By Marnie McAllister and Glenn Rutherford, Record Staff Writers
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz said that the nine Archdiocese of Louisville parishioners who will receive special honors from Pope Francis next month represent all “faithful witnesses throughout the archdiocese.”
“They would be the first to say they are representative of so many more good and faithful people living out the mission of Christ and living as true missionaries for Christ,” the archbishop said during an interview last week. “Pointing out nine specific people, the Holy Father is able to say to all those who give faithful witness as they do, ‘A job well done and thank you for reflecting the light of faith and the faithful witness of Jesus Christ.’ ”
Archbishop Kurtz recommended the nine men and women from around the archdiocese for the honors. He said making such recommendations is a special opportunity given to bishops.
The honorees have served both their parish communities and the wider church. Some represent the church as faithful parishioners while others have dedicated their lives to working in the church.
Two women will receive the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross, the highest award given by the Holy Father to the faithful. A story about these honorees, Norma Merrick and Sister of Mercy Mary Prisca Pfeffer, was published today.
Five men and two women will receive the Benemerenti Medal. This award honors individuals for their dedicated service to the church and means “well deserved.”
The awards will be conferred by the archbishop during a ceremony set for 3 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Assumption on Nov. 24, the feast of Christ the King.
Recipients of the Benemerenti Medals are the following:
Dr. Salem George Sr., a physician in family practice, is a member of St. Augustine Church in Lebanon, Ky. He and his wife, Eva, who have been married for 57 years, have six children and 13 grandchildren. They are active in their parish community and in supporting St. Augustine School, where the couple met as teenagers.
Parish staff said Dr. George is a “pillar” of the St. Augustine community who supports both the church and school. Dr. George said during an interview Monday that he credits his success to St. Augustine, where he attended high school and converted to the Catholic faith a day before high school graduation.
In addition to St. Augustine, Dr. George attended St. Boniface and St. Joseph schools in
Louisville, St. Xavier High School, the University Notre Dame, and the University of Louisville School of Medicine. He served for 12 years on the board of the Catholic Education Foundation and is a Salute to Catholic School Alumni honoree.
Dr. William J. Godfrey, who practices internal medicine, is a member of St. James Church in Elizabethtown, Ky., where he attends daily Mass, participates in eucharistic adoration weekly and serves on the respect life and RCIA committees.
His pastor, Father Charles D. Walker, called Dr. Godfrey “a generous and prayerful man” who helped start the regular eucharistic adoration at St. James to promote vocations.
A former Salute to Catholic School Alumni honoree, Dr. Godfrey is a product of Catholic schools, including St. Benedict School, Holy Spirit School, St. Xavier High School, St. Mary’s College and Bellarmine University. He also attended the University of Louisville School of Medicine and is a veteran of the U.S. Navy.
He and his wife, Joyce, have seven children and 18 grandchildren. He is a former board member of the Catholic Education Foundation and serves on the Archdiocese of Louisville’s finance committee.
Richard A. Lechleiter is a member of Holy Spirit Church in Louisville and has been Kindred Healthcare’s chief financial officer since 2002. He has been honored by the Catholic Education Foundation as one of its outstanding Catholic school graduates, and he has served as chairman of the CEF board of trustees. Prior to 2002, Leichleiter served in various financial capacities with Kindred Healthcare, a company for which he has worked since 1995. He also served as chief accounting officer of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp.; Galen Health Care and Humana, Inc.
Leichleiter is a summa cum laude graduate in accounting from Xavier University. He also serves as a director for Stock Yards Bank & Trust Co., where he also serves as a member of the audit committee.
But it is his support of the Catholic Education Foundation — and Catholic education in general — that has been of great benefit to the Archdiocese of Louisville. During his tenure as chairman of the CEF board, Leichleiter was interviewed about the future of Catholic education — and it’s cost.
“We know we’re not meeting the need, despite all that we are doing,” he said to a reporter. “We realize there is about $4 million in need for tuition assistance for families who want to send their children to Catholic schools and the foundation is meeting less than half of that need.” Leichleiter is also a Salute to Catholic School Alumni honoree.
Romano L. Mazzoli is a former U.S. Congressman who served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 22 years. He and his late wife, Helen, were members of Our Mother of Sorrows Church, and they served as co-chairs of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Building a Future of Hope capital campaign.
In fact, it is only Helen’s absence (she died June 18, 2012 at the age of 77) that saddens Mazzoli when he thinks of receiving the award. “She just transformed my life in so many different ways,” he said earlier this week in a telephone interview. “She was the supremely important element in my personal, professional and spiritual life.”
But of course, Mazzoli was thrilled to receive a phone call a few weeks ago from Archbishop Kurtz telling him that he would receive the Benemerenti Medal.
“Are you kidding me?” he said with a laugh. “Here I was in the middle of Kroger or a coffee shop or something and the archbishop told me I was to receive this medal. It made me pause for a moment and humbled me to think that whatever Helen and I had tried to do would be worthy of such an honor.”
Mazzoli said that since his wife’s death he has needed “something on a daily basis to help me ‘keep on keeping on’ as they say.”
“This will certainly do that,” he added.
Dr. Brian B. Reynolds, the chancellor and chief administrative officer of the Archdiocese of Louisville, is a member of Holy Trinity Church. He has served the archdiocese since 1990 and is the first lay person to serve as chancellor here.
He and his wife of 32 years, Catherine, have two children. They are active members of their parish community.
Reynolds attended Fairfield University, Fordham University and earned a doctoral degree in leadership education at Spalding University, where he serves as vice chair of the Board of Trustees.
He has served the church for more than three decades — and in more than 100 dioceses — as a consultant and trainer. He also has written and co-written five books and 40 articles related to the church.
He is also chair of the Catholic Youth Foundation USA and a member of the board of directors of the Center for Interfaith Relations.
M. Annette Mandley-Turner is the executive director of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Multicultural Ministry and a member of St. Martin de Porres and St. Augustine churches in Louisville. She and her husband, Deacon James Turner, have two children and raised a niece and nephew. They have four grandchildren.
Mandley-Turner converted to Catholicism when she was 17 and lived across the street from a Catholic church. She said during a brief interview Monday that she loved formation classes and today ministers in formation at St. Augustine and St. Martin de Porres churches. She also serves on the strategic planning committees in both parishes and with high school youth at St. Martin.
Mandley-Turner is active on several Catholic boards at the local and national level. She has served on several committees with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, most recently the Asian and Pacific Island Advisory Board, and serves on the multicultural board of directors of the National Association of Black Catholic Administrators. She said that she could name 10 or 20 people more deserving of a papal honor. She said her service to the church is the center of her life, and her work isn’t a job, it’s a ministry. “It’s what I love to do,” she added. “It’s a chance to reflect the goodness of God.”
Clara Zoeller is a member of St. Lawrence Church who, with her late husband Robert, has been a faithful volunteer, leader and supporter of her parish community. She is described by parish staff as a model parishioner who has served in a variety of roles and is a longtime volunteer at Sts. Mary and Elizabeth Hospital.
Zoeller, a founding member of St. Lawrence, has served on the parish council, bereavement committee, altar society and other committees, worked picnics and cleaned the church regularly throughout the years and has been an extraordinary minister of holy Communion.
She has 12 children (two are deceased), 40 grandchildren and 32 great-grandchildren. She gathers the family every Christmas to sing carols and share cookies at the homes of parishioners of St. Lawrence who are sick or homebound.