FIVE faithful Wee County residents received awards from His Holiness the Pope at the weekend.

The Benemerenti Medals were presented at St Bernadette's RC Church by Bishop Stephen Robson for long and exceptional service on Sunday, November 19.

Papal praise was given to James Tobin, Agnes and Sam Morrison, and recently retired teachers Anne Allen and Elizabeth Philliben.

Father Mike Freyne, the parish priest, told the Advertiser: "Normally a diocese (district under the bishop) might get one of two for the whole diocese a year.

"We got the five of them in one go, which is exceptional."

James lost his mother shortly after his birth, went to the local Catholic primary school in Bowhill, Fife, and began working in the coal mines at the age of 14.

Looked up to by all the close and extended family as a kind spiritual director, Jim – as known to many – and wife Margaret have nursed and looked after many dying friends and relatives.

Highly respected, he has been involved in the running of the church since he was a young man.

When Jim moved to Tullibody to work down another coal mine, he became closely involved at St Bernadette's and directly supported the parish priest.

At the age of 78, he is still very involved in the Parish Pastoral Council, goes to mass daily, leads prayers at funerals and is always there to help.

It is said that if he had not married Margaret, he would have been a priest.

Agnes and Sam Morrison moved to Tullibody as a young couple and have been dedicated to their four girls and one boy who are now looking after them.

The parish is their life, they were daily mass goers when they did not have a job and there is nothing they have not participated in or encouraged people to get involved in.

For years, Sam looked after the sacristy and served at daily mass – even today at the age of 81 he stands in when necessary.

Since he retired, he has devoted much of his spare time to Saint Vincent de Paul and never lost vigour doing house visits to those in need.

Agnes is much the same, when younger she took on the hard tasks of varnishing the church floor and cleaning the parish house.

She has always been a permanent feature in the parish choir and has been cooking for and organising all sorts of events.

As previously reported in the Advertiser at the time of their retirement, Anne Allen and Liz Philliben devoted a lifetime to Roman Catholic teaching at St Bernadette's Primary School and have around 80 years of combined service.

Freshly qualified Liz was first to be appointed alongside then headteacher Mr Short during the winter of 1977 while Anne joined a few short years later.

Father Mike added: "There are lots of people like them, but you have to chose just one or two.

"It's a lifelong service they have given so it is well deserved."

The Benemerenti Medal

The Benemerenti Medal is awarded to the clergy and laity for service to the Catholic Church.

Originally, it was first awarded to recognise military merit in the Papal Army.

While it was officially established in 1832, it was first awarded by Pope Pius VI around 50 years earlier.

It was not until 1925 that the concept of giving it out to both civilians and military men became acceptable.

The current design was created by Pope Paul VI – it is a gold Greek Cross depicting Christ with his hand raised in blessing.

On the left arm of the cross is the tiara and crossed keys symbol of the papacy, on the right is the coat of arms of the current pope.

It is suspended from a yellow and white ribbon, the colours of the Papacy.