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Retired Chilliwack priest honoured by Rotary while in palliative care

John Sovereign awarded the Paul Harris Fellowship shortly after terminal cancer diagnosis
John Sovereign received his Paul Harris Fellowship from the Chilliwack After Hours Rotary Club on Aug. 22, 2020. Sovereign has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. (Submitted photo/ Kathy Funk)

The Chilliwack After Hours Rotary Club has bestowed a Paul Harris Fellowship upon John Sovereign, a retired parish priest.

This took place on Aug. 22, says Rotarian Kathy Funk, and the timing is bittersweet.

Sovereign received a terminal cancer diagnosis just weeks before, and is palliative.

Because of the Covid-19 crisis, the club’s president Joan Patterson recognized that a Zoom gathering was the only way to make this presentation. Sovereign was granted permission to come home from the hospital for the event, and it was a moving time for club members, invited guests and his sweetheart of 45 years wife, Allyson.

Funk, who relayed the story of Sovereign’s fellowship to The Progress, said the meeting began with an acknowledgement of the territory we are on, and the object of Rotary.

“Being an exemplary member, John proposed two new members, friend Tracy Goodwin and Fatima Zaida to continue the good work of Rotary on his behalf,” Funk said. “Club directors agreed that we should install these women while John was still with us. In his gentle warm way, John shared ‘Tracy is a good community-minded person who would be an asset to the club,’ and that ‘Fatima is involved with cutting-edge issues, has endless energy and insights that would be a great benefit to the work of Rotary in our community.’”

In fact, Funk said, Sovereign thought this event was only to induct his proposed members.

“He was shocked and surprised when District Governor Carol Tichelman shared in the presentation of the highest honour in Rotary,” Funk said.

“Rotarians often designate a Paul Harris Fellow as a tribute to a person whose life demonstrates a shared purpose with the objectives of The Rotary Foundation…to do good in the world,” Tichelman said in the meeting. “The symbolism in this recognition is to say ‘thank you for making a difference in your club and community and in the lives of less fortunate people in the world.’ By accepting this recognition, you will join a family of well over one million Paul Harris Fellows worldwide. Besides other members of your club - you stand with notables such as Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Prince Charles, Indira Gandhi, Luciano Pavarotti, King Hussein of Jordan and Pope John Paul II – to name just a few - as a Paul Harris Fellow.”

Tichelman then invited Past President Linda Rook to say a few words of tribute to the new fellow.

“From engineer to minister, John has always been community minded right down to inviting guests to Rotary meeting for a good meal, always reaching out,” Rook said. “He believed and lived by the Rotary’s four-way test to the point of introducing it as a guiding principle during his time on the Mayor’s Task Force on Inclusiveness.”

That test is: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

“Well done you good and faithful servant,” added past president of the Chilliwack Fraser Rotary club, Russ Ideson.

President Joan Patterson closed by sharing how proud the club was of Sovereign and his well-deserved Paul Harris honour. Attendees were also given the opportunity to share their thoughts and tributes.

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Jessica Peters

About the Author: Jessica Peters

I began my career in 1999, covering communities across the Fraser Valley ever since.
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