Pope awards couple high Church honour

DOING their bit in a Waratah parish has won Newcastle volunteers Carl and Judy Nolan one of the Catholic Church's highest honours from the Pope.

The Blackbutt North parishioners, 81 and 79, received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal at a Mass acknowledging parish and school volunteers in Waratah last night.

The medal, also known as the Cross of Honour, is the highest papal honour available to lay people and recognises distinguished service to the Church.

It marks the Nolans' dedication to filling the gaps in their church, school and broader community for almost half a century.

Mr Nolan has volunteered with St Vincent de Paul Society making house calls for 40 years while his wife organises the church choir and plays the organ.

The pair also offer communion to those unable to reach the church, teach scripture classes and put their hands up whenever offered an opportunity.

Mrs Nolan said she was "totally embarrassed" by the honour, believing her contribution was simply part of belonging to the Church.

"I don't know who instigated it, to be honest," Mrs Nolan said.

"I just hate a fuss [and] I've always said if you belong to an organisation you have got to do your part.

"We've just done our bit."

The Nolans' "bit" included almost half a century volunteering at Corpus Christi Primary School, where they received the award yesterday, as their eight children completed their schooling.

Maitland-Newcastle Bishop Bill Wright petitioned the Holy See to secure the Nolans' recognition.

"The conferral of this honour is also a beautiful and meaningful way in which Bishop Bill and the church thank all volunteers and devoted parishioners in the Catholic diocese of Maitland-Newcastle for their witness to Christ in the practice of their faith in the church," the diocese said.

Introduced by Pope Leo XIII in 1888, the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal recognises clergy and laity's distinguished service.

The medal depicts St Peter and St Paul, with the words "Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice" (For the Church and the Pope) engraved across the arms of a cross.

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