A Portstewart woman has been honoured with one of the highest accolades you can receive from the Vatican.
Sheila Conway, a parishioner of Star of Sea, was presented with the Benemerenti Medal during a special mass on Friday night.
The Benemerenti Medal is an honour awarded by the Pope to members of the clergy and laity for services to the Catholic Church.
Sheila received the medal in recognition of her services to the Star of the Sea Parish, and to local charities.
She is only the fourth person to be given the prestigious award by Pope Francis.
It was a special night for the Portstewart Parish, as they welcomed back Bishop Anthony Farquhar.
The Bishop returned to his former Parish to mark a special anniversary - fifty years since he was ordained.
Speaking to The Times yesterday, Sheila said she was ‘shocked’ but ‘delighted’ by the honour: “It happened on Friday when there was a celebration to mark Bishop Farquhar’s Golden Jubilee.
“The ceremony was for him, so it was a huge shock to me when Fr McGirr started to talk and then presented me with the medal.
“I had no idea at all, I was completely shocked, but I am delighted.
“I really feel very humbled by it all, I just can’t believe it.
“I just thank God and the people who have brought all this about. I just keep thinking what did I really do to deserve it?
“I worked in my shop for 52 years and I would have met a lot of people through that, and would have helped a lot of people, particularly the students.
“I helped the students to find accommodation, supported them during exams or perhaps if they were lonely, I would have persuaded them to stay on, but I had really forgotten all about that.”
Althought retired from the Promenade shop, Sheila is still a busy woman and is a member of the Legion of Mary in Star of the Sea Parish and is also in the Marian Club and works in the church shop. She also visits the sick and elderly of the parish.
The well-known Portstewart woman also received a letter from Pope Francis thanking her for her services to the church.
Father Edward Magee, spokesman for the Diocese praised Sheila, in statement he said: “This is recognition for the tremendous work and service that Sheila has given to both the church and the local community.”