Queen’s Birthday awards recognise servants of the Church

Sr Mary Shanahan was among a number of prominent Catholics to receive Queen’s Birthday honours (photo supplied)

Queen’s Birthday honours have been bestowed upon a number of leading Catholic lay and religious leaders, recognising their decades of work as servants of the Church in Australia.

Among the many Queen’s Birthday honours awardees are: Sr Mary Margaret Shanahan RSCJ, Fr Robert (Bob) Sheridan and Sr Patricia Caroline Bailey OP. Justice Neville Owen, the former chair of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, who currently serves on the Pontifical Council for the Protection of Minors, has also been recognised in the awards.

Sr Patricia, from Belfield in New South Wales, was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for her service to education, particularly for deaf and hearing-impaired children.

Surprised by the recognition, and initially thinking it was a joke, Sr Patricia is hoping her honour will put the needs of deaf and speech-impaired children in the spotlight.

During her 42 years in education, Sr Bailey said she had seen numerous changes in the teaching of deaf children.

“If the OAM can help give deaf children a bit of profile, then it will be good,” she told The Canterbury-Bankstown Express.

And the drive to help the children and the call to serve had not waned, Sr Bailey said.
“I have no plans of slowing down, because if I can help these children in some way, I will,” she said.

Fr Sheridan, who at 86 years of age is still celebrating Mass at Sacred Heart Parish, Blackheath, New South Wales, yesterday said receiving the Order of Australia Medal had been a very big surprise to him.

“The four words that sum me up about who I am and what my approach as a priest here in Blackheath has been are, and Jesus himself said it, ‘love God and love neighbour’,” he said.

Fr Sheridan said it took a while to get the full impact of having received the award. He felt greatly honoured and humbled by the recognition and the many messages of congratulations from parishioners, friends and family.

Sr Shanahan, from Vaucluse in New South Wales, received her Order of Australia Medal for service to tertiary education and as a mentor of young students. She is currently away on retreat.

Sr Shanahan’s connection with Sancta Sophia College spans more than 60 years. From 1955, she was a resident of Sancta while obtaining her undergraduate degree. She later served as principal from 1983 to 1992. Today, she remains college chaplain.

Current principal, Fiona Hastings, said: “Sr Shanahan (or Sr Shan as she is affectionately known), is held in the highest esteem by all who know her.

“When I met her for the first time, I was struck by not just her warmth and her humour, her strength and her gentleness…but by the fact that she made me feel like she had been waiting her whole life for the privilege of meeting me.

“An extraordinary gift from an extraordinary woman. She makes everyone she meets feel important, like they matter. She inspires us to think we can be better people, that we can be truly great.”

Justice Owen was named an Officer of the Order of Australia. In addition to his contribution to the Truth, Justice and Healing Council and Pontifical Council for the Protection of Minors, he served on the Supreme Court of Western Australia following a distinguished legal career and has held a number of roles at the University of Notre Dame Australia.

In 2018, Justice Owen was named a Knight Commander of the Order of St Gregory the Great.