Swaffham woman given a special blessing by Pope Francis

Mary Prentice received her blessing with two others who were recognised for their service. Picture:

Mary Prentice received her blessing with two others who were recognised for their service. Picture: CAFOD - Credit: Archant

A Swaffham woman has been awarded a special blessing from Pope Francis in recognition of her years of volunteering for an aid agency.

The Papal Blessing was given to Mary Prentice for the work she has carried out as a volunteer for CAFOD since the 1990s.

She marked the achievement by having tea with Bishop Allan Hopes in Norwich, who thanked her and two others who were receiving certificates for their continuing services to the agency, and presented them with their Blessings.

Bishop Allan called it a 'great occasion' and a wonderful way to mark such an achievement.

Ms Prentice said: 'I had no idea I was going to be given a Papal Blessing. It's not something I'd ever thought about and I still haven't come down to Earth. All the ladies in the congregation were teasing me by looking through for their best Ascot hats for me to wear to tea with the Bishop.'

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Ms Prentice began her time with CAFOD by running a stall at the Walsingham shrine and despite a busy working life as a headteacher, she was also heavily involved in campaigning.

Through writing letters to her MP and encouraging others in her church to sign petitions, she told everyone she could about the agency's work, earning her the nickname 'the commercial'.

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'I probably got more out of volunteering in Walsingham than anyone else, I loved meeting people. Everybody who came was so keen to tell you what they were doing for CAFOD in their parish. It was wonderful, they were so proud and had such enthusiasm. That was the thing that really impressed me, the love the Catholic laity have for CAFOD. When they do all that they do, the least I could do was open the stall.'

CAFOD's representative in East Anglia, Stephen Matthews, said: 'The dedication and enthusiasm Mary has shown over the years is inspirational. It is volunteers like her that allows CAFOD to bring life, hope and dignity to men, women and children from all around the world. Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do.'

CAFOD is the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. It aims to support people around the world, particularly in poor communities. It works through local churches in order to reach places that would otherwise be restricted.

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