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Morar sisters Isa Henderson and Mae MacDonald have been bestowed with rare Papal Benemerenti Medals in recognition of their work for the church and their communities.
The medals were presented to the ladies at a special ceremony in Morar’s St Cumin’s Parish Church led by Bishop Brian McGee, Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, with Father Stan Pamula, priest for St Cumin’s and St Mary’s, Arisaig, in attendance, along with family and friends.
Father Stan said he was delighted the process to obtain recognition for Isa and Mae, which he started many months ago, had resulted in such a lovely and enjoyable day for everyone concerned.
‘The award of such medals is extremely rare and it took nearly two years to get through all the procedures and paperwork,’ Father Stan explained.
‘We had to gather very thorough biographies of Mae and Isa, including family histories. I think these awards recognise and demonstrate the importance of service to local communities by people such as Isa and Mae and are very well deserved.’
Mae volunteers at St Cumin’s while Isa helped out at St Patrick’s in Mallaig and latterly St Cumin’s as she now also resides in Morar, two doors along from her sister.
Father Stan added: ‘What I have come to realise since coming here is that when it comes to service to their communities, Highlanders are exceptional people and Mae and Isa epitomise that.’
The Benemerenti Medal is an honour awarded by the Pope to members of the clergy and laity for service to the Catholic Church. Originally established as an award to soldiers in the Papal Army, the medal was later extended to the clergy and the laity for service to the church.
Both Mae and Isa used the word ‘humbled’ when the Lochaber Times asked how they felt about the medals sanctioned by the Vatican.
‘It was a very big surprise and very humbling. I feel very honoured,’ said Mae, now a great-grandmother, who has helped at St Cumin’s for 40 years undertaking tasks including getting the altar ready, sorting out linen and arranging flowers for the church.
‘It was a beautiful day when the medals were presented – all socially distanced of course. It was so nice to see people out in the sunshine and smiling again.’
Isa, also a great-grandmother, added that the weather could not have been better for the outdoor presentation. ‘It was a truly lovely day, very humbling,’ she said. ‘I kind of feel I’m not really deserving of such an honour.’
However, Father Stan disagrees: ‘Both Mae and Isa are in their 80s, yet even during the Covid pandemic, they have still been helping with such things as organising volunteers. I honestly don’t know how I would’ve managed without the two of them.’
Sisters Isa Henderson, left, and Mae MacDonald with Father Stan, back left, and Bishop Brian McGee when they received Papal Benemerenti Medals in recognition of their work for the church at St Cumin’s Church, Morar. Photograph: Anthony MacMillan.
NO F24 church certificates