POPE Benedict XVI did not exactly bestow awards personally on two Murwillumbah faithful on the weekend.
Sacred Heart Church parishioner Marie Clare Twohill received a Diploma and Medal of the Papal Distinction Benemerenti.
And former parishioner John Gerard McDonald who now lives in Bilinga was gifted the Cross and Certificate of the Papal Honour Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice.
Parish Priest Father David Gilbey said both were rewarded for their long and faithful service to the church and to society.
"Marie and John are two remarkable people, and it is wonderful to see their generous service has been recognised by Pope Benedict," Fr Gilbey said.
The pair was honoured by Bishop of Lismore the Most Reverend Geoffrey Jarrett D D during the Saturday Vigil Mass.
Fr Gilbey said the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Guiseppe announced the awards on behalf of Pope Benedict.
"This is a wonderful occasion in the life of Sacred Heart Parish Murwillumbah, and to the best of my knowledge the first time such Papal awards had been bestowed upon parishioners."
Bishop Jarrett and Fr Gilbey were joined for the Mass and award presentation by three former Parish Priests of Murwillumbah: Fr Frank O'Gorman, Fr Bill Mills and Fr Paul McDonald.
Fr Frank Devoy was also a concelebrant.
During the ceremony Fr McDonald spoke of some aspects of Marie and John's contributions to the church and society, saying he had known them both all his life.
A parish spokesperson said as a well-respected solicitor Mr McDonald had provided valuable, free legal advice to the parish of Murwillumbah for 50 years.
"He had been a key adviser to the six Parish Priests who held office during that time, a great support to the Presentation Sisters and to the Mount St Patrick Primary and Secondary Schools.
"As well as chairman of the Parish Finance Council from its formal establishment in 1989 until his retirement to Bilinga in 2001.
"His strong Catholic values were evident throughout his professional life, and his commitment to the Parish and the wider church community over more than 50 years had been tremendous."
Marie Twohill nee Murnane was born in Murwillumbah and in 1978 when the Catholic Hall was refurbished, she and husband John accepted honorary responsibility for administering the use, booking and cleaning of the newly-refurbished Catholic Hall.
The spokesperson said John Twohill died in 1996 but Ms Twohill continued the work in an honorary capacity.
"In addition she coordinates and runs a volunteer catering service not only to the parish but to the wider community, catering for cups of tea after funerals and other parish events, school functions, balls, dances and wedding receptions.
"All proceeds are donated to the church and make an important contribution to the parish budget.
"Marie has provided and arranged the flowers in Sacred Heart Church for many years, takes her turn in cleaning the church, has supported Mt St Patrick Primary and Secondary schools through the P and F Association.
"In other ways she actively contributes to the Christmas Carnival and works closely with the SES and other bodies during times of crisis when the Catholic Hall is made available for emergency accommodation.
"Marie is also a long-time worker for the St Vincent de Paul Society, and a committed member of the Mary MacKillop Conference.
Ms Twohill's June 24 birthday was celebrated along with the awards on the same day.
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