Papal Knighthoods for brothers
PAPAL knighthoods are rare honours and even more rarely awarded simultaneously to brothers.
But two of Grafton's best known citizens, Bill and Peter Dougherty, now have that honour after a Mass of Investiture at St Mary's Church, Grafton, last week.
Pope Francis has made the brothers, who have been synonymous with the history of Grafton since the 1950s, Knights of the Order of St Gregory the Great.
The order was established in 1831 by Pope Gregory XVI as one of the five Orders of Knighthood of the Holy See.
The honour is bestowed upon Roman Catholic men and women to recognise personal service to the church, through their unusual labours, their support of the Holy See, and the examples they set in their communities and their countries.
While two of only five Papal Knights in the Lismore Diocese, the brothers join some notable figures around the world and in history including newspaper owner Rupert Murdoch, US comedian Bob Hope, Hollywood movie star Ricardo Montalban and British heavyweight boxer Henry Cooper as members of the order.
It was an accolade the brothers knew little about and they were stunned to receive a call from the Bishop before Christmas informing them of the news.
"I was surprised, it never entered my head that we would received an award like this," Bill said.
"I had to email back to ask what it was all about."
They are at a loss to know how the honour came about.
"From what we can tell, somebody suggested it to the bishop and he sent it off to the Vatican, and the Pope approved it," Peter said. "The bishop was the driving force behind it."
While Papal Knighthoods are scarce in the diocese, there is one hotspot for them on the North Coast.
"All the five Papal Knights awarded at this time are old boys of Woodlawn College," Bill said.
The Brother said it was not surprising the former boys boarding school would have such distinguished alumni.
"There wasn't any Catholic High School here when we were boys," Bill said. "Parents who wanted to ensure their boys had a Catholic education sent them to Woodlawn.
"The school had boys from down to Kempsey and Coffs Harbour as well as from the Clarence Valley."
The awards have been humbling for the two men who have enjoyed successful careers in a number of fields during their lives.
"You accept the award with humility," Peter said.
"And you give thanks for the blessing and opportunities we've been given," Bill added.
The brothers have been pillars of the church in Grafton, both serving terms as chair of the Parish Council.
But their religion means more to them than making sure the pews are full on Sundays.
"The basic Christian principles extend through to all aspects of your life," Bill said.
"Those principles mean taking care of the underprivileged and looking after the battlers."
They are principles Bill and Peter put into action with Bill making weekly visits to Grafton Base Hospital to cheer up the sick and Peter leading a stroke recovery group.
"Everyone needs someone to give them a hand up at some time in their lives," Bill said.