Dames of St Gregory

Dames of St Gregory

The granting of an accolade is the Canon Law Society's acknowledgement of the efforts of an individual who has demonstrated in a special way the objectives of the Society. In its 60 year history the Society has awarded Honorary Membership, Ordinary Life Membership and the Papal Order of Saint Gregory to distinguished persons. 

The Papal Order of Saint Gregory was originally founded by Pope Gregory XVI on 1 September 1831, in four classes - Knights Grand Cross (1st class), Knights Grand Cross (2nd class), Knights Commander, and Knights. As part of the reform of the Papal Orders instituted by Saint Pius X on 7 February 1905, the grades of the Order were modified by the addition of a Star for a higher category of Knights Commander and the suppression of the 2nd class of Knight Grand Cross, paralleling the grades of the Ordine Piano and the newly founded Order of Saint Sylvester. Pius X also assigned to the Papal Knights a particular place in Papal processions and in ceremonies of the Church.  Since 1994 Dames have been admitted in the same grades as men. Their Grand Cross Riband is narrower and the Commander's badge is worn from a bow on the left breast.


The Society has awarded the honour of Dame of St Gregory to two individuals, namely,


Veronica (Ron) Mars, Secretary to the late Mgr Ralph Brown

Claire Pearce, Administrative Secretary Emeritus .


Below you can read about our distinguished recipients of the award.

MRS VERONICA MARS     It is with the greatest of joy that Mgr David Hogan as President announced that the Holy Father has made Mrs Veronica Mars a Dame of St Gregory. Mrs Mars has been the one who has put together the Newsletter, MDEW, MDGBI, the various versions of the Revision of the Code and its translation. She is still involved with the Newsletter and MDGBI. Warm congratulations to Mrs Mars on this Papal recognition of her work for Canon Law in the English speaking world for the past thirty-five years.         

Veronica started working for Monsignor Brown (Westminster Tribunal) in October 1971 as a home typist – Monsignor Dunderdale was Officialis at the time. Her role was typing the evidence from the Notaries from their handwritten evidence which was at times a challenging task. When the Tribunal advanced to Dictaphone tapes.  Veronica was then assigned the role of typing eh Sentence Decisions that would be published in Matrimonial Decisions (MDEW). Veronica recalls how she initially had to type it on a stencil which was very difficult if you made a mistake!   Also, Veronica typed the Canon Law Newsletter. She did so for Monsignor John Chaloner when he was Editor, then Fr James Joyce (for a very short while), Monsignor Cousins and thereafter Monsignor Brown.  Also, Veronica will be remembered for her contribution to the publication of ‘Letter and Spirit” the Society's Commentary on the Code of Canon Law. Veronica typed the entire new Commentary of the Code for the Society under the careful guidance of Mgr Ralph Brown & Mgr Gerard Sheehy.

In addition, Veronica typed all Monsignor Brown’s correspondence when he was Vicar General and all his other jobs, including the correspondence required for Pope; John-Paul’s visit to Britain, in 1983.

MRS CLARE PEARCE. Clare joined the Diocesan Office of Brentwood in 1975 and, after a year or two, she was appointed Tribunal Secretary, and worked for the Judicial Vicar, Monsignor Michael Corley. Thus began her involvement in Canon Law, as Monsignor Corley supported and guided her growing interest in this field and she subsequently became a member of the CLSGB&I. She attended her first Annual Conference at London Colney in 1982. After a year or so, she began to assist Sister Paula Costello, who was involved in collecting fees for those attending the Annual Conferences. When the system changed so that the Society met in hotels around the British Isles, Clare became involved in the secretarial work involved, liaising with the hotels for accommodation arrangements. She was elected to the Committee of the Society in 2004 and appointed to the Committee directly responsible for Conference arrangements. For some years, she worked as Administrative Secretary, overseeing mailings of the Society's publications and collecting membership subscriptions. She served on these Committees until the end of 2006.

To her enormous surprise, Clare was greatly honoured by the Society in May 2000, when at a Mass at the Conference in Killarney, Ireland, she was presented with the Insignia of Dame of St Gregory by Father Aidan McGrath OFM, the Society's President at that time. She was forewarned at breakfast on the day and her first reaction was to forget breakfast and to sit down with a cup of tea (it was too early to consider anything stronger!). This had been an incredibly well-kept secret; as a further surprise, her husband and two of her daughters were present - waiting in the Church. She only later learned how many people had been 'in the know' including her own family and her colleagues at Brentwood Diocese.

Clare has often said how greatly she prized and enjoyed the contact with so many priests and lay members of the Society, and the friendships that ensued. It was a real wrench when the time came for her to retire – but she still has the memories!