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81-year-old grandmother receives distinguished medal from the pope

Benemerenti medal

Bjørn Christian Tørrissen | CC BY-SA 3.0

Cerith Gardiner - published on 12/21/20

After 35 years serving her church and community, Anne Kelly was awarded the high papal honor.

After 35 years of dedication to serving her church and her community, 81-year-old Anne Kelly was presented with the Benemerenti medal by Reverend Mark Cassidy at St Mary’s The Immaculate Conception in Lochee, Scotland.

The octogenarian was nominated by her fellow parishioners to receive the award given by the pontiff that acknowledges the services of an individual to the Catholic Church. In a scaled-down service on December 13, Kelly received the medal and certificate sent from Rome.

The grandmother to 15 and great-grandmother to two shared with The Courier: “I’m absolutely delighted and I’m quite humbled by the honor. I was very surprised, I only heard about it the day before it was given to me.”

In recent months Kelly has proved a dab tech-hand, setting up a Facebook account for parishioners to watch Masses that were live-streamed. She’s also kept herself busy by taking part in online exercise classes and pacing around her kitchen.

Yet the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion also has spent last the few decades caring for those in her community. After weekly Mass, Kelly checks in on unwell parishioners, and she also gets involved in festive activities, organizing the parish Christmas party.

When giving the papal decoration to the senior, Rev. Cassidy pointed out that she wasn’t just being awarded for what she has contributed to the Church. In fact, “her efforts to enable and empower others to fulfill their own mission” were also being recognized.

The distinguished medal first came into use in 1831, during Pope Pius VI’s papacy, to recognize members of the papal army. However, by 1925 those in the clergy and the laity could receive the medal for their services. While only a small number of medals are given annually, it seems particularly fitting that in this most tricky of years, a great-grandmother who has risen to the challenges of COVID to serve her church is a recipient. Let’s hope that in 2021 Kelly can continue to inspire those in her community and beyond.


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ElderlyPope Francis
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