'Well deserved' award for devotion

Devotion to the Catholic Church has played a huge part in Isobel Walsh's life - and Pope Benedict XVI has honoured her for her service.

Mrs Walsh was presented with the Benemerenti Medal at a mass and ceremony at the St Theresa of Lisieux parish in Invercargill yesterday afternoon.

Afterward, she said she was unable to imagine not having a strongly held faith.

"You're just surrounded by it. It's part of the fabric of your life, really - I couldn't get on without it," she said.

She was stunned at receiving the medal, for which she was nominated by the Catholic Women's League. It is bestowed on only a small group of people each year for their devotion and service to the church.

"I've got no idea why they gave it to me. There are about 30 other people in the parish I can think of quite quickly who deserve it . . . I was just flabbergasted about it."

Pope Gregory XVI instituted two classes of the medal, to reward civil and military service. The civil merit medal - awarded to Mrs Walsh for her devotion to the church since joining the parish in 1964, including performing organ-playing duties - has the word Benemerenti, Latin for "well-deserved", engraved on its surface surrounded by a crown of oak leaves. The ribbon is of the papal colours.

She also received a scroll but could not translate the script from Latin. "Even though I took Latin at school, I don't know what it might say," she said.


The Southland Times