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Papal Blessing for Welwyn Garden City Parishioner

Welwyn Garden City parishioner Mary O’Neil, who volunteered for the aid agency CAFOD for 40 years, has been presented with a Papal Blessing at a Mass at Holy Family, attended by family, friends and CAFOD representatives,in recognition of her untiring efforts to help the world’s poor.
Now 96, Mary’s journey actively volunteering with CAFOD began in 1972, when she founded the Holy Family CAFOD group and became secretary, and continued until 2007. During her time as secretary, Mary was instrumental in organising and assisting at fundraising events.  From raffles and quiz nights to international food evenings, the group was persistent in their commitment to raising money for CAFOD.  Some of the events they began, such as the Strawberry Tea Garden Party and the Summer BBQ, have become parish institutions that continue decades later. 
Mary’s talents were not restricted to fundraising, however. In the 1980s she volunteered at CAFOD’s Head Office and, alongside her husband Bill, Mary was an active campaigner for justice and peace, supporting movements such as the Campaign Against Apartheid.  Mary and the CAFOD group were also instrumental in making Holy Family a Fairtrade parish, before going on to encourage Welwyn Garden City to become a Fairtrade town. 
By the time Mary stood down as secretary in 2007, she was 86 years old and had led the group for 35 years.  The efforts of the group, the unending generosity of the Holy Family parish and the continuous support of Parish Priest Fr Nobert Fernandes, had resulted in the parish raising an astonishing £100,000 for CAFOD since the group’s founding in 1972.  
Community Participation Co-ordinator, Tony Sheen, said: ‘Mary and the Holy Family Group are an inspiring group of parishioners.  They aim to live out the word of the Gospel by supporting our sisters and brothers overseas as part of their daily life. It is a privilege to know them and to have had their support for so many years.’