by CATHIE BELL
Two Marlborough men have received Benemerenti medals from Pope Francis in recognition of their more than 30 years of service to the Church.
Bill McElhinney and Mike Cullimore received the medals from Cardinal John Dew during the 10am Mass at St Mary’s Church in Blenheim on Sunday, November 29.
The two recipients are the core of a group of musicians that play music and sing at St Mary’s 10am Mass each week. The two are also well-known as musicians in the secular world, playing regular gigs at venues around Marlborough.
There are about five such medals presented to people in New Zealand each year, and Mr McElhinney and Mr Cullimore are the first people in New Zealand this year to receive one.
Mr McElhinney said he had no idea he was to receive a Benemerenti medal.
“I’m very honoured. It’s been a pleasure to serve.”
Mr Cullimore said he liked being able to be someone who could help.
“Music is a big part of making the Mass something for people to participate in. We get a lot of positive feedback from people.”
It had been kept secret for almost a year by parish leaders and Bill’s wife Jenny and Mike’s wife Carol.
Cardinal John said he arrived about 9am and the first person he saw at the church was Bill.
“He said hello, and I was thinking “oh no, if he asks me why I’m here, I’ll have to tell a lie!
“Luckily, he didn’t.”