Church stalwarts get award from the Pope

TWO members of Felixstowe's Roman Catholic Church have received a special award from the Pope to mark their outstanding service to their church, family and community.

Richard Cornwell

TWO members of Felixstowe's Roman Catholic Church have received a special award from the Pope to mark their outstanding service to their church, family and community.

John King, 80, and Alan Deveney, 77, were completely surprised by the honour since parish officials spoke to them both to gain details about each other to put them forward for the award and so neither knew they might receive it.

Parish priest Fr David Hennessy presented the Benemerenti papal medals on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI during Sunday Mass at St Felix RC Church.


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The papal honour, instituted by Pope Gregory XVI in 1832, is given to those who have shown exemplary service to their church, family and community.

Along with the medal, both men were handed a large framed certificate signed by Pope Benedict XVI recognising their achievements.

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The Benemerenti - meaning “well deserved” - is one of the highest papal awards, and is surpassed only by a full papal knighthood.

In his petition to the Vatican, Fr Hennessy said: “John and Alan are also well-known throughout this diocese, having over very many years been strong supporters of diocesan events and gatherings.

“They and their wives and families have been great friends all throughout this time, and both men have carried their share of the cross in many ways with family problems and challenges.

“In short, both men are outstanding in their witness to the Catholic Church and to family life. Given their bonds of friendship, I would feel it fitting that they should be honoured together with the Benemerenti.”

Mr Deveney, who first came to the parish in 1968, said: “I'm extremely honoured. Neither my wife Meg nor I had any idea that this was going to happen.

“Fr David did a good job in keeping it secret. In fact, I had been giving Fr David some background information on my dear friend John King, who received the award alongside me.”

Mr King said: “I'm absolutely thrilled. My wife Barbara and I have only just returned from holiday. We've hardly had a chance to catch our breath. It's just as well we didn't choose to have a lie in and go to a later mass as that would have foxed Fr David!

“I'm deeply grateful for the support received from the parish over the past 37 years. There are many others worthy of the award, and I feel very honoured to receive the medal.”

Fr Hennessy said: “I felt it was important that their contributions not just to the church but to the wider community be recognised. The parish is extremely grateful for their dedication and love.”

Send your messages of congratulations to John King and Alan Deveney by writing to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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