Papal Honour for Claire Larkin

Mrs Claire Larkin has been awarded a Papal Honour under the title, ‘Croce Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice’ in recognition of meritorious service to the Church.  This is the highest honour the Catholic Church can bestow on a lay person.  St Joseph’s Parish, Penola, celebrated with Claire on 7 April.  The following is the address she gave after she showed her medallion and framed certificate to parishioners.


I am very humbled by this Papal Honour.

I received the award in St Ignatius church Norwood and witnessed the celebration for Sisters of St Joseph on the occasion of their jubilees of 50 years (7) and 60 years (1)  It was moving to think about  the long years of service to God those women have given. Bishop Greg O’Kelly celebrated the Mass and made the presentations.

I am the representative of many parishioners who have supported the Centre and the remembrance of Mary MacKillop and Father Julian Tenison Woods over the years.

I hesitate to mention some names as I know there were numerous people who assisted in anonymous ways, in fact the whole parish was behind the effort and has continued to be.

In the 1970s Sisters of St Joseph from NSW visited and alerted the parishioners to the importance of the Schoolhouse and donated money towards its restoration.


In 1978 a Restoration Committee was formed for the old Schoolhouse. Fr Jim Honner was the Parish Priest, Robert Geraghty was Chairman and Works Manager, Jack Mulligan was Boss of the Board, Tim Collins the Secretary, Phil Aitken the Treasurer and George Mepstead the Caretaker and keeper of the keys.

This committee organised working bees and the measures to protect and retain the building. They were well supported by parishioners including members of the Knights of Southern Cross.


Many hours went into the restoration. Archbishop Leonard Faulkner was most supportive as were the Sisters of St Joseph, Sr Elizabeth Murphy, Superior General and Sr Margaret Press of the Federation of Diocesan Josephites.

It was opened in 1989. Sr Patricia White was the historian who directed the informative displays.


It became clear that there was great interest and the prospect of Canonization of Mary MacKillop became stronger. After many years of study the work of Father Paul Gardiner SJ resulted in her Beatification in 1995. The Adelaide Archdiocese resolved to build the Interpretive Centre in Penola to provide more facilities and displays for the information of visitors and pilgrims. Her canonisation in 2010 as Australia’s First Saint was a wonderful result and the culmination of the work of many people especially Fr Paul Gardiner and Sr Maria Casey.


We have been fortunate to obtain the support of many people who volunteer to staff the centre and are generous with their many skills.

In addition to the Penola Parish they come from around the region. They are enthusiastic and dedicated to assisting the visitors.  Penola is certainly Blessed to continue the good work. We have the young energetic priest, Fr Michael Romeo, Sisters Loreto and Sue to lead the volunteers, a hard working committee and continued interest in a really good news story in the Catholic Church.  The Sisters of St Joseph, co-founded by Saint Mary MacKillop and Fr Julian Tenison Woods began their work in Penola in 1866.  Their faith in God, their dedication to caring for his people continues through the Sisters of St Joseph in Australia and beyond.


I picked up a visitor survey form at the Centre yesterday. The comments are : Excellent summary of the lives of Mary and Woods. They both achieved so much in their relatively short lives.

We would all agree with that.  I have tried to paint a picture here of who I represent, to whom this honour belongs from the early days when the Schoolhouse was restored.  It belongs to all of you and many of you are relatives of those early volunteers.


Claire Larkin     7/4/2019