TWO devout Catholics have been given the highest honours to mark their tireless devotion to the church.
Barbara High, of Oaklea Close, St Leonards, and Patrick Lee were presented with the Benemerenti Medal and Certificate from Pope Benedict XVI at a ceremony at Holy Redeemer Church in Hollington.
The accolade is one of the highest honours that can be bestowed on a layman in the Catholic church.
The Right Reverend Kieran Conry, Bishop of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, came to Holy Redeemer to present the award to the pair and a Mass was conducted by the Bishop Kieran, Father Ian Byrnes, the parish priest, and Father Desmond Baker.
Miss High said: “I was very surprised but touched to receive the award. It was a great ceremony and celebration.”
She became a Catholic as a young woman and joined the Augustinian Sisters in Maze Hill, St Leonards, working there and in Paris.
She wrote a book about their foundress and helped the Sisters celebrate their centenary anniversary.
The Catholic was a teacher at St Mary-Star-of-the-Sea School and taught the First Holy Communion to children for more than 40 years.
Miss High ran the parish’s Girl Guides for many years until she retired. She started the Rainbows for the younger children and ran it for several years.
She has raised thousands of pounds for the church down the years.
Due to her tireless fundraising the church has a Wall of Remembrance in the garden. She has also made vestments for the priests and cloths for the altar.
Miss High and Lillian Westbrook started the Holy Redeemer Art Club.
Mr Lee has worked for the church since he was a boy.
After he made his First Holy Communion, he became an altar server and still serves today, 65 years later.
He and a couple of other parishioners started a youth club which was very successful for many years.
Mr Lee used to be a baker and confectioner before working at Marshall Tufflex, where he remained until he retired.
For more than 40 years he has baked cakes for church events.
He regularly visits the sick at home and in hospital.