Fr Michael Sinnott, 83, from Barntown, Co Wexford, was kidnapped in Oct 2009 and held for more than a month by a rebel Islamic group.
Fr Sinnott, who spent 42 years in the Philippines, said the kidnapping did not affect him. He once joked that the media gave him a harder time than his captors.
“I had a very good life in the Philippines, very fulfilling, but there were hard times, especially during the Marcos years,” he said.
Fr Sinnott retired from missionary work in 2012 and returned to Ireland. “I will leave a big part of my heart here in the Philippines,” he said at the time.
Also honoured at the event, organised by Irish Missionary Union, was Sr Maud Fitzgerald, from Lough Gur, Co Limerick, who spent 58 years in South Africa.
Sr Maud, 83, was 19 when she joined the Dominican order in 1949, and served as a missionary in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and Kirkwood.
The former secondary school teacher taught Coloured and white children. “I was working in South Africa in 1990 when Nelson Mandela was released from prison, that was wonderful,” she said.
“When I retired at age 65, I began to work with the Xhosa people and regretted that I had not been working with them all my life. They are a marvellous people.”
Sabina Higgins, wife of President Michael D Higgins, said it was appropriate that missionaries who had worked selflessly for more than 40 years, in extremely difficult circumstances, were publicly acknowledged.
IMU president Fr Michael Corcoran said the ceremony was the first of its kind because it seemed to be the nature of missionaries not to look for praise or court attention.