On Saturday 23rd June, 2012, during Vigil Mass in the Sacred Heart Church, Murwillumbah, the Bishop of Lismore Most Rev Geoffrey Jarrett, DD presented Papal awards announced recently by the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto.
The award Diploma and Medal of the Papal Distinction Benemerenti was presented to Murwillumbah parishioner Mrs Marie Clare Twohill, in recognition of long and faithful service to the Church.
Former Murwillumbah parishioner, Mr John Gerard McDonald, now living in retirement at Bilinga, Qld, received the Cross and Certificate of the Papal Honour Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice in recognition of long and faithful service to the Church and to society.
Murwillumbah Parish Priest, Fr David Gilbey, said that this was a wonderful occasion in the life of Sacred Heart Parish Murwillumbah, and to the best of his knowledge the first time such Papal awards had been bestowed upon parishioners. “Marie and John are two remarkable people, and it is wonderful to see their generous service has been recognised by Pope Benedict,” Fr Gilbey said.
Bishop Jarrett and Fr Gilbey were joined for the Mass and Award Presentation by three former Parish Priests of Murwillumbah: Fr Frank O’Gorman, Fr Bill Mills and Fr Paul McDonald. Fr Frank Devoy was also a concelebrant.
During the ceremony Fr Paul McDonald spoke of some aspects of Marie and John’s contribution to the church and society, saying he had known them both all his life.
Fr McDonald said that as a well-respected solicitor, John McDonald had provided valuable, free legal advice to the parish of Murwillumbah for 50 years. He had been a key adviser to the six Parish Priests who held office during that time, a great support to the Presentation Sisters and to the Mount St Patrick Primary and Secondary Schools, as well as Chairman of the Parish Finance Council from its formal establishment in 1989 until his retirement to Bilinga in 2001. His strong Catholic values were evident throughout his professional life, and his commitment to the Parish and the wider church community over more than 50 years had been tremendous.
Marie Twohill (nee Murnane) was born in Murwillumbah. In 1978 when the Catholic Hall was refurbished, she and her husband John accepted honorary responsibility for administering the use, booking and cleaning of the newly-refurbished Catholic Hall. John Twohill died in 1996, but Marie has continued the work in an honorary capacity. In addition she coordinates and runs a volunteer catering service not only to the parish but to the wider community, catering for cups of tea after funerals and other parish events, school functions, balls, dances and wedding receptions. All proceeds are donated to the church and make an important contribution to the parish budget. Marie has provided and arranged the flowers in Sacred Heart Church for many years, takes her turn in cleaning the church, has supported Mt St Patrick Primary and Secondary schools through the P&F Association and in other ways, actively contributes to the Christmas Carnival and works closely with the SES and other bodies during times of crisis when the Catholic Hall is made available for emergency accommodation. Marie is also a long-time worker for the St Vincent de Paul Society, and a committed member of the Mary MacKillop Conference.
Following the award presentations, parishioners and visitors celebrated the occasion with refreshments in the Catholic Hall. This was a double celebration with a birthday cake to celebrate Marie Twohill’s 80th birthday the next day, Sunday 24th June. – Denise Banner.