Recognized by Pope Francis


Villanovans Recognized by Pope Francis for Service to the Church

Patty Holloway ’76 still recalls preparing song books as a young parishioner at her local church. Her parents were active volunteers in the parish—her father served as an usher; her mother planned fashion shows—and Patty found her own way to contribute.

Her husband, Gary Holloway ’76, was also involved with the Catholic Church at a young age. His father volunteered for the seminary, and Gary soon followed in his footsteps.

“Our parents set the foundation,” Patty says. “They taught us the value of giving back—both through our time and financially.”

Decades of commitment and service to the Catholic Church brought the couple to a new milestone in December, when they received an unexpected letter from Archbishop Charles Chaput. The couple had been named Dame and Knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great—one of the highest honors bestowed by the Pope upon laypeople.

“We got chills,” Patty says, “We were humbled to receive such an honor.”

The Holloways are among eight Villanovans in the region, including two Villanova University professors, who were honored by Pope Francis for their exceptional service to the Catholic Church. In addition to the Order of St. Gregory the Great, Papal Honors also include the Cross Pro Eccelsia et Pontifice (Cross for the Church and Pontiff) and the Benemerenti Medal.

When asked about their service to the Catholic community, the Holloways offer a breadth of experiences, from serving on a variety of boards, to supporting and volunteering for the Sister Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary—a family tradition that reminds them of the needs that are present right in their backyard.

The couple is particularly passionate about supporting Catholic education—an interest that stems from their own upbringing, including their time at Villanova.

“Our experiences have been good ones, and Catholic education has reinforced the values we have instilled in our children,” Patty says.

As the Holloways raised their children, they remained actively involved with their schools, which came full circle as four of the Holloways’ children attended Villanova. Patty, who received her undergraduate and graduate degrees at Villanova, also spent several years working in the University’s Counseling Center, an experience that inspired the couple to make a gift to support the Center’s health services. Most recently, the Holloways have made a commitment to support renovations to the Finneran Pavilion.  

Villanova’s Augustinian heritage has also been a lasting influence on the Holloways. As students, the couple formed bonds with Augustinians that continue to this day. The Rev. Francis Chambers, OSA, ’73, ’77, Associate Director of Admission and Villanova University Alumni Association Chaplain, is a friend they have known from their college years. The Rev. Robert Hagan, OSA, JD, ’87, Associate Athletic Director, celebrates Christmas Eve Mass with the family. The Holloways also had a dear friendship with the late Rev. Bill Atkinson, OSA, a beloved member of the Villanova and Philadelphia communities who is currently being considered for canonization, which would declare him as a saint. These relationships inspire the Holloways to give back to the Augustinians through their time and philanthropy.

The couple recognizes that the future of Catholic education—and the Catholic Church—depends on having new vocations to the priesthood. Therefore, they support the next generation of priests studying at St. Charles of Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa.—building upon the legacy that Gary’s father first started two generations ago.

In January, the Papal Honors were conferred at a ceremony during a Vespers service at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. During the ceremony, the Holloways received engraved medals and a proclamation from Pope Francis—a beautiful presentation that has been a highlight of their lives.
“We realize that there are many individuals who know the value of giving back,” Patty says. “To receive this medal is certainly a blessing that we will always be grateful for and hold warmly in our hearts.”

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