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Flagler President John Delaney Receives Honor from the Pope

Nov 17, 2021
by Lauren Piskothy

On September 19, John Delaney, President of Flagler College, was awarded the Papal award, known by its Latin name: The Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice honor. The medal was established by Leo XIII on July 17, 1888, and is awarded in recognition of extraordinary service to The Catholic Church. President Delaney received the award from Bishop Felipe J. Estévez on behalf of Pope Francis at the Basilica Cathedral of St. Augustine.

When President Delaney first heard he was receiving this prestigious honor, he felt it a wonderful surprise as it is not an award well known to the laity.

Delaney converted to Catholicism 36 years ago; his mother was Protestant and an every Sunday attender; his father was Catholic but only attended mass on religious holidays. “The first Bible I received was from our Presbyterian Church, for perfect attendance. That said more about my mom than me! I'm actually a Catholic convert; I married a Catholic girl as did both my brothers. My dad was Catholic, but he was an Easter and Christmas person. Since my wife felt strongly about our children attending church, I converted in 1985, as we were taking our kids to church."

Although President Delaney has been an active member of the Catholic church for 36 years, his nerves haven't gone away.

"I was a lector for a number of years during Mass, which is where you read two sets of Bible verses, before the Priest reads the Gospel and gives the Homily, or sermon. I'm always petrified that I'm not going to stand or kneel at the right time." President Delaney continued, "I still feel very nervous about those kinds of elements, but hopefully, it'll make me try to embody religious values in my personal life more. It's a big honor; it's a huge honor."

Unbeknownst to him, the pastor at his church and the bishop recognized his charitable works both at his local parish and with the diocese and forwarded his name to the Pope. Upon hearing the news, Flagler students and staff sent him notes of congratulations.

President Delaney said, "It's quite an honor, and I'm so pleased that my pastor at my Church and the Bishop submitted the name forward. It feels very underserving still. I have to live up to their faith.”

The bishop assured President Delaney that recipients of this high honor often feel this way. "Everybody reacts that they don't feel deserving, and so he anticipated that kind of reaction, and it wasn't the only one in the diocese that received it, so it was a nice ceremony down the Basilica in St Augustine," said President Delaney.

At the ceremony, President Delaney was surrounded by his family and a full church who watched as the bishop called him up to present him with a framed medal issued by Pope Francis. President Delaney said, "It was a powerful thing from the Pope, and the bishop is one of the kindest people. He's just a wonderful man who has done a great job for the churches in the diocese."

Ever since he converted to Catholicism, the Catholic church has become very important to him. The church is his home away from home, though he says he enjoys visits to Protestant churches as well; especially his mother’s church.

"I've enjoyed when I travel that I can go into a Catholic church anywhere: Ireland, England, New York, and feel at home; there is a universality to it." Delaney continued, "It's a place of peace for me."

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