Pope Benedict XVI has bestowed papal honors on five priests serving the Diocese of Venice, which is the first time in the diocese’s history that its priests have received such honors. Priests are given these honors in recognition of their contributions to the local church.
Monsignor Gerard Finegan, pastor of St. Mary, Star of the Sea, Catholic Church, was bestowed the rank of monsignor, as chaplain to His Holiness.
“I was totally surprised and left speechless when the bishop (Frank J. Dewane) told me of this honor to be given to me,” Finegan said. “I think I mumbled some words of thanks to him for putting my name forward for this recognition. I am really pleased that many people are happy for me. Now I have to learn to be gracious and accept this honor.”
Finegan became pastor of St. Mary’s on June 20, 2008. He replaced pastor emeritus, the Rev. Edward Pick, who retired in May 2008. There are currently 500 registered parishioners at St. Mary’s.
Before coming to St. Mary’s, Finegan, who was ordained June 18, 1967, and attended St. Patrick Seminary, in Maynooth, Ireland, served as pastor of Church of the Incarnation, in Sarasota, for 33 years. For the diocese of Venice, Finegan served on numerous boards and was vicar for priests from 2005 to 2008. He is currently a member of the Diocesan Presbyteral Council.
The papal honors come at the conclusion of the “Year for Priests,” which the pope declared June 19, 2009.
Other priests in the Venice Diocese to receive papal honors are: Monsignor Edward D. Moretti, vicar general of the Diocese of Venice and pastor at Saints Peter and Paul the Apostles Catholic Church, in Bradenton, who was named to the rank of Protonotary Apostolic Supernumerary, the highest honor that can be given to a Diocesan priest; Monsignor Stephen Edward McNamara, pastor at Our Lord Parish, in Fort Myers, as chaplain to His Holiness; Monsignor Joseph E. Stearns, pastor at St. Michael the Archangel Parish, in Sarasota, as chaplain to His Holiness; and the Very Rev. Fausto S. Stampiglia, SAC, dean of the Northern Deanery and pastor at St. Martha Parish, in Sarasota, who was given the papal medal of Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, the highest recognition for a religious priest.