St. Bonaventure President Sister Margaret Carney, OSF, was honored by Pope Francis during the university's Baccalaureate Mass Saturday afternoon.
Sister Margaret received a standing ovation from more than 1,000 students, family members and university community members after Father Greg Dobson, pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Roman Catholic Church in Olean, surprised her with the papal medal at the end of the Mass, held in the Reilly Center Arena.
The Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice — meaning "For Church and Pope" in Latin — medal is an award of the Roman Catholic Church.
The medal was established by Pope Leo XIII on July 17, 1888, to commemorate his golden sacerdotal jubilee and was originally bestowed on those men and women who had aided and promoted the jubilee, and by other means assisted in making the jubilee and the Vatican Exposition successful.
The medal is given for distinguished service to the church by lay people and clergy. It is the highest medal that can be awarded by the Pope to non-ordained members of the church or laity.
Sister Margaret, 74, is stepping down in July after 12 years as president and nearly 20 years at the university.
Father Dobson, vicar of Southern Cattaraugus County in the Buffalo Diocese, presented the medal and papal certificate on behalf of Buffalo Bishop Richard J. Malone, who nominated Sister Margaret for the honor but was unable to attend the Mass.
When she announced her decision to step down in January, Bishop Malone said: "I have deep personal esteem for Sister Margaret, and am grateful for her service to St. Bonaventure University, which has maintained its strong Franciscan heritage and continuing presence in our diocese."
Prior to being inaugurated as president in 2004, Sr. Margaret served as the dean and director of the Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure. The Institute operates a center for research and textual scholarship in the field of Franciscan/medieval theology, history and philosophy and a school that educates leaders for the various branches of the Franciscan religious orders in the Catholic Church.
St. Bonaventure's graduation ceremony was Sunday morning.