A philanthropist and businesswoman in California has become the first Filipino-American to be bestowed by Pope Francis with the pontifical order of knighthood in the Catholic Church.
In a Facebook post on August 4, the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles congratulated Grace Mercado-Ouano on receiving the Order of St. Gregory the Great, one of five orders of knighthood of the Holy See.
Supreme Justice for Roman Rota Monsignor Laurence J. Spiteri conferred the Order upon Mercado-Ouano on behalf of Pope Francis, at the St. Therese Roman Catholic Church in Alhambra, California. The investiture was witnessed by Consul General Edgar Badajos, alongside others officers and staff,
According to the consulate, the Order is awarded to Roman Catholic men and women in recognition of their "personal service to the Holy See and to the Roman Catholic Church, through their unusual labors, and their excellent examples set forth in their communities and their countries."
The Order was instituted in 1831 and named after Saint Gregory the Great, who was Pope from AD 590 - 604. If conferred upon a woman, the recipient is addressed as "Dame." Other notable recipients of the honor include entertainers Bob and Dolores Hope and the philanthropist Eunice Kennedy Shriver.
According to Good News Pilipinas, Ouano was honored for her personal service to the Holy See and the Roman Catholic Church, as well as for setting a good example for others in her community and country. She has also received awards from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the Vice President of the Philippines, the California State Senate, and the United States Congress.
Ouano and her husband own four skilled nursing facilities in northern and southern California. She also owns FoodTrients, a website and resource dedicated to the nutrients in foods that help prevent the diseases of aging.