A Filipino catechist who served the Catholic Church for 52 years was honored with a posthumous award by the Vatican on February 13.
Julieta B. Dela Peña of the Diocese of Novaliches was given the “Croce Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice,” the highest award given by the pope to a lay person, in recognition for her outstanding contributions to the Church.
The award was accepted by her family during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Barracks in the city of Caloocan.
In his homily, Bishop Roberto Gaa of Novaliches cited Dela Peña’s dedication as a catechist who helped nourished the spiritual life of the community.
“How many children in the community grew up and became good Christians? How did she change people’s lives because of her commitment to her service?” said the bishop.
Bishop Gaa said Dela Peña did not only help the spiritual needs of young people but also helped in her parish’s feeding program for the poor.
The prelate said the award, which is also extended to the parish where the catechist served, should serve as a reminder to continue what Dela Peña started when she was still alive.
“Our responsibility after this is for us to be living witnesses and examples to the goodness of what she has done here,” said Bishop Gaa.
Known in her community as “Ate Julie,” Dela Peña was one of the pioneer catechists under the Legion of Mary in parish in 1966.
She died on Nov. 29, 2019, after suffering from a stroke.
The “Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice,” or the Cross of Honor, was instituted in July 1888 by Pope Leo XIII for men and women offering long and distinguished service to the Church and the papal office.