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Pope Francis Honors Seven for Exceptional Service to the Church in South Carolina

The Diocese of Charleston is delighted to announce that Pope Francis has bestowed Papal Honors on seven men and women for their work and dedication to the Church in South Carolina.

The honors will be conferred by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone during a Vespers service Sept. 19 at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has bestowed the following honors:

Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross

Angela Letourneau is a longtime active member of Our Lady of Grace Church in Indian Land, and a retired professor at Winthrop University. She was a major participant in establishing Our Lady of Grace as a mission of St. Philip Neri Church, Fort Mill, and also in its elevation to parish status.

Rev. Stanley I. Smolenski, spma, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn., and a Baptistine canonical hermit. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Shrine of Our Lady of South Carolina - Our Lady of Joyful Hope in Kingstree and is its current director.

Rev. Peter E. Sousa, CSsR, is the pastor of Our Lady of the Hills Church in Columbia. A Redemptorist priest, Father Sousa has served in the diocese since 2011. He has worked as a military chaplain and was very involved in youth ministry and vocation recruitment.

Rev. Cherian Thalakulam, CMI, is the pastor of St. Edward Church in North Augusta. A Carmelite priest, Father Thalakulam was born in India and served in various capacities as an academic and educator before coming to the United States. He has worked diligently with the people of Murphy Village, also known as the Irish Travelers, since 2002.

Benemerenti Medal

Mark Dickson is the vice president for mission for Roper St. Francis Healthcare. He is involved in patient advocacy, community outreach, ethics and teamwork support across the entire organization and operates out of Charleston.

Pearlie Mae Harris is an active member of St. Mary Church in Greenville and a retired educator who, at the age of 85, is still serving our diocese. She stepped in to lead a struggling Catholic school and was the first African American to serve as chair of the board of St. Francis Hospital in Greenville.

Deirdre Mays has served the diocese since 1995 and was the editor of The Catholic Miscellany, the newspaper of the diocese, for 18 years. The Miscellany received dozens of awards under her leadership acknowledging the publication's excellence in photojournalism, graphic design and Catholic writing. She is the recipient of many awards for photography, and also spear-headed redesigns of the diocesan and Miscellany websites. Deirdre currently works as a photojournalist.