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Humble ‘dame’ recognised by the Holy Father


When Anne Blake was asked to take on the job of parish secretary at Salisbury in 1989, she said she didn’t think she was capable of doing a good job.

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A ‘stay at home mum’ with three young boys, she had started volunteering at Holy Family Catholic School after being out of the work force for some time.

The parish priest and deacon suggested she give the parish secretary job a try for a couple of weeks and “see where we go from there”. Anne proved well-suited to the role and ended up being promoted to business manager, a position she retired from late last year after 27 years working in the parish office.

She displayed similar humility when Archbishop Wilson called her earlier this year to inform her she had been appointed a Dame of the Order of St Gregory the Great by Pope Francis for her “tremendous contribution to the life of Salisbury parish and our Archdiocese”.

“I was lost for words, I couldn’t believe it,” she told The Southern Cross. “I didn’t feel that worthy but Kevin (her husband) said the Pope wouldn’t have bestowed it on me if I hadn’t been worthy.”

Parish priest Fr Roderick O’Brien said during her 27 years of service, the parish had grown and “Anne has grown with it”.

“She always smiles at a new challenge, a new opportunity. Anne is a model for us as we live in a changing Church,” he said.

“Since her retirement, Anne has continued as a volunteer in the parish. She loves the parishioners, and really enjoys her volunteering as pastoral receptionist, baptism preparation, cemetery committee, building committee, Mass coordinator and other beautiful tasks.”

Fr O’Brien said he was “delighted” to nominate Anne for the honour. “No-one could ever take her generous service for granted,” he said. “Her work went beyond the call of duty, and was intensely pastoral, even when she was doing the books. And she treated everyone as equals, as important, and as loved by God.”

Anne has volunteered her services to the parish in a variety of ways including through the Parents and Friends Association at Holy Family Catholic School, the Parish Pastoral Council, coordinating the parish baptism preparation program and visiting families in their homes as a part of this program.

She has been involved in running parish planned giving programs over many years, has been a sponsor for people in the parish who are becoming Catholic, involved in prayer groups, is a Eucharistic Minister, a coordinator on the Mass preparation roster and the church counting roster, and was a member of the church cemetery committee.

Anne said she was very grateful to Fr O’Brien for nominating her for the papal honour. “I’m a no nonsense type of person,” she said. “I am very humbled.”

The Order of St Gregory the Great was founded by Gregory XVI in 1831 for the purpose of honouring loyal and well-deserving citizens of the Papal states. It is one of the highest lay Catholic honours in the Church today.



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