Bishop Richard F. Stika and the leaders of the Knoxville Diocesean Council of Catholic Women can keep a secret.
For weeks, they were sitting on news that a local parishioner was being honored by Pope Francis. The surprise announcement finally came—at a Mass for the KDCCW on April 23 at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Farragut.
Patty Johnson, a parishioner at St. Francis of Assisi in Fairfield Glade, and past president of the KDCCW and former president of the National Council of Catholic Women, was presented with the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice by Bishop Stika.
“I wanted to do something special for Patty, so I wrote the Holy Father and asked to make her a monsignor,” Bishop Stika said, in jest, during his homily.
The Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice is the highest honor a pope can bestow on Church laity. It is awarded to those who distinguish themselves in service.
“By order of the Holy Father himself, for service to the Church and the diocese and for all of us who just appreciate her sense of leadership… in the name of the Diocese of Knoxville and all the people of the diocese that you have served, I want to say thank you,” Bishop Stika said in presenting the papal award.
Mrs. Johnson, a retired registered nurse, served as the first president of the Knoxville Diocesean Council of Catholic women. She later served as national president of the NCCW and is currently the Immediate Past President. She has been an active member of the Council of Catholic Women for fifty years.