Huge congratulations are in order to Jane and Kevin Goodyear, who have each received the Benemerenti medal for their service to the Catholic Church.

The husband and wife team were presented with the prestigious honour by Archbishop Bernard Longley on Tuesday 30 May, at the Mass celebrating the work of the Lourdes Hospitalite and Young People.

They were invited up to the altar and greeted by their Parish Priest, Fr Simon Hall of Our Lady of the Angels, Nuneaton, thinking he was to be presented with an award.

To their great surprise Jane and Kevin were presented with the Benemerenti medal – awarded to people for service to the Catholic Church – resulting in cheers and huge applause from their fellow pilgrims.

The couple, married for 42 years, started their Lourdes Pilgrimage journey in 2000.

Jane heard an appeal at Mass by the then medical director, went home and said she was going to go to Lourdes.

“I have loved Our Lady from a child,” said Jane. “I had always wanted to come to Lourdes and felt this was my opportunity. I really wanted to go and see Our Lady.

“When I told Kevin he said ‘Can I come…for a holiday?’ He said he wouldn’t attend Mass but was happy to help and push wheelchairs!”

Jane was enlisted as a carer and continued that commitment for almost 23 years. Her devotion to her Catholic life has been carried out with unstinting dedication in the parish of Our Lady of the Angels.

For 15 years Jane was a teacher at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Primary School until having to take early retirement due to being diagnosed with incurable cancer in 2013.

Despite this devastating news Jane has continued to devote her life to the parish, volunteering to coordinate the Baptisms within the parish, supporting the children in the school in their faith journey, preparing hundreds of children from non-Catholic schools over the years for their First Holy Communion and Confirmation, also as a Governor at Our Lady’s school for 18 years and at St Thomas More Academy for six years, and playing a very active role in the life of the church.

All this whilst enduring the difficult side effects of her cancer treatments over the last 10 years.

Jane is truly an inspiration to us all - that despite whatever the life Our Lord has planned for you, even if it is a difficult and challenging one, there is still room to help and support those in need.

For Kevin that first visit to Lourdes changed his life.

“I went to sit in the Grotto and had this feeling, a sensation. I felt someone tap me on the shoulder, turned, but no one was there.

“I told Jane later. She said ‘that was Our Lady calling you’. Her Lady had called Jane to Lourdes, so I came too.

“From that point I was besotted with the place. It was my calling. I converted to Catholicism two years later.”

Kevin was a Brancardier and Team Leader before becoming the Chief Brancardier in 2009, helping to introduce mixed teams /sharing of responsibility and making sure those who ‘carry’ Our Lady in Lourdes are appropriately ‘suited and booted’.

During the last 23 years Kevin has also been awarded the Hospitalite Notre Dame de Lourdes medal of commitment. He is part of a group of volunteers from across the world who help at Lourdes independently of a Diocesan Pilgrimage.

Now participating purely as pilgrims (not working) Jane and Kevin are experiencing Lourdes in a different way.

They are completely overwhelmed at receiving the Benemerenti medal and had no idea until they were presented with it.

“I don’t feel I deserve it,” said Jane. “But it is for everybody – all our friends, all the teams we’ve worked with in Lourdes. It is team work which makes it happen.”

Kevin added: “For what we have done in Lourdes I feel very privileged and humbled. It is a family – you can’t do it without everyone else.

“And to be personally approved by the Pope is an honour!”

Access photo album to see Jane and Kevin receiving their awards.