Norma’s service to Sidmouth church recognised by Pope

Norma Hoare will receive the Benemerenti medal at a ceremony at the Sidmouth Catholic Church at the

Norma Hoare will receive the Benemerenti medal at a ceremony at the Sidmouth Catholic Church at the end of January. Ref shs 2279-03-16SH. Photo Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

A convert to the Catholic Church has spoken of her shock at finding out she will be recognised by the Pope for more than 30 years of service.

Norma Hoare, 76, will receive the Benemereti Medal from Bishop Mark O’Toole, of Plymouth, during a service at the Catholic Church of the Most Precious Blood in Sidmouth on Sunday.

The medal is awarded to members of the clergy and the laity for their service to the church. Maria Von Trapp, the matriarch of the famous Von Trapp family, was a recipient of the medal in 1949.

Norma was nominated by Canon Paul Cummins for her work as a sacristan - taking care of the sacristy, the church, and its contents until her retirement last year.

Anstis Court resident Norma said: “Father Paul came to see me. He wanted to ask me something and I said: ‘You want me look after the cat’. When he told me [about the Benemereti Medal], I couldn’t get my head around it.”

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The great-grandmother emailed her family about the news - only to find that they already knew.

“They knew before I did - they were trying to keep it from me and they did it very well,” said Norma.

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Epsom-born Norma converted to Catholism at the age of 20.

When she moved to Sidmouth, she said she was taken in by the church’s community spirit.

Mr Cummins said: “Norma is an absolute gem in the best sense of the word.

“She has worked tirelessly in loving service to our church. As Christians, we believe that where you find love, you find God - and Norma’s life and service to the church embodies this.

“For Catholics, it is very significant that it’s a Papal award rather than a local one - as it’s a recognition by the whole worldwide church of her service.”

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