disciples for Jesus Christ.”

“No one’s done more to promote Catholic education,” he said. 

He then read the plaque aloud, starting with the quote from St. Rose Philippine Duchesne: “All desire but that of doing God’s holy will has been extinguished in me.”

 “Presented to Archbishop James Patrick Keleher,” he continued, “who exemplifies the spirit of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne through his teaching, generous spirit and shepherd’s heart — from the Sacred Heart Catholic Community, Mound City, Kansas.’”

“You and I have often talked about the charm of that wonderful parish and the wonderful people,” Archbishop Keleher responded. “I don’t feel worthy of this honor, but the fact that they remember me is really a blessing, too, for me.”

He found the inscription on the plaque particularly moving.

“Oh my, how beautiful,” said Archbishop Keleher. “What a beautiful testimony. Thank you so much.” 

Prior to the banquet, Mass was celebrated in the church, during which Archbishop Naumann told the congregation it was a joy for him to be there in Mound City as the parish honored “the only canonized saint to have lived in our archdiocese.”

In his homily, the archbishop explained that it has been the parish’s custom to annually honor “an individual that somehow exemplifies the spirit of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne.”

“The particular criteria,” the archbishop noted, “are promotion of Catholic education and/or the promotion of vocations to religious and consecrated life.”

The archbishop, who grew up in St. Louis, said it was easy there to see the impact of the life of the saint.   

St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, who with other members of her order first landed in New Orleans, made her way up the Mississippi River and spent most of her time in the St. Louis area, near what is today Florissant and St. Charles, Missouri.

“She devoted a lot of her life to opening schools, particularly for young women,” he said, “and helping to form them in the faith, but also helping them to develop their talents and their abilities so they would lead happy and fruitful lives.”

She was also “always preparing [them] for that ultimate end,” the archbishop continued, “always passing onto them the truth of the Gospel.”

Near the end of Mass, pastor Father Barry Clayton thanked the archbishop for his presence and announced that the parish is producing miniature copies of the shrine’s statue of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, which will be available for purchase in February. 

“We have the very first one available tonight,” he told Archbishop Naumann, “and at this time, we’d like to present that to you and to the parish and ask your blessing upon this statue.”

St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, the archbishop concluded, provides an example of what Pope Francis describes as missionary discipleship and reminds archdiocesan Catholics that they’re “called to bring others to the faith as well. 

“This is the greatest gift that we can help others discover in life.”

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