A Killarney woman is still getting over the shock of being bestowed with one of the highest honours of the Catholic Church – a medal from the Pope.

77-year-old Bridie Cronin from Woodlawn was left stunned when presented with the

Benemerenti medal – an honour awarded by the Pope to members of the clergy and laity for dedicated service to the Catholic Church.

Bridie, a retired school teacher who spent 27 years in St Oliver’s NS, implemented the first Safeguarding Children policies to the Diocese of Kerry, helping every parish train and draw up their own safe practices when working with children.

She was also instrumental in compiling the ‘Diocese of Kerry Safeguarding Children: Standards and Guidance Document for the Catholic Church’, which was sent out to 53 parishes in Kerry.

Tralee man Fred Garvey, a retired Chief Superintendent of An Garda Siochana, who worked alongside mother-of-six Bridie, also received the very special accolade.

Both Bridie and Fred were shocked when presented with the medal by Bishop Ray Browne at a recent dinner.

“We were stunned,” Bridie told the Killarney Advertiser this week.

“It was such a surprise. There was a dinner planned for the two of us to acknowledge our work with the diocesan committee. Then the Bishop starting talking about safeguarding practices, our work, and then he took two boxes out, put them on the table, stood up and presented us with the medals. I am thrilled.”

And she added that she’d like to thank former Bishop Bill Murphy, Canon Declan O’Connor, Mons. Dan O’Riordan and Fr George Hayes who were a great support during the initial stages of implementing the safeguarding policies.

“It’s imperative that there’s a strong vibrant safeguarding committee in each parish and that the priests and parish representatives are totally committed to it. The safeguarding has made a huge difference.”