Wollongong's Kathleen McCormack has been honoured with a Papal award for her pioneering work at welfare agency CatholicCare.
The founder and former director of welfare agency CatholicCare was made a Dame of the Order of St Gregory the Great on Thursday night at her retirement Mass in St Francis Xavier Cathedral, Wollongong.
Ms McCormack received a medallion and certificate from the Vatican, which stated Pope Francis's testimony to her "positive and generous work for the growth and development of CatholicCare".
Bishop of Wollongong Peter Ingham said he had nominated Ms McCormack for developing CatholicCare into a credible service provider in the community, offering counselling, foster care, marriage education, family support and more.
He said the organisation has about 160 staff members and 100 volunteers, producing an annual turnover of about $16 million.
In the mid-90s Ms McCormack advocated for victims of sexual abuse by reporting priests and perpetrators to the police and implementing child protection awareness programs in Catholic organisations across the diocese.
Bishop Ingham praised Ms McCormack for her commitment and compassion.
"She's become a national figure of influence and sane wisdom in the social welfare apostolate of the church," he said. "CatholicCare's services are reaching out to people in need, not just materially, but the spiritually and emotionally poor as well."
Ms McCormack hands over the directorship to Michael Austin, former director of CatholicCare Sydney.
Read Saturday's Weekender to learn more about Kathleen McCormack's journey at CatholicCare.