The pastor of Christ Episcopal Church in La Crosse has received the Anglican Church’s second-highest honor from the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Bishop Ed Leidel presented the Rev. Patrick Augustine with the Cross of St. Augustine during a surprise ceremony Dec. 16.
In the citation for the award, Archbishop Rowan Williams wrote of Augustine’s “lifelong commitment to defend the free exercise of faith in countries where believers are marginalized and persecuted” and the hope and reconciliation he’s brought to communities that have endured decades of conflict, violence, poverty and persecution.
One of only three people to receive the award this year, Augustine said his parish and the people of La Crosse, where he’s based his ministry for the past decade, share in the honor.
Augustine invoked a phrase attributed to Mother Teresa that she is but a pencil in the hand of God, saying God has used him in Sudan, Kenya, South Africa and Pakistan among other places.
First awarded in 1965, the Cross of St. Augustine has generally been awarded to clergy and lay people of foreign churches for contributions to friendly relations with the churches of the Anglican communion. More recently it has been given for outstanding service within the church and to those who advance relations between Christian communions and churches.
Born in Pakistan as the son and grandson of Anglican priests, Augustine has long promoted global ecumenism and has traveled almost yearly since 1994 to sub-Saharan Africa where he’s fought the persecution of Christian minorities and worked to better living conditions.
“He has been a champion of the people who have no voice, those that are Christian in a non-Christian environment, and are targets of terrorism or other means of destruction,” said Christ Episcopal’s senior warden Carla Marcou, who nominated Augustine for the award. “He risks his life a lot. Wherever you’re told not to go, he goes.”
Augustine, who later this month will celebrate his 10th anniversary at Christ Episcopal, is preparing to go abroad again in February, when he will begin a three-month sabbatical.
He plans to begin his journey in England, where he will visit the Cathedral of Canterbury, where his namesake, St. Augustine, established the church in 597 for Pope Gregory. He will then travel to Pakistan and India to promote Christian-Muslim relations before making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem with his wife, Myra, who earlier this year survived a brain aneurism.
“I want to take her on this journey with me, which is going to be a difficult journey for her ... to say thanks to God for her healing,” Augustine said. “I want to take her where Jesus walked.”