Thursday, 15 November 2012

St Joseph’s Guildford Celebrates Benemerenti Medal

L-R; Fr Colin Wolczak, Mrs Holford, Frank Holford and Bishop Kieran
Initially instituted as a reward for military service by Pope Pius VI (1775 – 1799), the Papal decoration now recognises long and exceptional service to the Church. It can be awarded to both Laity and Clergy.

Recently in Guildford a few streets away from the finishing line of the Tour of Britain cycle race on Guildford High Street, the congregation at the 11 am Mass at St Joseph’s parish witnessed Bishop Kieran Conry present a Benemerenti Medal to Francis Holford. The award recognises Francis’ long and varied service to St Joseph’s and in particular his 40 years work with HCPT – The Pilgrimage Trust; a UK based charity which takes children with special needs on a pilgrimage to Lourdes every Easter.

There are over 200 HCPT groups in the UK and Francis and his wife Jenny have been tireless in their work to support Group 2 which has been part of the annual pilgrimage since the Trust’s foundation and has been based at St Joseph’s Guildford for the past 30 years.

The congregation included many “Red Shirts” (aka Lourdes Youth Service Group), the warmth of the applause at the presentation was very evident as was Francis’ complete surprise when called from his place in the choir. Celebrations continued after Mass where parishioners, the Bishop and the Red Shirts were able to congratulate and thank Francis for his many years of unstinting service.

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