PIC SPECIAL: Kitty Kelly receives special honour from His Holiness the Pope

Gallery of photographs by Brian McDaid

Family members, friends and fellow parishioners gathered in St Patrick’s Church, Murlog in Lifford on Friday evening as local woman Kitty Kelly was honoured for a lifetime of service to her parish.

Kitty from Porthall, has been playing the organ in the church for 75 years. A much-loved and highly respected lady, Kitty (89), first played when she was 16 and even though she will turn 90 at the end of this year, she continues to play at Mass and other occasions in St. Patrick’s.

And it was for that amazing dedication to the ministry of music that she received a special honour from His Holiness Pope Francis.

The award of the Benemerenti Medal was  presented to Kitty by the Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown who along with Fr Colm O’Doherty PP, celebrated Friday evening’s special Mass.

Bishop McKeown said ‘Benemerenti’ is a Latin phrase which means ‘to one who is well deserving’.

He said given her years of dedication to the church, Kitty Kelly was indeed one who is well deserving of such an acknowledgement.

He revealed how the idea to honour Kitty was first proposed by former parish priest, Fr Edward Kilpatrick.

“It all started out in 1946 at your sister’s wedding when 16-year-old Kitty Doherty sang and played, and once they heard you, the parish never let go,” Bishop McKeown said.

“Essentially since 1946 until 2020, with a few breaks for having children, there has been an unbroken service.

“So it’s no wonder that Fr Edward Kilpatrick asked us before he left to try and source something like this for you."

Addressing Kitty, he said: “At the Mass that we are gathered for this evening, and every other weekend, we gather as the people of God.

“We are a community that’s responsible for one another, that are able to engage with the scriptures. We share the body and blood of Christ and then at the end of Mass we are sent to bring what we have learned to others, especially those who are in most in need of good news and mercy.

“And your involvement in the Mass has played a huge role in that 

“This is recognition for you. It recognises your contribution 

“It’s also an occasion to acknowledge all that so many people do - so many who keep the parish community alive and fit to face the future.

“Tonight Kitty Kelly, we say thank you. To all who have worked in this parish, we say thank you. To God, we say, thank you for Kitty.”  

As Kitty sat among the congregation for the evening, her grand-daughter Rachel played the keyboards and Kitty’s daughter Grace was among the choir which added beautifully to the ceremony.

Afterwards, the celebrations continued with a small function in the parish centre.

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