The Benemerenti medal is an award presented by the Pope to members of the Clergy and Laity for services to the Church. They were originally established as an award for soldiers in the Papal army. It is now a civil decoration but may still be awarded to members of the Pontifical Swiss Guards. In 1925 the concept of awarding this medal as a mark of recognition to persons in service of the Catholic Church, both civil and military, lay and clergy alike, became acceptable. Members of the Swiss Guard may receive it for three years of faithful service. The current version of the Benemerenti medal was designed by Pope Paul VI. The medal 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 arm is the coat of arms of the current Pope. The medal is suspended from a yellow and white ribbon – the colours of the Papacy. A number of parishioners from the diocese have received this award.
Collete Sharp from St Bede’s, Rotherham writes..
I never imagined that one day I would receive one of these prestigious medals. It was a complete surprise and shock when I was awarded one on 31 December 2023. I truly thought the Mass was being offered for my son Gavin’s on his fiftieth birthday. I was a little surprised when he suggested that I wore my favourite suit for the occasion, but he knew how much I loved this outfit. I had bought the fabric in Paris 46 years ago when we were on a family camping trip and I do like to wear it every now and then. We attended the Mass along with my daughters Julie and Amanda and my Son-in-law Darren. Gavin and I were privileged to bring up the gifts. At the end of the Mass – Alex Prior – the Lourdes pilgrimage director – spoke a few words about requiring helpers in Lourdes. He began to mention the 25 years I had assisted in Lourdes and then the devotion I had given to my parish of St.Bede which has been my only parish for the last 77 years. I was completely shocked when he said I was being awarded a Benemerenti medal. Father asked me to come forward and as I approached the altar I was shaking my head to say no – it seemed a dream and should not be happening to me. “There are so many people who are more worthy of such recognition. I was overwhelmed. Throughout the day I was inundated with messages of congratulations and good will from parishioners and Lourdes pilgrims that I had known over the years. I am most blessed and thank and praise the Lord and His Mother Mary for being at my side all my life.”
And in Corpus Christi, Wombwell, Pope Francis has awarded Mrs Audrey Salmon the Benemerenti Medal for her years of dedicated service to St. Helen’s in Hoyland and St. Michael’s in Wombwell and to the community. For many years, Mrs. Salmon was involved with the Union of Catholic Mothers at the parish, diocesan, and national level. She provided emergency accommodation for victims of domestic violence. She founded Wombwell AgeWell, and at 89 years of age she still volunteers at the Wombwell Lunch Club. And much more! She was presented the medal by Fr. Declan Brett, her parish priest.