On Saturday evening 15th April, a beautiful celebration took place in Our Lady of Fatima Church. The occasion marked the honour conferred on the Sacristan, Kathleen O’Donnell, by the granting of a Benemerenti Medal and Citation in recognition of her many years of faithful service to the Church. The Citation was presented by Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly and Mass was concelebrated with Fr. J. Egan, P.P. Fr. James O’Donnell, P.P. of Killenaule and Moyglass and formerly a curate in Boherlahan-Dualla also attended. It was in fact Fr. O’Donnell who first approached Kathleen and her late husband Tom to ask if they would consider helping out Nonie and John Molumby who were finding their role as sacristans more onerous due to advancing years.


Archbishop Kieran spoke of the granting of the Benemerenti Medal and Citation as being a Papal Honour, rather than a diocesan recognition, and of the privilege it was for him as Archbishop to come and celebrate with us and make the presentation to Kathleen. The award has an interesting history, first presented to members of the Papal Guard for outstanding service. Later, it included Clergy who had given special Church service and only within the past century has the honour been extended to Laity in recognition of our shared role in the ministry of Church.  

Fr. Egan spoke of the Sacristan being an essential backup for the priest and Church, available every day, the link and go-to person for us in our time of celebration, a sympathetic reassurance in times of sorrow, and providing guidance and information. Fr. Egan said that Kathleen is a visible personification of the many people who, in all sorts of ways, give service to the Church and parish and make our Church a warm welcoming place – fittingly acknowledged by the choir with the opening hymn ‘All are Welcome in this Place’. The choir was accompanied by Siobhán McGrath, organist and Pauline Bargary, choir mistress. Indeed a large number of singers were delighted to mark this occasion for Kathleen and the parish and added to the sense of joy and celebration.

Further demonstrations of this community activism included members of the Altar Society with beautiful floral arrangements in the church and on all the tables in the Hall. Kathleen herself in a member of both the choir and the Altar Society. All the decorations and refreshments in the Hall were provided by members of the community too. Feeding upwards of 150 people required a co-ordinated effort – overseen by Cecile Mulcahy, Dualla Community Council, and Noreen O’Dwyer Egan from the Parish Pastoral Ministry Team, and backed by a very willing group of helpers, young and not so young.  

Kathleen’s daughter, Marese, linked family, Church and community at this warm, friendly event. Almost seventy of Kathleen’s relations attended – her daughters and their families, Daisy and Corina, coming from Dundalk and Donegal and a special mention for Kevin, his wife and family in America. Family members as well as a community representative read the Prayers of the Faithful, and Kathleen’s grandchildren were Altar Servers. Kathleen’s husband Tom, who died in 2015, was remembered in the church with a lighted family candle. A floral arrangement with a lighted candle from the community for Kathleen’s service was also on the altar. 

This was a very special evening for the parish.